Sunday, May 31, 2009

Eagle Creek

We had an epic day up on Eagle creek saturday.  This mission was about the first raft descent of Eagle Creek.  The day was led by Hans Hooman who did all the legwork and made the calls to get this together.  He was kind enough to share his descent with the group and we all had a super fun day.  Everything except Metlako and the narrow cascade below it got run.  Here are some teaser pics, I will have more up this week including the full report, video, and pictures.
all photos by Paul Thomson
                                            myself probing Skoonichuck                 First known raft decent of Skoonichuck falls in a raft.                      First legitimate raft attempt at Punchbowl falls.
all  photos by Paul Thomson

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Little North Santiam: Classic Opal

Photo: Priscilla Macy


Stream: This section of the Little North Santiam River (usually referred to as Opal Creek) is one of the best whitewater trips in Oregon.  There are miles of fun and forgiving class III-IV rapids and 3 stand out rapids (two are class V-ish).

After a short walk in along a gravel road you reach the put in at an abandoned and barricaded mine.  Most people put in just below Hypoxia a short ledge with a hole backed up by an adjacent channel.  Paddlers coming down from the upper section usually sneak it over the shallow part on river-right.

                                                                Photo: Priscilla Macy

  The river is busy from the get-go with some pool and drop II-III separated by calm pools.  The water clarity is such that you can see the river bottom on a typical day.  Paddlers quickly pass by Gold Creek coming in on the right as the class II-III+ continues. 

Below the rapid above (smear the right wall at low flows to avoid a piton) is a gorgeous regrouping pool and then the whitewater really begins, with numerous boat-scoutable class III-IV rapids with fun boofs and unique lines.  This is a run where it is more fun to follow someone down who knows the run the first time because the rapids are not big enough to warrant a scout, but there are some small bugger rocks you are likely to bounce off of if you are boat-scouting yourself down at lower flows.

There are a couple stand out rapids before Big Fluffy including a rapid ending in two large boulders, be sure to dart to the right of them to avoid a small sieve in the center.  Too far right though and you may find yourself pushed into the right wall which has a small but generally benign pocket.

Another notable rapid is this ledge, proceeded by a deep pool between beautiful walls.  There is some nice cliff jumping here and provides an excellent place to take a break, it really captures the essence of this beautiful section of river.

Jesse Shapiro paddles back into the ledge for some enders.
Photo: Priscilla Macy

More pool and drop class III-IV continues down to Big Ugly, which is proceeded by a small rapid that pushes paddlers close to the right wall.  As you pass the wall the river turns 90 degrees to the right, the small horizon line at the end of the straight away is Big Ugly, which can be scouted right or left but is portaged right.  The left wall is the obvious hazard and becomes more of an issue as flows drop.  There is a sneak option on the right at some levels.

A boater snaking by that left wall at the bottom of Big Ugly.
Photo: Priscilla Macy

The next rapid below Big Ugly is a slot through a channel against the right bank.  Start left, driving hard back to the right through the slot.  It's easy and forgiving, but occasionally flips lackadaisical paddlers.  

There is a short bit of class II before the walls rise back up and the river disappears into the lead in at Big Fluffy, it is easy to eddy out on the right just above the horizon.

                                                              Photo: Clinton Begley

Scout and portage (via a seal launch) Big Fluffy on the right, this is where most of the pictures come from that people associate with the Opal Classic run.

The green boat is at the spot most people seal launch from.  Make sure to aim for the center of the river if seal launching, falling off to the right/downstream can result in a nasty piton.
                                                                Photo: Priscilla Macy

To run Big Fluffy I like to run the entrance ledge wherever is clever, then as I approach the pinch along the left wall I make sure I have momentum and angle to get to the left wall as I come through the pinch.  I then scrape (if levels are low) along the left wall until I am about 6 feet above the lip, at which point I drive back to middle and get in a left stroke to keep my nose up.  If you follow the current, you will find it pushes hard into the left wall.  

