Monday, December 3, 2018

South Fork Chetco

Photo: Priscilla Macy

7.5 miles

Stream: This is a low elevation stream (take out is under 200') tucked into the southwest corner of Oregon.  Access is pretty reasonable and the significant whitewater is short.  The water in the Chetco drainage is renowned for clarity, but the Chetco Bar fire in 2017 left the area scarred and the water was chocolate brown while we were there (Nov 2018).

Cole Humphrey; the smoke was on the water.
Photo: Priscilla Macy

After a shuttle on logging roads (having the area cached on your phone makes navigation straight forward) and a short walk down a ridge-line to the put in things start off mellow.  We actually put in on West Coon Creek, and floated a couple hundred yards down to the SF Chetco itself.

Teamwork was used for the last 50 feet.
Photo: Yann Crist-Evans

The first few miles is mostly class II with the occasional class III or IV.  There were a number of logs just at surface level or above that were hard to see with the brown water camouflaging them.  We were able to get over or around all of them at our flow, but a couple might be portages with less water.

This one was easy to see from above and was avoidable to the left.
 Photo: Yann Crist-Evans

 The meat of the run is in the last 2.5 miles, with the most challenging rapid of the trip near top of the meat.  We scouted right, a few portaged right, the rest ran the multi-move rapid.  

Joseph Hatcher running "Potty Humor", the largest rapid of the trip.
Photo: Priscilla Macy

Downstream the whitewater continued through bedrock, and everything was scoutable.  There were enough quality rapids to warrant the trip.
 Photo: Priscilla Macy


Near the end things seemed to open up, before one last rapid with a boulder splitting the flow near the bottom presented itself.  The right side had a log (Nov 2018) that caused two swims, one was scary.  The rest of us cruised over it without even knowing it was there.  A route to the left of the boulder would have been the better option, in hindsight.

The log, just barely visible from below.
Photo: Yann Crist-Evans

It was a short distance from this last rapid to the take out bridge.
Yann, soaking in the remaining moments of the SF Chetco.
 Photo: Priscilla Macy
Flows:  The Chetco gauge is what paddlers currently use for this stream, its a ballpark gauge though.  This gauge peaked at 7,000 cfs while we were on the river.  I would consider this an ideal flow.  I have heard it has been run as low as 3,000 cfs.  You could also run it higher than what we had.

A couple shots from the take out bridge, for flow reference.

Access:  Get to Brookings, in the southwest corner of Oregon.  On the West side of the Hwy 101 bridge over the Chetco, take North Shore Road 16 miles upstream to a bridge over the SF Chetco.  This is the take out, parking abound (42.1876, -124.131).  Reports are this area attracts those who might feel your belongings should be theirs.  I personally have not been alarmed by any of the people I have met there.

To get to the put in we used (there are other options), return the way you came along North Bank Rd 5.5 miles and make a hairpin turn to the left (42.1356, -124.1752).  Follow the main road 7.2 miles before veering left.  Take this spur 2.5 miles to its terminus at a landing (42.146, -124.0529).  Walk down the ridge-line about 1/3 mile to West Coon Creek, which you float a short distance down to the SF Chetco.

*There are a number of take out options on the main Chetco itself that can be used to shorten the shuttle and allow for more miles of class I-II floating.  Leaving a car down there may be less risky as well.  The one that would shorten the shuttle the most would be Miller Bar (
42.1396, -124.1781).  This would add about 5 miles of lazy floating.

Click on image to expand


*This run proved to be a good backup option for us when our primary goal in the Smith drainage didn't pan out.  Lower Goose also would have been a good option.

*At the biggest rapid, one member of the team was nervous.  While scouting, skipping the morning bathroom stop became a mistake as it was happening now.  They ran to high ground away from the group to address this emergency, they were relieved that it had stopped raining finally and were able to get their drysuit off in time.  Unfortunately, after a successful waste drop, it began to roll towards them.  On the steep hill it proved challenging to dodge the rogue turd.  Wobbling about with their drysuit at their knees on loose scree they managed to win the battle and avoid a regrettable encounter.  After that, the rapid did not appear so daunting and in stark contrast to the battle on the hill, a clean drop of the rapid was made.

