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.

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 here 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 were 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 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, 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


Thursday, January 25, 2018

Whistler Classics: Notes from an Oregonian

These runs are described better here than I would be able to do.  What I have are some notes, as Oregonians may perceive things differently than a BC local.  I have gone up there a number of times over Labor Day weekend when the water is low, but the trip was still completely worth it.  Written for the weekend warrior, class IV-V boater type without a guide.

I have found that if the Cheakamus Gauge is reading over 2' it is worth making the trip to the area, with 2.5' being perfect (excluding Tatlow).


Similar to the Green Truss from the put in through the Springs (below Double Drop), but if Big Brother was super clean and straight forward.  We have run it at 2' and wouldn't recommend driving up there for it at that flow, but if you are already in the area it might be worth it.  The boulder gardens are pretty manky, but it's still boatable.  The first falls goes on the right when levels are low enough that the left line closes out.  2.5' is a fun, friendly flow.


If you are looking for something new in the Whistler area, and don't mind hiking a bit, the Upper Callaghan is a good option.  This section is better at lower flows than the classic section. 



This is the most stress free run on this list, and perhaps the most fun.  Boaters from Oregon will still feel that there is plenty of water to enjoy the run at 2' on the gauge.  While the put in drop is generally run on the left, at low water the right side is a better option.  From below the falls (easy to put in below it) to the take out is fantastic read and run whitewater.  There is one rapid early on that I got a moment of "whoops, should have scouted" as I entered, but it actually flushes beautifully and there is no need to scout.  A sign on the right bank warns to "not get bit" just above this drop.  Triple Drop, the next rapid downstream of the one under a high foot bridge, is worth scouting on the right your first time down.

Right line at the put in falls.


This one takes more time than the upper, it requires decision making and has the feel of a relaxed adventure.  This one goes lower than the Upper Cheakamus, and I doubt it ever gets too low by Oregon standards in the summer.  One of the beauties of being here at low water is the waterfall (Balls to the Wall) is stress free and the pockets in the run out are not much in play.  Everything can be scouted on the run.


Non-nondescript rapids that are fun.  Everything is scoutable and portageable at the low levels we had.



If this run was anywhere else it would be held in very high regard, since it is the section upstream of the Box Canyon of the Ashlu, some of its glory is stolen.  That's fine for the people who make it up there, as it has a more adventurous feel than the Box  Most people put in at the Mine the run garners its name from. The rapid is as hard as it gets for the day (aside from the portage), so its a good barometer for how the rest of the day will be.   It is also the only non-portageable drop, so come ready for a class V rapid off the bat.  From there down there is loads of good rapids, all can be scouted and portaged.  The crux of the run is recognizing the portage, the location of which is described adequately in the Liquid Lore Report.  On that report they also describe the semi-tricky way to ascertain flows.  I have done this run at 13 cms (they were releasing all they had into the Box), and at 55-60 cms.  Both were fun, but I would not have enjoyed the high water run if I wasn't following someone who knew the lines at that level.   That time we were coming off of Tatlow Creek, so ran some rapids above the normal put in as well.  I recall two big ledges with big holes, then portaging a mega rapid (The Mine Drop) that Willy Dinsale ran, this rapid is visible upstream at the Mine put in.  He was online through the rapid, yet spent 10-20 seconds in the crux hole that eventually spat him out (still in his boat).  13 cms felt low, but was still plenty enjoyable.

Priscilla Macy run the bottom of the Mine Rapid at 13 cms



Classic class V canyon, Dan Patrinellis led us down and that made the day enjoyable.  I recommend scouting as much as possible before putting on by using the trail on river left, the whitewater was not a style I was accustomed to at the time and rolled 4 times that day.  The first section of whitewater you can see from the trail is par for the course for difficulty on the run and it does not get harder, nor easier.  Because I wasn't looking, I am not sure if there are un-scoutable rapids, but the high walls make me think its highly plausible.  If you want a warm up before 50/50, the Mini-Mine section is just upstream and good class IV fun. 

TheBox from Ryan C on Vimeo.



The rapids are more fun than I would have expected from boulder bars.  Fast moving water and some large waves.  We did it for the camping, which was fantastic. 


Very committing, but you don't need to be a world class boater to enjoy it.  However, good decision making and competence are required.  Having a guide or researching the location of rapids and the lines before getting there will greatly reduce the stress level, there is sufficient video and literature out there.  I believe as of 2017 there is wood that is causing people to skip the first few drops by putting in below them.  The drops on Dipper were good, but my favorite part was floating out on the Squamish, fantastic canyon there, and the whitewater is low stress at that point.

Our trip down Vetigo Gorge

Dipper Creek from Difficult E on Vimeo.



Scouting isn't usually an option, so have the lines memorized before going (plenty of GoPro out there).  As of 2016 the road into Tatlow washed out many miles short of the take out, it sounds like people are no longer doing this run.