                                                            Ben Mckenzie gets it right
                                                              Photo: Lucas Reitmann

 The hole spices up at high flows and is not afraid of dishing out beatings and swims.
  I like to take the line drawn in the photo below at all levels, even when it requires scraping over an exposed shelf at low flows.
                                                           Photo: Lucas Reitmann

Things are a half class easier below here but the whitewater keeps rolling along, a small rapid with large boulders has a hungry mid stream sieve that is not obvious from above.  When you see those boulders, make sure you end the rapid on the far left.  

                                           Scouting the rapid with the sieve below.

The next innocuous spot is about half a mile to a mile below the bridge where Cedar Creek enters from the left.  Nondescript boulder gardens are the name of the game as the river makes a gradual left and the main flow crashes into a pile of boulders, make a strong move to the left or right of them, or sneak along the right bank.  This is one place where following a veteran is nice, fortunately the consequences for a mistake is just bouncing into some rocks.  Rolls can be unpleasant here.

There are a couple of long class II-III rapids below here and then the Little North Santiam pools again and bends to the left above the finale, Thor's Playroom.  

                                                                 Thor's Hammer
                                                              Photo: Priscilla Macy

The entry drop out of the pool and into Thor's has a number of options, nearly every time I take the second door from the right but don't let that keep you from checking out the other options.   Door two is through 2 soft ledge holes, I recommend a right stroke off the top one.

The current picks up again after the entrance and drops away through a fun flume run down the tongue with some offset waves.  As you slow down from the flume you will find yourself floating slowly (at normal flows) towards the final drop, a fast tongue into a ledge.  Eddy out on the right before dropping over to give it a quick peak from your boat.

I like to run this one moving right down the tongue, finishing right.  Otherwise follow the tongue straight over a boof that most people kind of just plop over, but every once in awhile it offers up a nice pop.  If you are looking for some extra fun aim for the seam between the boof and the hole on the bottom right.

                                             Ben drops into the final segment of Thor's Playroom.
                                                            Photo: Priscilla Macy

Take out on the gravel bar in the pool below this drop on the right.  There is a short set of stairs up to the parking lot.

The water quality is probably the thing people talk about most after their first trip to Opal Creek.

Paddlers: Nicole Smedegaard and Sean Bowen                                                                       Photo: Priscilla Macy

Flows:   This run can be done at a wide range of flows, and gets run anywhere between 350-5,000 cfs on the Little North Santiam @ Mehama gauge.  The most common and cleanest levels for running all the rapids are 700-2,000 cfs.   Much higher and Big Fluffy is usually portaged, much lower and Big Ugly is usually portaged.  And of course you can assume there will be other concerns that arise with flows outside of the ideal range though the difficulty does not change much until you get passed 3,500 cfs.

The gauge is far downstream, so the definitive gauge is the stick gauge at Elkhorn.  5-6' on that gauge is good for all the rapids, but it's visual only.

Access:  Take I5 to Salem and head East on Highway 22 towards Detroit Reservoir.  In about 22 miles turn left at a flashing yellow light onto N Fork Rd.  In about 15 miles the road turns to gravel, just under 2 miles after that turn right (there is a kiosk and some boulders at this location).  Just under a mile after turning right at the kiosks, pull right into the paved Three Pools Day use area (not signed).  This is the take out.

To reach the put in return to the kiosks on N Fork Rd and turn right.  Continue a little over 4 miles to a gate and park (there is a $5 fee).  Carry your kayak past the gate along the road, in half a mile you will cross over the compelling, yet log choked Gold Creek.  In another hundred yards veer right onto an overgrown spur road that leads down to the put in at the location of a decommissioned mine shaft.

Some Opal Media


Opal Creek 2009 from Jacob Cruser on Vimeo.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Quartzville video

Here is the video from Quartzville creek.  Hastily thrown together between classes.