*The final rapid had a hidden log in it, to the right of a boulder splitting the routes between a left and right line below a short entrance.  However, it was not visible from the eddy we were boat scouting in above.  The probe made it over the log without issue, having not even seen it.  Another boater entered the current and I followed a bit behind.  As I approached the split I saw the second boater swimming, I did not know what had caused the swim but did bounce off something as I passed the rock.  I corralled his paddle in one hand, and held mine in the other as I went over a small ledge.  Resurfacing, I was pulled backwards into the hole and decided it was time to ditch his paddle.  The hole let me go without a fight, and we quickly corralled the swimmer and gear in the moving pool below.

Yann paddling the rapid with the log.  The log was propped against the mid-stream boulder.

Upstream, another boater had become pinned on the log in a desperate way, with the log acting as a seat-belt.  The paddler worked their way sideways and somehow got off the log, though their skirt came off and he was forced to swim as well.  It would have been a challenging place for a rescue, and gave us all food for thought.  The log had not been visible due to the brown water, even by the 6 people who had paddled over it successfully.  And the paddler was on their own once pinned due to the location.  Would we have seen the log from a shore scout?  Something for us who were there to think on. 

*We finished the run at 2pm, so while some of us ran shuttle, the rest of the group headed up to run the Chetco Gorge since it shares the same take out as the SF Chetco.  At 7,000 they reported the two main rapids, Candycane and Conehead, to both be big water class V and neither got run.  They said the rest of the run was fun and big class II-III wave trains, with Lake Creek style surf waves abound.  I have run the Chetco twice coming off the wilderness run at a bit over 2,000 cfs and both Candycane (IV) and Conehead (V) were run, while the rest of the run was a bit dull and class I-II.

 Nate Warren scouting Candycane
 Photo: Priscilla Macy

Conehead; 7,000 cfs
 Photo: Priscilla Macy

Conehead; 3,000 cfs
 Photo: Tyler Pohle

Conehead; ~500 cfs
 Photo: NW Rafting

Thursday, July 26, 2018

South Fork Calapooya Creek

1.75 miles

Stream: This is a small stream 30 minutes East of I-5 and Sutherlin, and 1-1.5 hours SE of Eugene.  Priscilla acquired a key to the area from Weyerhaeuser for the area so we checked out a few streams.  This one had some potential from her scout so we paddled a section just short of 2 miles, from a bridge near the Middle Fork Calapooya (tiny, full of wood) to the confluence with the North Fork Calapooya (a small, steep stream with lots of wood).

                                                                                    Click on map to enlarge


The run was fine, mostly class III with the occasional wood hazard.  We had a good time piecing it together.

                                                        One class IV rapid stood out.

The most notable part of the trip were the large snowflakes that came down near the end of the trip and while Priscilla scootered the shuttle.

From there, we headed over the ridge to the Big River drainage for an afternoon run down that stream.

Flows:  We paddled the SF Calapooya the morning of March 23, 2018.  This was an ideal first time flow, I don't think the spike seen in the graphic below occurred until after we got off the stream.


Access:  Get a key from Weyerhaeuser

Put In:  43.4746, -123

Take Out:   43.4812, -123.0315

Thursday, July 12, 2018

NF Toutle: Sediment pond to Kid Valley

Poking around on satellite imagery as I often do when I have some time to kill, I came across an interesting half mile of bedrock whitewater on the NF Toutle that seemed out of place.   The reason it is out of place requires a little background knowledge.  As many in the PNW are aware of,  Mount Saint Helens erupted in a big way in 1980.  There was much devastation, but the form that is relevant to our discussion here is the large debris flows that roared down the Toutle Drainage.  Aside from causing much destruction at the time (reaching all the way to the Columbia River), they left behind large deposits of sediment in the stream-bed.  This turned what was once a classic PNW, class III-IV style stream with canyon walls and greenery into a boulder strewn flood plain. The only distinct rapid left behind was Hollywood Gorge, about 8 miles upstream of the confluence of the Toutle with the Columbia River.

Back to the map perusing, why was there now a half mile of bedrock up on the North Fork of the Toutle that was not mentioned in any whitewater guidance literature?

