Sunday, November 16, 2008

Gladiator Creek: Lower

 4 miles

Stream: There are 3 fun rapids on this stretch, it is best run as an extension to the Middle or Upper, but I have put in here before when Iv'e hiked to the bridge and decided flows were either too high, or too low for me to want to continue on.  You can also continue another mile past the put in bridge to a spur road after the quarry that leads down a nose of land for an additional mile with many more class fun rapids.  The story of the first descent starting at the lower bridge is worth a read over at    

Arena is just below the bridge, and is my favorite rapid on the lower stretch, and probably the whole creek.  The obvious line down the middle is as fun as it looks, a fast ramp into a kicker.  It's one of those drops you might want to lap a few times if it was easy and you had the time.  While it is easy to line up, anywhere other than the line has injury potential so scout thoroughly.

A couple small ledges separate Arena from The Punisher.  Keep an eye downstream for a horizon and a waterfall coming in from the left, eddy on the right as soon as you see this, it would be easy to run out of eddies.  The scout and portage are both along the right, the drop has been run right at high water, but left at lower flows.

Ben Mckenzie tangles with the Punisher.
Photo: Adam Edwards

Another short stretch of class II leads to The Colosseum, a long set of low angle slides at the end of a straight away below Punisher.    It is a good idea to scout Colosseum from the left bank, which is easy to do and obvious when it should be done.

     Paddler: Joseph Hatcher

After taking in Colosseum from the pool below, you are done with the good stuff.   The whitewater starts off consolidated, but gradually spreads out and starts weaving through islands.  If the water is low, you take the wrong channel, or wood shifts this section can be a pain.  However, if flows are up, you guess the wood-free channels, and maybe bring some hot chocolate to sip this section goes by alright.  There are some small surfable features to change the pace too.  And trust that paddling out is better than hiking out.

A typical scene during the runout.

Eventually the islands end, and the take out bridge comes up just around the corner.  If you only brought one car, just drop the boats and walk the short distance back up to the gate to retrieve your vehicle.

*It is worth noting, all three of the major rapids can be scouted on the hike in from road overlooks.

Flows:  The rapids are still fun on the lower even when the Upper and Middle are low, even below 2'.  Don't forget about that runout though.  The Punisher lives up to it's name at high water, it can be portaged right.  Gauge location and details described on the main page and the gauge page.

Access:  From the take out drive upstream 1/4 mile and turn left, park at the gate.  Hike about 3 miles on the mainline (if in doubt stay right towards the creek) until reaching the Lower Bridge going over the creek to the right, this is the put in for the lower.

My first trip to Gladiator with a boat

My first time down was with Tim Brink and Bruce Reed from ORT, who were going to raft the creek.  When I got to college at Western Oregon University, I began looking at the coast range as a place to kayak.  I had three creeks at the top of my list, and this one was at the top of that list.  I scouted access with my mom and sister when they came to visit one day, and was pretty excited about what I saw.  The day before I was to paddle the creek for the first time, I paddled Quartzville Creek with Jason Rackley and Pete Giordano.  I told them about my plan, and they asked if I had read their story Cammando Creekin', which was about the first descent of the lower section of this creek.
The situation had changed a little since then, with a gate that they open up during hunting season so we brought along a bunch of camo clothing, stuffed the kayak in the back of Tim's Truck, and signed in at the entrance (2014: now it's walk in only, but access is allowed year round excluding high fire danger).
      We got skunked by low water on the upper and middle sections, but decided to try out the less mysterious lower run.  This trip started in excellent fashion, with a peal out into the 15 ft Arena Falls.

  After this is a short ledge, that demanded its own respect when it gave the raft an exciting shove in the wrong direction [the upside down direction :) ].  Shortly after this was Punisher, which had not been run on the previous descent.  I felt at this water level it looked good and was able to hit a line going left-left (and have repeated that line a few times since).   The first drop lands in shallow water so nose up is the only way to go.  The raft chose to ghost boat it on this trip.  A minute of class II and we arrived at the large horizon line of Colosseum.  It is about a 200 yard long series of slides, with multiple lines.  After this came the two miles of class two we knew we had in store.  It took awhile with the raft, and while there was some log dodging no portages were needed.
       I was really jazzed on this trip, and have been back a number of times.  It's one of my favorite creeks in Oregon.  I am thankful that Tim and Bruce were willing to come along, and that I got to see another awesome place I probably never would have without my kayak. 



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