Thursday, November 24, 2016

Champion Creek


Stream: Champion Creek is a tributary to Brice Creek (near Cottage Grove) that makes for a low-key adventure if you live in the area.

Put in below the run-out of Smith Falls (sieves to the extreme), walking down to creek level next to this cliff and stump.

There are many rapids on this run, with wood mixed in.  In 2016 we had 4 wood portages and 1 rapid portage.  There was more wood in play, but nothing out of the ordinary for a small Oregon stream.  The typical style was that of a handful of bouldery rapids, then a bedrock rapid.  I would rate one of the rapids near the end class V, the rest do not meet that classification.

Typical Champion Creek

There are plenty of blind corners, so frequent scouting for the next eddy and of course lines down to those eddies is commonplace.

In 2016 the wood situation was such that it was convenient to hop out at the halfway bridge and walk a couple hundred yards past a few log hazards.  Putting in above a short boulder garden followed by a 5-10' ledge with a nice boof on the left.


Hunter runs a pillowy ramp further down.

Just downstream of the above pictured rapid was an intimidating, but reasonably dealt with wood hazard.  Two in the group portaged, but wished they hadn't.


The whitewater continued below here, including the stand out rapid of the run.  This was a three part rapid in a gorge.  I would consider this gorge class V at the flows we had if all the drops are run.  There is a convenient option to portage along the road on river right if desired.

Ben runs the middle part of the rapid.

Not too far below this gorge rapid a large logjam was present in 2016.  It is easy to take out here, just above the lower bridge over Champion Creek.   It is also easy to continue through Lower Brice Creek.

Flows:  Flows the day we ran Champion Creek shown below.  We absolutely noticed the jump while we were paddling that day.  When we drove up in the morning both Brice and Champion were running at a low, but runnable flow.  By the time we hit Brice both had reached a level I would describe as "near swollen".

I only have the one data point, so take this recommendation with a grain of salt:  If I were to return I would look for the Row River abv Pitcher Creek gauge to read between 1,000-2,000 cfs if levels were stable or changing slowly.

Access:  Take I5 towards Cottage Grove.  Take exit 174, following Row River Rd/Shoreview Rd past Dorena Reservoir and Wildwood Falls.   The road you are driving on becomes "Brice Creek Rd" and about 23 miles after leaving I5 you will pass Cedar Creek Campground (shortly after crossing Brice Creek for the second time) which is the take out for Lower Brice and where I recommend taking out if you think you will have enough time to make it that far.

3.5 miles upstream from Cedar Creek campground, veer right onto Champion Creek Rd.  This road quickly crosses Champion Creek, where you can leave a vehicle if you are short on time.

To get to the put in continue upstream about 2 miles (crossing Champion again at 0.9 miles) until you see this cliff and stump, a point from which you can scramble down to the creek.

Just upstream of this cliff is a set of class V-VI rapids beginning with Smith Falls, I recommend not putting onto Champion Creek above the cliff pictured above.

click to enlarge

Trip Report

Ben had been talking about Champion Creek for a few weeks, and certainly had his eye on it before that.  I had some beta that Champion was "a short III-IV run in a gorge with wood".  I wanted to run Upper Quartzville or Boulder Creek, but Ben had decided he was going to run Brice even if he had to go by himself.  I was surprised he was so excited about the run, but understood the drive to see something new so Emile and I agreed to join him.

I gave him a call as we got close to Eugene and got excited when he started describing the run as class V with some steep and sliding cascades that "might go".  By the time we got to Eugene the group had grown to almost 10 people.

In the parking lot Ben showed me a picture on his phone he had found on the internet that made me wonder how far up this creek we were planning on going.

Arriving at the take out for Lower Brice, Ben declared the stream low but runnable.  Heading upstream we saw that Champion Creek did indeed look intriguing, if woody.  By the time we got to the put in, half the group had decided this wasn't a run for them.   There was a falls at the put in that looked fun, but had a log in it and a sieve filled run-out.  We scrambled to the creek below that set of class V-VI whitewater, putting in just downstream of a waterfall emerging from under a boulder.

The run turned out to be pretty enjoyable.  Far from classic, but a good day on the water.  Lots of scouts for the next eddy and enjoyable rapids scattered between boogie sections.  Less than 5 portages even.  We did one extended portage along the road, feeling silly as we passed by a couple hundred yards of stream we should have run.  Part way through this extended portage along the road we crossed the halfway bridge.  Putting back in a couple hundred yards later (skipping a few log issues in one swoop) we encountered a fun boulder garden followed by the best boof of the run.

Emile runs a rapid above the halfway bridge on Champion Creek.

More engaging stream puzzles continued, most horizons were one person checks for wood.  One stand out gorge had three moves separated by moving pools.  People ran the second and third moves, skipping the first.  The first move was the only whitewater on the run I would call Class V.

And finally we made the last portage at road level, returning to river level just below the lowest bridge over Champion Creek.  We paddled another 200' to the confluence with Brice, tired and looking forward to some full bladed paddling.

Levels had been rising all day, and by the time we hit Brice Creek we had plenty of water resulting in some large holes.

 Ben and Hunter both ran Lower Trestle.

 Pogo was easier at these flows than when I had been there with less water.

Cheesegrater had a nasty hole with a log in it at the bottom, getting left to avoid it was easier said than done.  No swims but one surf.

 "Fun" had a large hole, but it flushed right and was easily cleared with appropriate boating technique.
Hunter sails over the hydraulic.

Ben, Hunter and Emile took advantage of the rising levels to paddle through a culvert part way down the run on river left.

Laura's was more than any of us were interested in, so we took the easy walk on the right.

 It looked like it would be fun to "see what happened" when you hit the bottom tier, but it also looked like a deep swim would be the inevitable result, and colliding with wood a real possibility.

We reached the foot bridge a few minutes later.  Champion Creek is an odd one to sum up.  It wasn't a suffer fest, wasn't sketchy or scary, had plenty of rapids with easy scouting and portaging options; though nothing really stood out about the run that would compel me to go back. Yet it was a good day of creeking and I enjoyed it.  

I'd say if you live in the area and like this style of run, by all means check it out.  Especially in conjunction with Brice Creek. 

On the flip side if you don't like this style of run, or are not with an efficient/cohesive team, it will probably be frustrating and I'd recommend against it.  


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