As it turns out, the sediment laden river-system was causing issues down as far as the Columbia and to remedy the problem a retention structure was built to hold back a portion of the sediment working its way down the drainage.  Initially, the spillway that was there was not something of whitewater value.  However, in 2013 the structure was modified and raised 7 feet.  The history and reasons can be read about on wikipedia.

The modification in 2013 funneled the flow over bedrock that had not been exposed since us humans have been around.  The resulting 1/2 mile of channel drops 184 feet over a multitude of ledges, ramps, and slides.

In December 2017 Priscilla was passing through and scouted out the section from a convenient path on river-right at around 1800 cfs.

It looked big, but we were intrigued to come back sometime with less water and with kayaks.

June 2018 we were taking a trip up to the Cooper River and decided to start the trip off with a run down this section of the NF Toutle.

We set shuttle just below another dam, about 3 miles East of Kid Valley.

2.1 miles upstream was an overgrown road with a gate we dragged our boats down.

In less than a mile we had reached the bank of the NF Toutle and could see the structure and beginning of the gradient downstream.  We walked the path along the right a short ways to scope out some of the eddies and the feel of the run (the whole run can be scouted from this path, 50-100' vertical feet above the river with few visual obstructions).

Things looked good for a first run, so we returned to our boats and launched off the wall into what was about 2" of water.  You see, the structure was doing its job and the sediment was being retained.  So the river was wide, and the water shallow.  It was only a hundred yards to the beginning of the whitewater, but it took 20 minutes as we scooted and walked our boats through the sand.  Each step had us sinking to our ankles, it was not your normal approach to a kayak run.

We reached the start of the whitewater at the retention structure itself, a gentle ramp to a 5' boof.  The sediment had filled in the landing zone, so a boof seemed necessary, even with a boof I landed on sand, though it did not hurt. A week later, Nick Hymel and Brandon Lake did the run and both plugged this drop, neither hit bottom, go figure.

At higher flows when the hydraulic at the base gets large, the retention structure itself could be snuck left or right.

We ferried to river left after the first drop to check out the retaining structure.  There is a trail that leads to this area, it would be an option to use that trail as a put in in the future to avoid the sand dragging upstream (Nick and Brandon used this route and gave it the thumbs up), though the path on river right from which the whole section is scoutable would not be accessible if that route was used.

Checking out the retaining structure

A quick tangent here: while there is nothing illegal about being on this section of river, we all know how muggles can get when they see kayakers kayaking in places like this.  We tried our best (and were successful) at passing through unseen and obeyed all signs indicating where we could not go.  If others choose to paddle here, I urge them to do the same.

After checking things out we walked downstream on river left to scout out the first couple ledges, which we ended up re-scouting from river right.  The first was a short ramp into a hydraulic, then shortly downstream a ledge dropped 5-10'.  During Priscilla's scouting trip, both had been enormous holes.

The first ramp at 1,800 cfs

The second tier at 500 cfs

Next was a bumpy section we ran down the right.  The water spread out below here, with the most obvious low water choice being down a smooth 50' long low angle concrete slab into a 5-10' ramp.

Priscilla sliding down the concrete slab.

Up to this point it had been easy to scout everything at river level on the left or right.

Below here the river split into 3 channels, all channels were sliding sections with ledges.  Far right being 3-4, middle being 4-4+, left being class V.

We started down the left channel, after scouting all the channels we decided to scrape down the far right channel.  As levels increase, so too would the challenge of scouting these channels.

On an after work trip about a week later, Brandon Lake takes the left channel.
Photo: Nick Hymel

When the channels reconvened, there was one last 5-10' drop with a hole on the left.  Priscilla went first and had an entertaining line!  She pulled a large boof but was booted onto her side and landed nearly upside down.  She was able to hold on until the hole spat her out and she rolled up.  That was the end of the half mile of bedrock, we noted it would be easy to get out on river right and walk boats back up the scouting path high on the right to do multiple runs in a day.  We had driving distance to cover that afternoon so settled for one lap this time around.  Downstream of the whitewater we drifted another half mile through gravel bars to a true dam that looks like a large version of the final dam on the Little White Salmon River.  It can be easily portaged on the right.  The take out was just below on the left. 


