Friday, January 28, 2011

Canyon creek; From afterwork run to mission training and back again

I started writing this post a couple months ago but never finished.  It seems relevant now so I will finish it up.
Canyon Creek Washington used to be the go to run. When the water came, people went there. After work run? Canyon Creek. I remember I never really like this run because I would always want to go do something new, but I would get duped and sucked into going to Canyon. I always had fun, but would feel I was always missing out on other runs. Why take a risk when you have such a great go to run right there I would hear(a reasonable question). A couple years ago however, the logjam arrived. Most kayakers were devistated. Candles were lit in Downtown Portland and at the take-out to the run. People didn't go outside for days. Calling in sick for work in order to morn. However, secretly I was extatic. Now I could get on all the runs I wanted to get on without Canyon Creek foiling my every move. I have gone the last couple of years without thinking too much about Canyon Creek. I knew some people went in there and portaged the jam, but that didn't seem like a bunch of fun to me, so I steered clear. Late October, 2010, the rains we had been hoping for finally hit. Extravegant plans were made to head up into the mountains in search of unseen waters. We waited for the 3 inches of rain that was forecasted to come. Friday...Saturday...still not more than a tease. Finally, Saturday evening it began to happen. The solid rain came. We hoped, we prayed. It was decided to wait to morning to make the call given the total uncertaintly about water levels. Morning came and it was apparent the rain had began about 8 hours too late to make Sunday a great boating day. People started heading back to the summer runs, or not going at all. Nate and I however, were determined to get on a creek.
We ended up on Canyon creek and I had fun.  I thought the new version was great because it was perfect training for harder exploratory missions, while at the same time had some guaranteed good drops and was a known entity.  We finished the day stoked on a good year to come
Now the Jam is gone and the chants of joy have started.  Everyone is ready to pounce back on the local gem.  I must be the only person disappointed by this turn of events.  Guess I will just have to start going places solo :)

That gives a bit of insight into my thoughts on Canyon Creek.  Now my antagonist is back and I am already trying to calculate how many days of boating I am going to lose to this gem...  

Goodbye my friend, you tried your best.
(Nate Merrill photo)


Disclaimer: Obviously Canyon Creek is an awesome run and I will enjoy getting on it a couple times a year.  Don't think I am trying to trash your favorite run.  Its the consequences of it being such a good run that led to my bitterness towards it.  This was just a satirical version of the recent events on the creek.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Henline Creek

0.3 miles

Stream: Upon arriving at the bridge over the creek, cross over it and use the parking spot on the right.  They give tickets here if people are parked in the road and many areas are signed "no parking".   While this area requires a parking pass in the summer and they vigilantly patrol that time of year, the enforcement is pretty lax during the boating season.
Next, take a look upstream and downstream from the bridge to gauge flows and scout the line through this section as you don't get another good opportunity once on the creek.  If this section looks fun, flows are good.

   Photo: Emile Elliott

If you are unfamiliar with the creek, I recommend you scout from the areas marked by yellow circles in the following graphic before putting on.  If you do that you will see all the rapids of note before putting on.  It is also possible to hike down the trail to scout the take out above Triple Falls.

After scouting, hike your boat up the moss covered rock slab in the following photo until the terrain flattens out, walk parallel to Henline Creek for a hundred yards or so until the terrain sends you down to creek level, this is the put in. 

Photo taken from bridge over Henline Creek.

The first series of drops ends in a clean, narrow ten footer and can be scouted on the right before getting in your boat.

Nick Chambers
   Photo: Emile Elliott

The next set of drops around the corner are the rapids visible from the bridge.  You can take a look at the beginning of this series from river level on the left, but the best look was at the beginning of the day from the bridge.  Hopefully you looked both up, and downstream.

 Photo: Christine Moon

Some people do laps on the top section by taking out on river right immediately below the series of drops ending just downstream of the bridge.  There is a use-path that goes steeply up to the road there.

After a short straight away below the bridge, the river bends left and enters the series of rapids visible from the trail scout, the lead in can be re-scouted from river-level.  If in doubt below the bridge, go middle.

  Photo: Emile Elliott

Below this series of drops the creek gives boaters a few seconds of bouldery class III before one last 5-10' horizon line that can be scouted from river level for the cleanest transition, usually run right.  Below this last ledge is a small bouldery island, the take out is on the right just above this island.  Not far downstream is Triple Falls, a large unrunnable falls landing in Opal Gorge.

