Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Little Nestucca

We interacted with more non-kayakers while paddling this river than is typical for us, all friendly on this trip.


Stream: The Little Nestucca is a fun roadside run near Pacific City, about an hour west of Salem.  There are three stand out rapids, and the rest of the run is class II with some surf.  It's a great place to perfect and and then put your class IV skill set on trial before dipping a toe into low end class V.

There is about 100 yards of flat water to warm up in, before the busiest section of the run.  This first 1/2 mile long section is fast paced, quality class IV.  If class IV is your limit this section will be challenging and lacks recovery pools, Priscilla compared it to a cleaner Miracle Mile.  There are numerous ledges to boof and only small eddies to re-group in, fortunately the entire section can be scouted from the road.

When I was going to college at WOU, I would come up here between classes and do laps on just this half mile section that starts out the run.  There was plenty of action and a short shuttle made laps easy.  A bridge marks the end of this first section of whitewater as the stream eases into class II downstream, keep your eye out for places to practice eddy catching, ferrying and surfing below the bridge.  

This spot in particular was nice with three good eddy-serviced hydraulics in a row.

Another bridge marks the proximity of Stella Falls, the largest rapid of the run.  This one can be easily scouted on the left.  It's a chaotic rapid, but flushes into a long pool without significant hazard.

                                                                                Stella Falls

More easy floating leads to a class II section with bedrock, downstream it's important to pay attention.  The river gets next to the road again, then is diverted right at the next small outcrop of bedrock on the left.  The eddy to scout Upton Falls, the most serious drop of the run, is immediately downstream on the right, just above a fish ladder.

Upton Falls is a short anthropologically-altered ledge has a powerful hole, backed up by another man-made ledge under the surface.  It is a straight forward move to boof past the hydraulic on the right at most flows, but the hole is backed up by a ledge under the water, so it is not likely a swimmer would get flushed deep and out.  Good safety can be set from either bank, but that's not to say a rescue would be easy or even very possible.  It's an easy portage on the right.  

                                                                              Upton Falls.

Just downstream is a class II chute visible in the following photo.  The take out trail is across from the large river-right wall, at the top of a small gravelly island on the left. 


Flows:  The gauge is on the downstream, river-right pylon of the bridge at the bottom of the first half mile section of whitewater.  2' is a good medium flow.  You can get down the run all the way to the bottom of the gauge, but the stuff in between the rapids is tedious and slow.  You can even run the three main rapids a couple inches below the gauge as they channelize well if you are already there kind of thing.

This level was too low, 675 on the Nestucca online gauge March 4, 2019.


To guess what the foot gauge will be at, I use the Nestucca near Beaver gauge.  On that gauge a flow of 2,000 cfs correlates to about 2' on the gauge, and 1,000 cfs correlates to somewhere in the vicinity of 1' on the foot gauge. 5,000 cfs is too much for most boaters and I don't know what that is on the gauge.

Access:  There are a lot of ways to get there.  The river is roadside along Hwy 130 between Dolph and Pacific City.  

The take out (45.135902, -123.896382) is 3 miles upstream from Hwy 101, there is a mile marker on a corner here.  It's worth scrambling down the fisherman's trail to note what the take out looks like from river level while setting shuttle.

The take out.

The put in (45.110860, -123.852739) is at a bridge 3 miles upstream of that, or 4.2 miles downstream of the turn at Dolph.  The gauge, is the bridge 3/4 mile downstream of the put in, at the bottom of the first, long, rapid.

From Salem Highway 22 will get you to Dolph, but there is at least one non-intuitive turn so use your phone or a map.

Original Write-up

I wanted to get some info out there about this run.  Its an enjoyable run and seems to be underutilized, though there are a few people running it.

I think it is in Soggy Sneakers but not many people seem to get on it.  This is probably due to its location, near Dolph crossing in Oregon's northern coast range.

A friend of mine from the Earth Science program here at Western has been wanting me to take them out kayaking for awhile.  The first day I took her on an easy run and she seemed to do well and wanted to run something a bit harder.  I had wanted to get some pictures of the Little Nestucca, so decided I could take her there and have her walk the 3 main rapids.

The first section is my favorite part, its about 1/4 mile of quality route finding.
About to enter the good stuff.
(all photos taken by Aquilegia Leet)

 I have done about 5-6 laps on it so far at higher water each time and like it more each time.

The entrance to the first bit.

 It keeps going solid for awhile once you are amongst it.

This run we had about 1700 on the Nestucca gauge and there were a number of fun moves and boofs.

 In the middle of this section is one drop that is manky at low water, and can be quickly scouted from the road during the shuttle.  I walked it at 1000 cfs (nestucca gauge), pinned sideways at the bottom the first time I ran the drop, and have figured out the line since, which involves driving up onto a rock that wants to slope you left or right onto piton rocks at low water.  At higher flows it cleans up.

The tricky one. It is trivial with more water.

There is one last boof/hole just above the bridge at the end of this first

There is some easy floating below this first bridge (great rapids for my friend to learn on) until the next main drop, Stella Falls.  This is a cool rapid.  Its short but kinda rowdy for what it is.  The bottom ledge doesn't look to have a dry line so I anticipated a plug.  I was surprised that it was possible to run with a dry head.
Scouting Stella Falls during shuttle.

Same drop at 5500 cfs

More easy floating leads to the last drop, Upton Falls(~6').  This has been altered and is now a lowhead dam.  I suggest scouting/portaging from the right bank, and setting safety from either or both sides.  The hole is backed up and might not let a swimmer go.  The boof on the right was straight forward though, so paddlers confident in their boof stroke should have no issues.

It is worth noting that it would be possible to get swept into this drop unaware.  Once below Stella, there is a "fakey" gorge with some class two, once the stream leaves this section, the next bedrock you encounter is the formation creating the drop.  Immediately eddy out on the right to scout.  Cautious and knowledgeable (about the run) boaters should have no troubles here.

We finished up the run and I was impressed that Aqua made it down with no swims (a couple of T-rescues) and she seemed to enjoy it.
The take out.
(no longer a legal take out option and is fenced off)

The take out is across from this cool old barn, just upstream of Fall Creek Bridge.
**No longer a legal take out option, see access section for legal take out**

This run is out of the way for most people, but if you are thinking about breaking past the class IV mark, this is probably a good stepping stone.  That first continuous section offers a lot of opportunity to perfect boat control, catching small eddies, moving back and forth in fast water, hitting boofs, crossing currents, etc. Stella is as hard/harder than every drop until Big Brother on the Green Truss, but lacks the consequences of class V.  Then there is Uptown Falls at the end, it isn't a good drop to work on your boof stroke, but if you are 100% confident you can hit the line, it's a good place to work on your mental game.  Just don't miss.

 If you are a Corvallis/ salem boater, that first quarter mile is easy to lap and fun enough to be worth the drive.  Its a novelty run, but all roadside and worth seeing.

flows -----
minimum   1500
max  4,000
I have yet to see it over 2000, but it could hold a lot more water.  I actually think the first part and Stella would get easier, who knows...

The put in is at the bridge 3.3 miles downstream of the turn off from Dolph crossing and hwy 22. There is a hundred yards of flat water to warm up in before the whitewater begins.

This is about a three mile section, so about a rapid per mile, so its not a run for a constant bombardment of fun, more of a training ground with time to think between drops.

~1,000 cfs

Same spot at about 5,500 cfs (not recommended at that flow without previous knowledge of the run).


No comments: