Tuesday, April 30, 2019

Sycan River: Coyote Bucket

Photo: Priscilla Macy

 7.5 miles

Stream: Most of the Sycan River is flat, the flattest part is the Sycan Marsh, where the stream collects water from snowmelt, spilling out into a kid and canoe friendly upper section that can be paddled.  As the Sycan approaches, then combines with the Sprague River, it again spreads out and braids.

The combined Sprague and Sycan.
 Photo: Priscilla Macy

Between the upper section coming out of the Marsh, and the flat land where it meets the Sprague, the Sycan drops through Coyote Bucket.  In this section are two long stretches of continuous whitewater, the first "bucket" is class IV, and the second "bucket" is harder.

An example of the boulders that make up the river bed/bank and where they came from.
Photo: Priscilla Macy 

The rapids are made of columnar and vesicular basalt from the Winema Volcanic Field that has collapsed from the canyon rim, similar to the rock found along the Upper Klamath.  The two buckets are split by 20 minutes of easy floating.  The whitewater is like a mix of the Upper EF Hood, Upper Klamath, and NF Payette.

Barret Titus, stirring the mixing pot.

 Photo: Yann Crist-Evans

Access is both easy and challenging, there is no hiking required, but the roads can be tricky to navigate and there needs to be someone in the group comfortable navigating primitive roads using satellite imagery, as when the Sycan has water, some of the roads are not passable.  This can all be sorted out beforehand though, the red roads are elevated to keep them from becoming bogs in the Spring and are used to get to the put in.  The take out is either very easy at a paved bridge if you want to float 6 miles of flat water at the end of the day, or a bit of an adventure if you want to take out at the end of the whitewater.

A high density of mosquitoes at a take out in the vicinity of Chester Springs motivated us to load quickly.
 Photo: Priscilla Macy

As a snowmelt run, this river runs when it's warm out.  This, combined with loads of great primitive camping options, make it a good place to spend a weekend.

From the put in, the Sycan rolls around a few lazy bends before slowly ramping it's way from flat water to class IV.  The first bucket has a long section of whitewater flowing through it and can mostly be read and ran, with a couple rapids that are worth a quick look if no one knows the lines, especially since there are sieves outside of the main lines. 

Brandon Lake dodging ordnance from Wile E. Coyote, the stand out rapid from the first bucket.
 Photo: Priscilla Macy

 Eventually this fun section of whitewater ends and the river returns to lazy floating where you can kick your feet up for a bit, or there are some nice places to stop for lunch but be ready for mosquitoes on the banks in places.

 Photo: Priscilla Macy

Near the end of the meandering the walls start to rise back up, and flat water gives way to easy whitewater at the beginning of the second bucket.  This ramps up to intermediate rapids and eventually there is a scouting eddy on the right above the horizon line at the second sustained section of challenging whitewater, which is a step up from the first bucket dropping 120 feet in the next half mile.  Most groups will want to do an extended scout on the right of both Roadrunner and BoB, the first two parts of this long section of whitewater.

Moving fast through Roadrunner.
 Photo: Priscilla Macy

Roadrunner is run mostly center-right, down to an eddy on the right, just across from the largest boulder visible at river-level.  

Yann Crist-Evans nears the end of Roadrunner, with the eddy that needs to be caught in order to scout BoB circled, just across the river from the largest boulder at stream-level.
Photo: Priscilla Macy 

A thorough scout of BoB is in order from this small eddy, as the river bends right through more hydraulics.  It is not so much BoB itself that is of concern, but the eddy that needs to be caught on river-left above Pin-Laden, which is the next rapid and one that paddlers may elect to portage.  This river-left eddy above Pin-Laden has a bugger rock guarding it if you try to boof into the eddy, it worked better to catch the middle of the eddy, don't miss!

Pin-Laden looks to have a line in the middle, but everyone in the group walked it both days.
 Photo: Yann Crist-Evans

Downstream is a long stretch of quality whitewater that is right on the edge between what we were comfortable reading and running and wanting to shore scout.  We always found eddies on river-right when we wanted to scout but they come up fast, and pass by faster if you are not scouting ahead.

  Photo: Priscilla Macy

The last distinct rapid is Fantasia, a rapid that fits it's own definition pretty well, with a boof at the top reminiscent of a scaled down version of this iconic rapid on the Fantasy Falls (1:41) section of the NF Mokelumne in California.