The trail is right next to the creek here, so either hike it back up to the road, or if you left a car at Salmon falls use the trail to portage Triple Falls into Opal Gorge.

Henline Creek is short, so while the first lap might consume a couple hours including all the pre-scouting, second and third laps can be done in just a few minutes.  Emile paddles Henline Creek in the video below.

**If you continue into Opal Gorge**

Scout Sierra Slot from the trail on the right before putting back on, it becomes a clean river-wide ledge.
I haven't seen the rest at high flows, but here is what I have heard:

Fishladder becomes a big pillowy flume ride down the right side at 3,000 cfs.  I have heard from others that at 5,000 cfs a line even opens up to the left where the portage route usually is.  The rest of the run is big waves except for a drop shortly above Fishladder which Dan mentioned was big (He didn't describe it but if Dan mentions a rapid is big it definitely grabs my attention).

Flows:  A visual check is needed to determine if Henline is running.  You can see 25% of the run from the bridge when you get there, so if that section looks like fun, flows are good.  It's a small creek and needs lots of rain. 

To determine whether it's worth a visual check, people look at the Little North Santiam @ Mehama gauge.
My experience has been that even if flows drop below this threshold during the day, I like to see at least 3k the morning or night before I try for Henline, though sometimes it comes in at 2.5k.  I am not sure what maximum flows are, but 5k usually still equates to a medium flow.

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 just past the town of Mehama. 14 miles after turning off Hwy 22 you pass Salmon Falls, which can be used as a take out for those adding on the second half of the Opal Gorge run. 

To get to the bridge over Henline Creek, continue upstream on N Fork Rd, after a few miles the road turns to gravel.  Less than a mile after the road becomes gravel you will cross the bridge over Henline Creek. There is a parking spot just past the bridge on the right.

Hike up the moss covered rock slab in the following photo until the terrain flattens out, walk parallel to Henline Creek for a hundred yards or so until the terrain sends you down to creek level, this is the put in. (photo taken from the bridge over Henline Creek).

Downstream of the last drop below the bridge there is an actual trail on river-right next to the creek that can be used to return to the cars, or to portage Henline Falls and continue through the bottom of the Opal Gorge run down to Salmon Falls.


This is a neat run that is the next half step up from Sweet Creek.  A first time trip here for someone stepping up to the run often results in some wide eyes and just one lap.  Once you get a second lap in, you realize it's pretty manageable and knowing the lines and what's coming up makes it less of a stimulation overload.

2019 update:  The creek is as clean as it's ever been, no wood blockages.

2018 Update:  The wood above the bridge has shifted, and you can get by to the right of it.

2016 Update:  There is some wood just above the bridge, it's in a bummer of a spot. I personally won't bother running the creek until it has moved.

2011 Update: Jan 15 we had 3,000 cfs in the LNF@Mehama dropping to 2500 by midday, it rained all day and by midnight it had spiked to 8,000 and hit 20,000 cfs the next day.  Flows were medium in Henline while we were there.  There was wood visible upstream of the bridge.  I decided not to run the creek in my kayak, I felt this one wood portage made the work:reward ratio beyond my interest for the day.  Jeff and Dan were able to blast over the log in their raft. They were able to run everything, the ten footer near the top was a little weird though so Jeff R1'ed it.  The rafters portaged Triple Falls and continued through the lower half of the Opal Gorge run.  They reported Fishladder was more runnable at these flows than when water is lower and the rest of the run was big waves except for a drop shortly above Fishladder which Dan mentioned was big (He didn't describe it but if Dan mentions a rapid is big it definitely grabs my attention).  Dan R1'ed the center line at Salmon Falls, really burly.  He had a good line.

2010 Update: Jan 2 I ran Henline creek with Chris Arnold and Ryan Cole. LNF@Mehama was ~3300 dropping to ~2900. This was a good level, more water would have been fine.  Bringing a small handsaw to this run is never a bad idea.  We scouted everything before putting on.

Other resources with photos:

Nate Pfiefer
James Bagley/EJ Etherington

Monday, January 17, 2011

New "Road Rage" rapid on Upper Sandy

Here is a picture my dad took of the upper Sandy during a trip to bring gasoline into some of the stranded people in the Lolo Pass area who needed the fuel for their generators.
Road Rage Rapid.
(photo: Rob Cruser)
And a link to a story and many more pictures.