Flows:  We had 500 cfs in the NF Toutle near Kid Valley.  This was a low, enjoyable flow and I would return at that flow.  Nick Hymel and Brandon Lake returned the next week at 450 and said they would also return at that flow.  Both groups felt more water would be welcomed.

 Priscilla's 1,800 cfs scouting trip showed a class V/V+ section of whitewater.  The photos she took made it look like at that flow it could be the type of run that boaters running the Little White around 5' might enjoy.

Access:  Take Exit 49 off I-5 in Castle Rock.  Follow Hwy 504 20.5 miles to Otto Cook Rd and turn left.  At the end of the road is a circular area to park in at the take out. 
46.3723, -122.5786

Put In A:  From the take out, continue upriver less than 1/4 mile on Hwy 504 before turning right towards the sediment structure on Stewart Dam Rd.  Follow this to the parking area, and hike the trail to it's end at the structure.  There is a break in the fence where you can walk down to the stream.  Brandon and Nick took this route, and I probably would in the future too if levels were conducive to it (medium or low).
46.3642, -122.5595 (trailhead)

Put In B:  The way we did it was to continue upriver on Highway 504 for 2.1 miles from the take out and pull over at the gated road on the right (shown in the photo below).  We dragged our boats to the end of this road, where it meets up with the NF Toutle.  The water is very shallow here, even though the murky water made that hard so see.  We skipped the seal launch for this reason and just set our boats in the sand 1-2" below the surface of the water.  If flows are high, this is probably the way to go, as it allows paddlers to scout the whole run from a trail on river right.
46.3615, -122.545 

*Both hikes are less than a mile.

click to view full sized

Notes:  The run is about an hour North of Portland, it looked like there was a camping option off the take out road down to the dam.  

**While there is nothing illegal about kayaking this section of river, we all know how muggles can get when there are kayakers kayaking in places like this.  If you choose to do this run, please keep this in mind and keep a low profile, with special care near the dam at the take out. 

Friday, April 13, 2018

Mosby Creek

Pete Giordano, Priscilla Macy and I kayaked some of Mosby Creek 3/28/18.  It is on private logging land, but permits can be obtained for the South Valley area which gives one access to this creek.

We paddled a 5.5 mile section starting at Lilly Creek (43.5791, -122.8649) and ending at a bridge near Allen Creek (43.6408, -122.9125).  The beginning and end had quality class III bedrock slides and rapids, with one near the end being class IV.  In the middle was a gravelly section with a couple logs to negotiate.

On the drive out we stopped to paddle a fun, roadside class IV chute against the left bank.

The flows for the day:

Elk Creek:

Coast Fork Willamette @ London was a good gauge too, but seems to have gone offline.

This resulted in a friendly, medium flow, more water would equate to more fun.

Thursday, March 29, 2018

Part One: Starting with the Guidebook

~Words from Matt King

When I made my way out east, I knew there'd be lots of good outdoor activity to be had; skiing, hiking, fishing, ect. On the other hand, I was moving away from kayak central and had no idea if there'd be anything good to run. So I started with the guidebook, which pointed me straight to the lower end of of the Imnaha River. When flows started to rise in the spring, I knew the time had come! I scrounged up my kayaking gear from it's winter hiding spot and headed down the Dug Bar road into the canyon with a modest crew: Caitlin and Oakland the dog.
The Imnaha River drops from the east side of the Wallowas and parallels the Snake in Hells Canyon until the Sake takes a turn and the Imnaha cuts in. Needless to say, the canyon is impressive!
Dropping into Hells
When we got down to the last bridge over the Imnaha at Cow Creek, the river was raging, but still had eddies and some pools. I later looked at the gauge and saw that it was over 3300 cfs, which is a bit over floodstage. But it looked good to go, and I put on and left Catilin and Oak to hike the trail and do the camera work. The water was big and pushy, but there weren't any big holes you had to hit and no real class V's, just lots of really fun wave trains and even a few boofs. It was easy to hop out and scout on the trail most places too.
Big Water Goodness
The last mile or so has the hardest drops and is the only really continuous part, but it empties out into the Snake and is consumed by the flatwater. There's some really cool history at the confluence, with some terraces from a doomed hotel, and a huge bar that's perfect for a picnic.
Then there's the hike. While you could continue down the Snake to Heller Bar, the shuttle is heinous and makes the hike the best option, with a kayak at least. This run would be great in a raft, but you'd certainly want to float down. With minimal gear, the hike's really not that bad: 4.5 miles on pretty flat terrain, definitely worth the effort. The trail is also in great shape, albeit shrouded in poison ivy and a had quite a few ticks (we pulled 100 off Oak, then just stopped counting...).
The Imnaha proved to be a fantastic run and definitely one that's made annual list, but it only piqued my curiosity of what the headwaters looked like. But that's a story for another day..
Signing Off,
Matt "The Labrador" King