                                                            Between moves in Fantasia.
  Photo: Priscilla Macy

Below Fantasia the river spreads out a bit as it approaches, then splits around an island.  This section can be read and run, but scouting would provide the cleanest lines.  We went either right or center until an island that split the river in two, we took the left channel.  The whitewater abruptly ends as the second bucket pours out into slack water a short way after this island and the action is over.  Some class I-II ends at another island and what can be a hard to see fence going across the river, we took a right channel and were able to duck under it.

Myself, Barret Titus, and Zach Levine at the finish line.
Photo: Priscilla Macy

Below the fence it's just a relaxing 10 minute float down to the take out if you parked at one of the upper take outs, or much further if you used the logistically easy take out at the Drew Rd bridge.

Soaking it in as we approach the take out near Chester Springs.
  Photo: Priscilla Macy

Flows:  The Sycan has a gauge, make sure to choose "instantaneous flow" in the drop down marked by the green arrow and box in the photo below. We were there April 26 and 27, and flows felt great both days.



The area around here is rugged, and many of the roads are primitive.  You will need to be comfortable navigating using satellite imagery on your phone.  Many of the marked roads cross through marshes that are not passable when the Sycan has enough water to kayak.  Fortunately the put in can be accessed via good gravel roads that are raised above the boggy areas.  There is good reception and 4G in the area.

A cell tower visible from the shuttle.

Because of the road situation, there are not step-by-step directions here, you will need to plan your own route.

The put in is here: 42.615212, -121.346747

This is where the whitewater ends (42.548507, -121.313715) there are a couple roads that can be used to reach take outs less than a mile downstream, near Chester Springs.  It's a good idea to park at a spot easily visible from the river so you don't accidentally float by.  Remember to shut behind you any fence-gates that you open, and know the mud is sloppier than it might look.  4wd and clearance recommended if you plan to use one of these take outs.  The road we used was visible in satellite imagery, but not marked on Google Maps.

If you want simple logistics, or are not prepared to drive primitive roads, you can take out here (42.485369, -121.278400) at the Drews Rd bridge, though that would require floating 6 miles of flat water.

The Drews bridge take out, where the gauge is located.  If you use this bridge as a take out, keep in mind the whitewater ends in those hills in the background.
Photo: Priscilla Macy

Note:  If you follow Google Maps from Bend to the put in, it will send you to a ford of the Sycan River, which is not possible when the Sycan is high enough to kayak.  The correct route is to first drive to Beatty, then up the Sycan.

Joe Anonymous and the Coyote Bucket

I had never heard about the Sycan River, or noted it on any maps.  It's in an area east of Klamath Falls that looks pretty flat on a topo-map.  After running the Williamson River a couple years ago, a local commented on this website about the Sycan River through the Coyote Bucket and thought we might be interested in checking it out.  Looking at it on a map, I thought it would be a neat trip but a long drive and lots of flat water kept it from being a top priority for me.  Over the last couple years I started clicking in pieces of the puzzle, like locating roads that would cut out hours of flat water, and tracking down a gauge.  Some last minute consultation between Priscilla and the Klamath Lake Land Trust to learn about an area that doesn't have much online info, and friends willing to roll the dice on something new sent the plan into Go-mode.  We knew trips like this always have the potential to be more work than they are worth, but after two trips through the canyon we couldn't wipe the grins off our faces.  What a place to be.  Thanks for the tip Joe anonymous, if I ever find out who you are there will be a beer or two coming your way.


Tuesday, April 16, 2019

Packers Gulch

 All photos: Priscilla Macy

I try to mix up my trips to the Quartzville drainage these day.  Because the upper section that is the usual draw is short, there are a number of combos that can be had.  The ambitious can head upstream, or even further upstream.  My favorite option is to do the section from Greg Creek down to the reservoir, but sometimes doing a park and plop or adding on a tributary is the ticket for the day. 

This day we did an Upper Qville lap, then with a large group split up.  Some car portaged their rafts around the middle section to avoid Double Dip and Pick up Sticks, others did another lap on the upper run.  Priscilla and I went and checked out Packers Gulch.

The hike in was about 1 mile on a gravel logging road, no shuttle needed.  The first pitch is steep, then it flattens out until reaching a bridge at the put in.  The description in the back of Soggy Sneakers just says "class IV" and that's about how I'd sum it up too.  The run was worth doing once, had a few neat sections, engaging boogie water, problem solving, and two easy log portages.  

We were there January 20, 2019 in the afternoon.

Put In:  44.600335, -122.395380
Take Out:  44.589596, -122.392972