Thursday, September 7, 2017

North Umpqua: Lemolo's


Stream:  Starting at the outlet to Lemolo reservoir and ending at Lemolo Falls, this is more a novel approach to hiking the Lemolo Falls trail than an actual kayak run. 

Most of the summer the release from Lemolo reservoir is about 80 cfs, which is actually enough water to paddle the stream.  Furthermore it's a favorable level in that it drops the effort factor because the log portaging is easier at this flow and the rapids all still go well enough to be enjoyable.

  Photo: Priscilla Macy

The put in is at the base of the reservoir, there should be just enough water to float (we brought rock boats).
 Photo: Priscilla Macy

 There are a couple quick portages (easy at low flows) before your first bedrock ledge.  The rest of the run continues this way, a couple quick log portages and then an interesting, ledgey rapid.  These get larger as you move downstream, eventually peaking at this fun falls.

Sometimes it is easier to portage along the trail that runs along river right, we took this option twice in order to pass multiple log issues at once.  It's a bit of a puzzle getting downstream, a fun puzzle with the right attitude.  The run ends at Lemolo Falls, where a nice eddy exists on the right to take out of the river and take in the view.

This rapid is not far above Lemolo Falls, it's probably easiest (but not necessary) to leave boats here and walk the remainder of the trail to Lemolo.
 Photo: Richard O'Neill

 If you were to paddle to Lemolo Falls, be cautious below the above pictured rapid, Lemolo is not something you would want to take an unplanned run over.  There is a nice eddy on the right above the point of no return, fortunately.

 Take some time to appreciate where you are, then begin hiking out.  We found a nice point of egress about 1/4 mile above Lemolo Falls.  If you are adept at carrying a boat it takes less than 20 minutes, and if you are not adept you probably are not doing this type of run in the first place.  The initial pitch is straight up and can be done in about 5-10 minutes. The rest of the hike is pretty flat until you reach the road next to the canal where you can leave vehicles.  If you would rather hike on a trail, you can hike back upstream 1.5 miles to the trailhead.

Flows:  You want the North Umpqua below Lemolo Reservoir to have 80+ cfs, which it usually has during the time of year anyone would be desperate enough to check this one out.  If they are releasing a healthy flow I would be concerned about the wood situation (200 cfs would be fine).  

Access:  The turn off to Lemolo Reservoir is between Toketee Falls and Clearwater Lake off Hwy 138 (follow the signs to Lemolo Lake).  Follow this road (2610) about 5 miles to the dam creating Lemolo Reservoir.  You will return here and put in just below the dam.

To drop a vehicle off for shuttle, cross the dam and take the first left.  Follow this paved road next to the canal just over 1/2 mile and cross over the canal on a small bridge.  If you would rather hike out 1.5 miles on the trail leave your vehicle here at the trailhead.

If you would like to hike directly up to your vehicle at the end of the run, follow the dirt track next to the canal about 1.25 miles (you should pass three decommissioned bridges spanning the canal downstream of the trailhead).  Leave your vehicle here and note where you are along the canal in case you do not reach the dirt track right where you left your vehicle on the hike out.

Driving out along the canal at the end of the day.
  Photo: Priscilla Macy

* If you do not have a vehicle with clearance, you can use the paved road on the river-right side of the canal.*

Notes:   There is lots of nice camping in the area.

Trip Report
Between Two Lemolo's

It was the end of the summer (2016), and despite seeing inches of snow at elevation on this trip it had been over 80 degrees in the Willamette Valley last weekend.  Priscilla and I were headed down to Grants Pass so she could get her eyes mapped for Lasik surgery and we decided to do some kayaking on the way down as kayakers often do.

Snow in the Summer, and graffiti with taste.  

I'd had my eye on this stretch of the North Umpqua for a few years now but it's been on the back burner because of regulated flows and known wood obstacles.  We almost ran it last year when Lucas Reitmann suggested that stretch but had checked out another creek instead that required less driving.

This series of photos was where the heft of my research and interest came from.  Because they posted the dates they took the photos I was able to compare that to historic gauge data and thought the run looked possible at the 75 cfs reading those photos were taken at, a perfect late season adventure when nothing else was flowing.

We checked out the Narrows run of the North Umpqua on our way up, but skipped that section when a local at the take out appeared far too interested in our shuttle vehicle (a motorized bicycle).  After arriving at the dam creating Lemolo Reservoir we took a little time to figure out some of the logistics that couldn't be done from a map and shortly after had our shuttle set.

A quick walk down to the stream and we were floating downriver on what oddly felt like a fine flow (89 cfs).  A couple quick log portages and we passed a staff gauge reading 1.5'. 

Another quick hop out and in portage, and we were at the first horizon line, a fun bedrock ledge typical of the run.

Photo: Priscilla Macy

A couple more easily dealt with logs and we arrived at another gauge that had been damaged and will be decommissioned by the time this trip report is published.

Immediately downstream was another bedrock ledge that would have been good without a log spanning the line.  A bold paddler could execute a rail slide down the log.

The rest of the run was more of the same, interesting and clean bedrock rapids (all class IV in nature) separated by quick log portages and some log dodging.

 Photo: Priscilla Macy

 The signature drop of the run was this waterfall that despite the low flow had two distinct line options.

Photo: Priscilla Macy

The next rapid we snuck via the scrapey right channel.  The landing over there is less than a paddle deep, we used two different techniques to keep our bows from dropping to vertical.

 Photo: Priscilla Macy

My favorite rapid ended up being one that I was going to portage until Priscilla decided she wanted to run it.  She made the narrow pinch look fun and straight forward so I had to follow.

This was the last rapid we ran on this trip and we left our boats on the trail a short way downstream.  On our walk down to check out Lemolo Falls we passed one more rapid I would like to run on a return trip.

The lip of Lemolo Falls
  Photo: Priscilla Macy

After checking out Lemolo Falls we walked back up along the trail to our boats and started the steep climb out.  It took me about 5 minutes to climb up past the first steep part (maybe 200 vertical feet) and another 10 to return and haul up Priscilla's boat (she was loosing her footing and was worried about taking a fall).  Less than 10 minutes of easy walking later we were back at the canal where we had left our shuttle bike. 

What should have been an easy shuttle became obnoxious when our bike got a flat and then my knee was acting up while I jogged the rest of the way but we got it done and headed up to a nice camp at Lemolo Reservoir.


No comments: