Monday, December 10, 2018

Goose Creek: Upper

Photo: Priscilla Macy

I can't really give this stream a fair shake, as the high flows from the day before had dropped out overnight and then again as we hiked in during the morning.  Putting on at noon we had 1/5th the water that there had been the day before at noon.  The Smith is known for spiking fast, and dropping out fast.  None the less we were surprised when we got to the put in bridge after 2.5 hours of hiking and saw there were fish flows in the creek.  

 Photo: Priscilla Macy

We weren't about to hike back out so started ass-jamming our way downstream.  Since it was our mistake putting in at this low of a flow, and not the streams, I tried to picture the rapids as they would be with water in them, and thought they would be good.  Miles of class IV with two class V's and a number of ledges that were fun even with next to no water.

Photo: Priscilla Macy


For an informed opinion of this stretch of stream buy a copy of Dan Menton's New School Guide to Northern California Whitewater.

Flows:  I would shoot for 5-10k on the Jedediah Gauge if I went back, but that's just a personal guess.  There was 3k on the gauge when we checked at 7 in the morning, but it had dropped to 2k by the time we put on, and 1.5k by the time we took off on November 24, 2018.  We needed at the bare minimum twice as much water as was in the creek at the put in.


Seven miles downstream of Gasquet, CA turn off the highway and drive over two bridges (MF and SF Smith).  Drive 12.7 miles, paralleling the SF Smith to a Stevens bridge over the SF Smith, this is the take out.  41.6932, -123.9303

 *4.9 miles shy of the take out you will cross Rock Creek.  I imagine this creek could be used to gauge whether Goose will be in (not a perfect gauge).  From a couple trips up there, I think Goose will have a proportional amount of water in it, though Rock Creek is much smaller.  

From the take out, drive upstream along the SF Smith 1 more mile and turn right, quickly crossing a bridge over the SF Smith.  Follow the paved road called the "Go-Road" 8.9 miles, getting some beautiful views once the road has topped out if the weather is good.  At the 8.9 mile mark turn right onto a small spur just passed a guard rail as the Go-Road turns back to the left.
41.5921, -123.8766

Depending on your vehicle and willingness to pinstripe your car you can knock off quite a bit of hiking by driving down this road.  Even without pin-striping, high clearance vehicles can drive about 1 mile.  If you are going to push as far as you can in a vehicle in the name of reducing hiking, bring both a chain and hand-saw.

  Photo: Priscilla Macy

From the Go-Road, you can hike 8 miles without leaving the road to a bridge at the put in(41.5824, -123.9101).  Those directions are in the New School Guide.  The hike can be reduced to just over 2 miles if you are willing to bushwhack.  Either way, I recommend bringing a paper map and/or having maps cached on your phone since there really isn't time to get lost on a trip of this length.

 Photo: Priscilla Macy

Here is the route we took.  The last bushwhack was humorously challenging.  Bush-surfing and tunneling, most of us were laughing but I wouldn't chose that route again.  Joseph went first and barrelled his way through, creating somewhat of a path to follow for the rest of us.
2.5 miles

Click on photos to enlarge.

Here is the route I would take if I went back.  You could knock it down to 2 miles with a second bushwhack after the first half mile. 
3.2 miles


*As Dan Menton's book notes, Arn's Falls does indeed have a tricky lead in, at the low flow we seal launched in from the right side just at the lip of the second drop.  Watch the pockets, especially the right wall.  This area is probably the most nitty-gritty on the creek, both for the drop and the gorge that you are in.  Don't forget to look around.

Arn's Falls, sans flow.

*Double walls falls is gnarly, I don't see any circumstance where I would want to run it, though it does appear runnable.  It's an easy portage on the left.

*There was remarkably little in the way of wood issues, though it was present.  I believe we had one wood portage in 12 miles.

*We put on at noon, and took out at 5pm.  We were pushing hard to make downstream progress and had no incidents and functioned well as a team.  The hike took 2.5 hours or so.

*The Go-Road goes up to 3800' during the shuttle, so snow is a going to be a show stopper most of the season.  There were rumors of a gate on the road, but it is past the portion of the road used for the Upper Goose shuttle.

Paddlers: Priscilla, Zach Levine, Joseph Hatcher, 2 visitors from Europe.

Monday, December 3, 2018

South Fork Chetco

Photo: Priscilla Macy


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


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 called 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:  To get to the put in we used continue upriver on Highway 504 for 2.1 miles and pull out at a gated road on the right.  Drag your boats to the end of this road, where it meets up with the NF Toutle.  Don't seal launch from the top here, the water is shallow. If the water is high, you might want to take this route so you can scout from the river-right rim before putting on.
46.3615, -122.545

Put In B:  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)

*Both hikes are less than a mile.

click to view full sized

Notes:  The run is about an hour North of Portland, and there is camping at the put in and take out.  

Take out camping:  Just after turning onto Otto Cook Rd, turn left again onto a spur.  At the bottom there is a place where camping is possible.

At the put in, the road we hiked down led in 1/4 mile to a big grassy area on the right.  Alternately, there was a campfire in the road when we were there. 

**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.  And if there are people at the trailhead, consider using the route in that Priscilla and I took.**

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.