Thursday, April 10, 2014

Boulder Creek; Siletz drainage


Stream: While logging is an important and necessary industry in our state, I often wonder what Oregon's Coast Range might have looked like before Big Timber got ahold of it.  

The Valsetz region of the Coast Range is one of the most heavily logged areas in Oregon, but there is one watershed in this area (Boulder Creek) that is still on public land and remains largely unmolested near creek level.  Access is tough, and the run is challenging so not many boaters get in there.  For those that do and have the capacity to appreciate the place for what it is, it is a special trip.  

The best put in for Boulder Creek is at the confluence with Bridge Forty Creek.  The run starts pretty small with some class III-IV and wood.  Within the first mile the stream becomes a sheet of bedrock and turns to the right, at this point eddy out left to scout Boulder Creek Falls.  This big falls has been run twice so far by Matt King and Ben Mckenzie.  The lead in is intimidating and the right side lands on rock.  The whole thing drops about 50' including the lead in.  Aside from the intimidation it has a good line and landing zone.

Below the falls things clean up a little, with many class IV(IV+) rapids and continued wood hazards.  The further you get downstream, the better the rapids become and the less wood there is to deal with.  The best section is downstream of the confluence with Little Boulder Creek.  

Give yourself as much time as possible on this one, you are in a deep canyon for the second half and will be fighting daylight regardless of how smooth your run goes.  Bring food, water and your sense of adventure.
Flows:  You need at least 4,000 cfs in the Siletz.  6,000-7,000 cfs is a nice medium.

Access:  "The Oregon Coast range is a mountainous version of the Bermuda Triangle.  Gates appear, open, and close randomly.  The famously incomprehensible road system is constantly evolving, so maps are only marginally useful.  Even those who are experience in land navigation can soon be hopelessly lost without a GPS.  Tourists are regularly swallowed up by these mountains, and sometimes they don't survive the experience.  Needless to say, for those who love adventure, this is a special place."

             ~Jason Rackley;

For the above reasons I won't be giving step by step shuttle directions.  A summer scouting trip for access is recommended.  Valsetz road to the Valley of the Giants has historically been open to the public on weekends when there is no fire danger, expect every other road in the area to be gated and closed except during hunting season.  Though even that option may disappear in 2017.

Put in:  44.93, -123.6292
Take out:  44.9206, -123.6962

If you are still motivated to see this run, there is also the option to hike in from the take out along what the maps label as "jeep trails" along the north side of the creek.  Below are two maps showing those trails.

Click on the map to enlarge it.

The hike is under 4 miles, and after the first mile looks pretty flat.  I do not know the condition of the "jeep trails" other than that around the falls they are good for walking.  I would not be surprised if in some areas they were overgrown.

Original Write-up

This was my second time down Boulder Creek in the Siletz drainage.  It is an enjoyable but logistically challenging class IV-IV+ run with a tough 50' waterfall.

Matt King is in there somewhere.

Paddling in the dark can be very enjoyable under the right circumstances, or it can be very dangerous under the wrong circumstances.  This trip had a little of both.

The first time I did this run with Matt and Eric Harvey we needed to hike in 2 miles through the snow and had to charge on the river to get out before dark.

Photo: Matt King

Snow has a way of creating elegant situations.
Photo: Matt King

This time around everyone was once again pretty excited about running this rarely paddled stream.   All nine of us in fact ( a large but doable number given everyone knew most of the others pretty well).  The meeting time of 8:30 in Monmouth turned into not leaving Monmouth until after 10.

We were in good spirits on the long drive into the NF Siletz drainage.

We ran into another group of boaters doing what looked sure to be a fun run on the NF Siletz.

Shortly down the road we encountered a log across the road that we had beta would be there.  Dan had the foresight to pack a manual chainsaw.

  Time: 11:30   AM

We continued on and made quick time of leaving a car at the take out where Boulder Creek enters the NF Siletz.  We embarked on the long shuttle drive (a little under 15 miles on arterial logging roads).  We didn't need to resort to a map or GPS but having one in the trunk was a comfort.

During this period we encountered logs 2, 3, and 4 that required attention.

  Time:  2:00 PM


We reached the put in parking spot and did the 100 yard walk through the woods into Bridge Forty Creek.  Putting on we encountered a rapid that required scouting and safety.  The hundred yards from the top of this rapid to Boulder itself took 20 minutes due to the small tributary and many boaters.  It would be easy enough to walk straight to Boulder by veering left from the vehicles and skip Bridge Forty Creek.