Elkhead Creek

This is a small stream near Sutherlin/Drain that flows out of Elkhead Valley.  It always caught my eye on the map because it goes through a small gorge, but low gradient and volume never put it high on my list.  After finishing a trip on the nearby Mosby Creek, we still had plenty of light so Priscilla and Pete Giordano were willing to check this one out before heading home.

We took out where Elkhead Rd Crossed the creek (43.5959, -123.1937), and put in where BLM rd 23-9-91 intersected with Elk Creek (43.5861, -123.172).

What stood out at the put in was the silence.  We were parked 20 yards from the creek and couldn't hear it, winding slowly through the end of Elkhead Valley.

We seal launched in and floated through a rare scene in Oregon, a flat spot without any sign of human influence.  The banks were grass, the trees were diverse and everything felt like it was where it belonged.  We hopped onto the bank for one quick walk around a fallen tree, and another couple minutes of floating had us making a turn as the telltale sound of whitewater was heard and the creek bent right and dropped out of sight.  We scouted, and eventually portaged this first rapid on the right along an elk path.  The rapid was likely runnable, but the flow was pushing pretty hard into two subsequent wood hazards.

Below this first rapid the creek cooked along quickly and more wood was present throughout the next 1/4 mile.  There were a couple blind corners that required wading through blackberry bushes to scout what ended up being class II and wood free sections.

About a 1/2 mile after putting on we reached the confluence we had been looking for (with Walker Creek) and the size of the creek bed increased notably and downstream visibility increased while stress decreased.  Just below the confluence was a sliding ledge before the creek eased off to class II+ with the occasional wood hazard as it wound around corners.  Mostly this part was pleasant floating, passing quickly by semi-scenic views with the occasional log to deal with, not much in the way of rapids.  Again, the area immediately next to the stream felt unmolested.

Photo: Pete Giordano

There was one island Pete and I went right of and had to make a portage, Pete signaled back to Priscilla to take the left channel and she avoided getting out of her boat.  To portage, Pete and I ducked under a log while wading through the creek, becoming partially submerged.  At this point the importance of closing my pee-zipper all the way was reinforced.

The river was splashy II-III from this island to the take out bridge.

This creek has a gauge, the day we ran it the flows felt good after we reached the confluence, but were a bit stressful before that.

Click to enlarge

Thursday, February 15, 2018

Siyeh Creek; Glacier National Park

Photo: Priscilla Macy

 This run passes through 4 bodies of water, all would be worthwhile on their own.  You start on Siyeh Creek which has loads of slides, paddle that to the confluence with Reynold's Creek as a transition to gorges and ledges happens, then paddle that to the St Mary's River that has more open whitewater ending in a powerful waterfall, shortly after floating onto St Mary's Lake where the beauty is epic.  This makes for a diverse paddling experience, one of my favorite days of adventure boating to date, bring your bear spray.

Photos: Priscilla Macy


Here is some flow research that might help anyone interested in making the trip


 We had about 150 cfs on June 29, 2017

 These guys had 70 cfs on July 8, 2016

These guys had 300-400 cfs in early June, 2017


We put in at Siyeh Bend: 48.7017, -113.6676
And took out near Baring Falls at the boat dock on St Mary Lake: 48.6757, -113.5942
And walked the trail up to our car at Sunrift Gorge: 48.6785, -113.595
Click map to enlarge