Quartzville creek from Jacob Cruser on Vimeo.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Hot Springs fork of the Collowash


Stream: Stream information
Flows:  Flow information

Access:  Access information


 My first time doing this creek was back in High School, we were in the area camping with my family near Bagby Hot Springs.  I had my kayak and an IK in the event we might paddle the Clackamas on the way home, or maybe paddle Pegleg Falls if there was enough water.  Driving up to our campsite I noticed we were paralleling a beautiful mountain stream.  I had been to the area before to run Pegleg in an IK, but wasn't aware of what was below other than my dad had told me before that he had heard of someone running a large class V rapid just before the confluence with the Collowash.

We set up at a nice campsite along the stream, and went up to Bagby Hot Springs for the afternoon.  I noticed that the road didn't seem all that steep, so maybe the gradient was manageable?  I hadn't done much off the beaten path kayaking at this point, but I was really called to the stream.  That night we did camp stuff and the next morning my family agreed to head up to Pegleg Falls, I was going to kayak it and my step dad thought he might be interested in trying out kayaking too.

After watching me go over a couple times, my step-dad decided he was interested in giving it a try in the inflatable kayak.  I explained best I could what to do, and off he went.  Nailed it.

I was impressed with how well he had done at the falls and how receptive to learning he was, so we decided we would float back down to camp.  We scrapped our original plan of having my step-brother ride in the back of the IK, which was probably for the best.

Downstream was mostly class II-III, with some cool areas and a couple III+ rapids that we scouted, including a long sliding section that was good fun..  It was a magical trip for me, heading downstream with no idea whatsoever what was around the corner, and it turning out to be gorgeous at every turn.  Other than one quick pin, it was smooth sailing start to finish.  It was quite a feeling paddling into camp that night.

Here is a video from a trip on Clack fest weekend.  We went up and ran the Hot Springs fork after the events.
Hot Springs fork of the Collowash from Jacob Cruser on Vimeo.

Saturday, May 9, 2009


Matt, Nate, Bobby and I ran Quartzville on Friday. ~1400 on the gauge led to a great spring flow. Last time we had over 2000 on the gauge but at 1400 we had more water in the creek. So the Oregonkayaking description holds true again in regards to spring requiring less water than winter or fall. No snow at all and a super nice day. scouted the first time down and took some video. Bobby threw an interesting version of a freewheel off Grocker that involved a piton/bow stall, but it was pretty sweet looking! Actually Bobby had a lot of super cool moments including an upside down low brace that should not have worked and is much too difficult to explain, plus a bigtime beatdown in Movie Star that he held on for and made it out without swimming! 
             Scariest part of the day was Matt got pinned under a log in the middle of a slide near the put-in and had his skirt implode, leading to his first time out of a boat in almost a year as he floated downstream with a boat full of water, I don't think this counts as a true swim? To avoid repeating this go far right at the long class 3 slide with an obvious log at the bottom, do not try to go under on the left! Nate also had an impressive safe in Movie star with an iron fingers move holding onto the wall as the hole tried to suck him back in, Matt came to the rescue there. The take out ender hole looks super cool, Matt and Nate both went for some old school tricks and Matt came completely out of the water while Nate went for the loop. Second lap we just bombed and that is always so cool on this creek. Did the run in 40 minutes, could have been 30.
We then loaded up and raced the failing light to get to Mcdowell for a park and huck of a clean 8 footer. It was squeeky clean and I threw two freewheels off it. We thought we saw a horizon line a ways downstream, so we ran the next slide, which falls onto a shelf but is actually a smooth transition, just watch out for the wood on the left. Then dropped a small ledge slide, followed by a class two shelf. Below here was a small slide into some wood that looked pretty sketchy so we looked for a way to portage, none. Then a way to get out of the mini gorge, none. So we put some effort into attaining/ wading our way back upstream, then groveling up the brushy bank. We took different ways up, some of ours more efficient than others...
I then made the long drive back to Gresham, and slept well after a great day of kayaking.
video coming soon.