First rapid, an interesting section of rock and water.

2:25 PM

Upon reaching Boulder it was apparent there was a lot more wood in this upper section than the last time I was here with Matt and Eric.  Everyone started talking about the wood and getting nervous.  The first 200 yards of Boulder really set a precedent as people become timid about hustling downstream due to the abundance of dangerous wood in the creek.

It was not long before we arrived at Boulder Creek Falls.  Many people quickly decided to portage this tough drop.  In the end only Ben Mckenzie was interested in paddling the falls.  He took the same line that I had seen Matt take 2 years earlier which was a right to middle move.  Its a tricky lip with an even tricker and highly consequential lead in.  Ben greased the line.

3:15 PM

It was after 3:30 by the time we were paddling away from the falls and tensions were already mounting.  Below here the stream cleaned up significantly but the woody section from above the falls was still vivid in everyones minds.  We moved slowly through this section and scouted often for wood.

At one point Ben was easing himself under a tree that came loose and landed on him, requiring assistance to hoist it off.

As tributaries came in we started running some quality whitewater and spirits rose a little even as fatigue started to set in.

We had a pin that took some heroic action by Joe to rectify.  This pin put everyone back on their heals.

5:30 Finally Little Boulder came in on the left and I knew that we were in bad shape time wise with dark arriving at around 6pm, but the large group was finally getting into something resembling a rhythm.  We started moving a little quicker and the added volume was welcome, making for some pushy rapids and some holes.

There was a quarter mile long section of pushy boulder gardens that proved to be the tipping point from holding on, to nearing loosing it as a group.  I was chasing down an IK as I entered another rapid and chose to pass the craft instead of try to coral it.  Sam along with Ben arrested it downstream in the first pool we had seen in some time as I headed upstream to check on the paddler.

As I headed that way I saw another boat floating downstream along with its captain.  Ben and Sam once again collected our friend in the pool and the gear as I continued upstream.  The IKer along with two other paddlers made the prudent choice to efficiently portage this rapid.  By the time we were all moving again the light had changed as it was close to dark.

We were in what I remembered as the final gorge.  We had two wood portages in here, at the top of the first portage it was already 6 o clock, the time we had hoped to be off the river by.  We now knew every minute of light was more than we were counting on.

First gorge portage 6:10

After the second portage it was twilight.

Oddly enough, even after the obstacles we had faced and the lack of light, people pulled it together and for the first time we were really moving cohesively as a unit.  I looked back to see everyone in our team spaced evenly and charging ahead as stoically as they could muster.  Had we been moving at this pace and efficiency the whole time, light would never have been a problem.

As twilight faded we encountered the final boulder garden of the run.  I knew if we scouted it we would be running it in the pitch black and saw a line through it so I kept paddling.  The wood situation was worse at the bottom than I had been able to see from above or remembered and two people had close calls.  This was the hardest decision of the day, but I still feel it was better to boat scout the rapid with the last minute of twilight than to run it/portage in the complete dark.

It took a couple minutes to get the group back together and some team encouragement was needed to get everyone back in their boats.  People pulled themselves together for what I remembered as the last rapid (a slide into a hole).  Alex and Ben gave good beta and everyone came through well.

A minute or two after that rapid I took this video.

A ways below here I had a conversation with the unrelentingly positive Sam Causey where he pointed out how now that the rapids were class II, the setting was nearly romantic.  I knew what he meant and relaxed a bit on the 15 minute paddle from here to the take out letting the trip soak in.

Before long I started hearing cheers of joy as people saw the taillights of the take out car (Lucas had hiked back to the cars after breaking his paddle on the first rapid and was about to drive upstream looking for us.)

Everyone regrouped at the cars and the nerves and fear washed away instantly as relief began to set in.

The shuttle went smooth as could be hoped for in the torrential downpour, and everyone took turns recounting the days events.

While from the outside it is hard to see a trip like this as a successful one, those who have been in this situation know that you end up learning a lot about yourself and your friends and while you don't generally seek out that type of ending, there is still a lot to be enjoyed.  On this trip everyone on the team had their roles and executed them when they needed to, Go Team!

  I thought we had got away with one on this trip, little did I know Boulder Creek had left me a little surprise for later that week.

Daylight savings will be a welcome extra hour of light in the evening.

Flows the day we were there averaged in the mid 6k range on the Siletz.

Happy Adventuring,



Cader said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Cader said...

Jacob you're a wildman.

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