There was serious flooding and the Sandy hit ~22 ft @Bull Run

Tennis courts that were once about a hundred feet from the river.  I remember taking out here once and hiking up and passing them.  I think my shoulder was starting to feel the weight of the boat by the time I reached these courts.  I doubt that would be the case anymore...
(photo: Rob Cruser)

 Below is a video from the flooding down here near my school.  I have never seen the Little Luckiamute Gauge pass 1,000.  It was over twice that on Sunday.  I headed over there with a couple people from my school with the hope Falls City Falls would be runnable.  I decided it didn't have a line I wanted to take, so seal launched off the 31' (at low water, we have measured it due to a bet) cliff on the right.  The boil from the falls made for a really soft landing and a nice ending to the day.  I then eddied out in the trees and we headed back home.


Bennett Pass skiing

Nick and I headed up to the Bennett pass area on Mt. Hood for a little snowboarding adventure. We hiked in a mile and a half with snowshoes to a sapling lined clear-cut, picking off mini-lines along the way. We had a great time trying something new out.


Sunday, January 9, 2011

Butte Creek: Wilson Rd Stretch

With the water dropping out and not wanting a big mission after the Pine Creek debacle, Matt King, my dad, and I went to check out Upper Upper Butte Creek.  Scouting reports mentioned class III bedrock, which sounded just fine to me.

Low water kept Matt from putting on (he is trying to be kinder to his new boat), but my dad and I decided to find out what was in there anyway.

Turns out Upper Upper Butte creek is a nice little run.  I would say it is very similar in challenge to Upper Thomas creek with its own distinct feel.  The rapids are class III+ with a drop in the class IV range every now and then.  The first half of the run was all boulder gardens that went from III- near the beginning to IV- near the end.

 There was one ledge in there that could develop a plucky hole at higher water.  

The second half of the run begins with a turn to the right over bedrock.  The next section (1 mile?)  Is mostly various class III-IV slides that are continuous.

 This section comes to an end where there are two drops that end with large, obviously different from the rest of the run, boulders along the bank that the water moves into.  The first one may be dangerous at some levels as the water goes under it.  Run as far right as the current will allow, or try a drain hole esque move in front of it.  Below here it is class two for a hundred yards until you arrive at the take-out bridge!


I would say the current wood situation renders the run inappropriate for a class III boater, fortunately the wood is generally of the size that moves around with large floods.  I plan to go back.

Access is not challenging.  Weyerhaeuser and local government put a gate on Crooked Finger road blocking access to the falls via the normal route.  This was done in the name of closing the area to riff-raff.  To get there now from Scotts Mills, take Maple Grove Rd East (just north of the bridge over Butte Creek in town) 7.4 miles (turn right to stay right on Maple Grove Rd at 4.4 mi) to Sawtell Rd and turn right.  7.7 miles later veer left (but not the far left road) onto Family Camp Rd.  Stay on the main gravel road, 3.2 miles later stay right and continue on the main gravel road for 1.2 miles at which point you will reach one of many Y's.  Going right will take you down to a bridge over Butte Creek a short distance above the waterfalls, or cross that bridge and in a short while there is a parking area on the right has a trail leading down to the falls.

Going left at the Y leads to the put in, at a spur going to the right and quickly over a bridge 2.2 miles from the Y.

I recommend plotting your route on a map, and caching a map on your phone to help with navigation your first time up there, and using the following GPS coordinates (your phone will try to take you the wrong way up Crooked Finger Road out of Scotts Mills though).

Take Out:  44.9223, -122.5113

Put In:  44.911, -122.4529

Here is a map of this section of Butte Creek, the falls are marked at the take out.
Click to enlarge

This one needs a lot of water. I would shoot for about 1,000 cfs or higher on the Butte Creek gauge. We probably had 600 on that estimate which was floatable but scrapy.


Sunday, January 2, 2011

TRR's New Year's day float

Shane Conrad's hard work paid off with a great New Years day trip on the Sandy River with Team River Runner. The trip was featured in the metro section of today's Oregonian.
The story can be found here.
Good work Team River Runner!
Their website can be found here.