Monday, February 27, 2017

NF Deep Creek > Deep Creek: an urban kayaking adventure

  -as told by Rob Cruser

The North Fork of Deep Creek/Deep Creek is not for everyone.  If you're reading this blog and have boated much with Jacob, you are probably familiar with the term, "Crusered."  If not, this means to be unwittingly dragged along on a dubious exploratory trip.  As any exploratory kayaker can tell you it takes a lot of digging through dirt before you find a gem, but for some reason us Cruser's enjoy the hiking, portaging, painfully low water and problem solving as much as the "goods".  We sometimes forget not everyone has this disease and invite them along.  When enough of them found out a "roadside put in" can still involve a 200' descent to the creek, and those "couple of portages" were last years conditions, or "good flows" mean it's safe (low) enough to walk across the creek if the portage looks better over there they coined the phrase "Crusered", hung up their exploratory hats and returned to the classics.  We have not stopped enjoying our little adventures, so hold the term with a bit of pride, because that willingness to suffer a little (or sometimes a lot) has meant we have been able to see a lot of cool places that we otherwise would have not.

After our wood-choked 3rd trip down the NF of Deep on February 19th, I was feeling a little "Crusered" because of the many portages.  Rod Kilner and I had done this run a couple of years ago (Jacob and I had first run it 8-9 years ago) and it was pretty clean, but now the first half is kind of a disaster.  After about 2 miles, we gave serious thought to hiking out as we were concerned about light, but stuck with it and were rewarded with a much cleaner second half and a euphoric trip through the unique and fun Peashooter Gorge.

Early on

The normal put-in on the North Fork is at the corner of Highway 212 and SE Richey Road in Boring.  There is a parking lot behind the Shell station that serves as the access for the Cazadero Trail, which runs next to the creek on river-right and then dead-ends after 3 miles.  If it looks like there is just enough water, that's probably good.  If it's gushing, I would wait for another day.  River left is flatter and easier, and you'll want to drop-in below a small tree that is very obvious and blocking.  

Acceptable flows at the put in

Shortly downstream there are some obvious branches that you'll need to crash through or otherwise avoid.  The Mountain View Golf Course is close on your left for 3/4 of a mile until First Ledge, a sloping 4-footer on a left-bend that can be run pretty much anywhere with split-rail fences on river right marking the approach.  

First Ledge from above.
Eddy-out on the right immediately after running this drop and climb up to the trail to scout a small island that has a bunch of trees perched on it.  There is a slim line on the left, but lots of shallow, inconveniently placed rocks and dire consequences for a missed line had us walking around this time.  1/4 mile further on, the river turns into a lake above the largest logjam on the creek.  If you're quick, there is a scramble up to the trail on the right.  If not, portage on the left.  Many, many wood situations followed in 2017 and it would be pointless to try to describe them all.  A certain comfort with judging when it will be possible to stay in your boat and when to walk will make the trip move along more quickly.  Many of these appeared to have been deposited this year, so perhaps the stream will return to a cleaner version after a couple high water events.

After another 1 1/2 miles or so, the wood diminishes and you need to watch for the approach of the infamous Peashooter Gorge (3+ at low flows).  As the walls start showing a more sandstone/clay character, stay alert and eddy out on the right at a left-hand bend where the riverbed turns to bedrock.  There will be an obvious shelf on the right at lower levels that allow a scout of the lead-in ledge to Peashooter.  The initial drop can be run left or right, but right is easier and safer.  There is a nasty crack in the middle of this ledge that you really want to stay away from because a problem here would make for some serious unpleasantness as fast water with no eddies narrows down to the second, sometimes retentive ledge leading into Peashooter-proper.  After dropping over the second ledge, fasten your seatbelts as the creek narrows to a flume maybe 2-feet wider than boat-width that screams around the corner.  So fun!!!  Well, it's been fun so far, but whipping around the corner to find a tree in your way would not be so fun.  As the creek turns back to the right, you'll enter another slightly wider flume for Part II.  After our first run years ago, I told Jacob it felt like getting shot out of a peashooter, hence the name. 

Peashooter, from the shelf

The bedrock continues with shallow, low-angle slides and rapids for a bit then returns to it's normal self, with some scattered wood-issues.  Deep Creek comes in on the left, doubling the flow maybe 1/2 mile before the steep, slippery takeout on the left at the Highway 224 bridge.  It is also possible to continue down to the Clackamas and take-out at Carver.  

With the exception of Peashooter Gorge, the rapids never exceed Class 2+ (at low flows), but Class IV judgment and experience in woody streams is recommended.  If you've ever been Crusered and had a smile on your face at the end of the day, you may share our genetic defect and find this run to be an interesting adventure.   

 - Rob

Flows:  The Beaver Creek @ Troutdale Gauge is the gauge we use to remotely estimate flows for this run and others in the area.  The photos on this report were taken on Feb 19, 2017, then looked runnable again on a walking trip Feb 23 the following week.  Both were similar flows on the low end of runnable.  Note that it spiked three different times on Feb 19, showing how finicky the flows are.  It take significant rain to bring it in, and under certain conditions could go from too high to too low in a short period of time relative to other streams in the area.  Visually assessing the level for yourself is really the only way to be sure about flows.  If they look safe, they probably are.  If the stream looks high, it probably is.  Make good decisions.


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