Thursday, February 4, 2016

NF Alsea

Photo: Lucas Rietmann

The NF Alsea is one of those runs that is on a lot of Oregon boaters list of streams they want to paddle.  It is also one of those runs that stays there year after year as people put it off for something closer, logistically easier, or just a little more well known.

The trip is an odd combination of intermediate difficulty and mini-adventure.  In the past paddlers spent hours driving around logging roads on the shuttle, often coming out on a different road than they went in on.  This kind of adventure is usually not sought after by those honing in their skill set.  Then once boaters acquire an advanced skill set, they may feel the whitewater is not worth the effort.

It's a bit of a drive from Portland too.
Less than half an hour to the take out for those Corvallis boaters though.

 I would encourage both demographics to seek out this river, I feel confident both would find the experience rewarding.

I was one of those paddlers who had the run on my list, but never pulled the trigger before because I just couldn't justify a one hour each way shuttle for what I (incorrectly) interpreted as a class II run with a couple class III's and two decent rapids.  Plus, when this run has water, lots of other runs do too.

Lucas Reitmann has been in there a couple times and has had good things to say about it.  When he decided to plan his third trip in there, I figured it had to be good if he was returning yet again and for his second time this year.  Plus he had figured out how to cut the shuttle down to 30 minutes.

Typical shuttle view, with the NF Alsea being just before that final ridge.  Keep this proximity in mind if the question of hiking out presents itself.

There was potential for a large group, but by the time we met in the morning it was down to Lucas, Priscilla and I.  We drove the short distance from Corvallis to the Alsea Fish Hatchery take out and left a vehicle near the staff gauge (reading 2.25) at a parking lot complete with porta-potty.

We also had about 850 on the Pat Welch Gauge, on January 24th, 2016

Loading into Priscilla's vehicle we headed back the way we had come on HWY 34, turning left onto a gravel road in about 3.3 miles.  Staying on BLM Rd 10 for 9 miles brought us to the put in.   Lucas had only done this run low and high, so was pleased to see it at a nice flow, a little under medium.

The falls comes up quick.  As the river bends left stay right to give it a scout.  It had a log in it on this trip that created an awfully thin line on the right.  None of us were sure we would avoid the log so made the easy portage along the right.

Falls with the log

Vanhorten Falls from a park a huck session a couple summers ago.

A large group went back on Feb 18, 2017 with the hatchery gauge at 2.5' and the NF Alsea gauge at 1,100 cfs.  Almost ten people ran the falls that day, the log proved to be avoidable.

Lexi Esperanza avoids the log.

We continued downstream through some interesting channels separated by tall grass islands and banks.  The whitewater wasn't eventful, but the islands were unique enough to keep us engaged as we moved downstream.  There was one log in this stretch, but we were able to get under on the right.

Eventually things picked up and before long we were running some genuinely fun class III rapids.  This portion of the run was better than I had anticipated.

These built towards class IV before a larger horizon presented itself.  We eddied out on the right to scout a large ledge.  At first glance it looked a little funky, but upon further inspection there were two lines that looked good.  We all chose the one furthest to the right, sliding through a small trough into  a bit of a pillow and off a short drop into a hydraulic.

                                                           Photo: Lucas Rietmann

Below here things tapered off and eventually we were floating past farms with grass again lining the bank.  A dam at the fish hatchery caused the water to go flat for the first time on the run.  We did the portage on the right, wondering where people had ever run this heinous drop in the past.

It was a short float below here to the take out, passing the staff gauge and a multitude of fisherman.  One of them indicated he would prefer we paddle as close to him as possible, as opposed to as far away as possible like we had been doing.

If you have this run on your list, I would recommend checking it off sooner than later.  I would say it like many others have said about the Grays; "The NF Alsea is one of those rivers you keep putting off, but once you do it you wonder why it took so long".

Logistics can be found on the AW page.


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