Thursday, December 21, 2017

Plympton Creek


Stream: A steep, woody stream with unique rapids about 30 miles East of Astoria on Hwy 30.  Like many Oregon streams, if this one was clear of wood it would be worth doing.  That wasn't the case in 2014 and we had many portages amongst some fun bedrock drops between bouldery rapids.  Scouting/portaging was reasonable except at a large falls that required ropework on the left to get around. 
Flows:  The day we ran the creek the Nehalem @ Vernonia was at 2000cfs and the Naselle was at 2500cfs.  This was a medium flow.

Access:  The take out was where Plympton Creek crosses under Hwy 30 in the town of Westport, 30 minutes East of Astoria.

The obvious put in we found on river-right was vetoed by some locals, who drove us over to river-left.  I don't know exactly where they dropped us off, but it was a short walk down to the river on a road.  Looking at the maps, Plympton Ridge Rd would drop you in at the right place if its driveable.

Trip Report

This is a silly little creek in the NW corner of Oregon.  Jeff Compton, Ben Mckenzie and I ran it when things got too high for plan A in February 2014, we had pulled out the Gazetteer and found this.  Gearing up we got told we best not be putting in where we were planning.  The locals were friendly enough to drive us to an access on the other side of the stream and give us loads of beta about the run.  It sounded like plenty of slides and waterfalls were down there so we committed.  We did the short walk to the creek and ran some shallow, woody stuff before we got to a log deck.  The log deck was a slightly difficult portage, but we could tell the creek picked up below there so continued on.  The next obstacle was a large waterfall we had been warned about.  It turned out to be a chunky, but likely runnable 60' cascade. We had a tricky portage on the left that involved roping ourselves into a chaotic pool at the base of the falls.  This landed us in a gorge and the next corner put us in a position every exploratory boater dreads: gorged in above a drop you don't want to run.  We tried to convince ourselves the log move would go, but knew if we ran it something bad would likely occur.  Finally I found a way to make the portage possible by taking a risky flying leap tethered to a rope.  Downstream was more wood and some steep rapids.  Ben ran one slide with a hole that almost got him above a sketchy rapid.  Jeff and I took the laborious portage on the left.  Portages continued down to the best rapid on the run, and one of my favorites of the year.  The line was to drive left then fall ten feet to a transition, clearing a hole at the base.  It was very welcome in the middle of the nastiness we had been facing throughout the trip.  Below here were a few more challenging portages and we were pretty sure we would run out of light.  We kept battling our way down river and eventually the stream flattened out and after a couple more logs we saw the highway.  We took out happy not to be stuck in the pitch black and gave our friendly local a call who came to run shuttle for us.  We all had a feeling of accomplishment afterwards, but this was a one time trip for me.

Thursday, December 14, 2017

North Fork John Day

~ 43 miles

*Note; some of the boaters in the photos on this page have been photo-shopped in to disguise a paddlers identity by request. 

Stream:  This Eastern Oregon overnight run starts out at 5600', and has more water than most streams you would encounter at that elevation in Oregon.  It runs from snowmelt and has a nice long season in the Spring/early Summer.

The stream is clearly immature up near the put in, with minimal incision and migrating channels.  You get the high desert experience, with more action than the Grande Ronde, or lower sections of the John Day.  The run is II-IV(V).

A couple of us did this run over Memorial Day weekend in 2017, this is the only time I have done the run.  The stress level was a bit higher than I like on class III runs due to the lack of eddies and the wood concerns, but we still had a good time. I would choose less water next time, probably shooting for 2,000-2,500.  Keep the water level in mind as you read the report, less water would change the experience.

The first mile offers a nice warm up, at one island we went left when we should have gone right and had to hop over a log jam.

Warming up.

The start of the significant whitewater is clear, the first rapid can be boat scouted, but as the river bends to the left, hop out on the right and climb up to the trail.  It is worth scouting out the next mile of stream if levels are healthy from the river-right trail, while the whitewater is class III/IV the eddies can be scarce, and the wood ever present.  On our trip this section was both fun, and stressful with levels peaking over 3,000 cfs. 

Fast action up top.

After scouting the first mile, we chose to walk our boats along a hundred yards of it, due to the obstacle and others like it visible in the photo.

We put back on, and ran some fun stuff before scrambling into an eddy above a log we hadn't seen.  Fortunately it was an easy portage and we were back at it running some more fast and fun stuff.  The relentless nature of this section keeps up until the confluence with Trout Creek, which comes in on the right at a point where a large log is in the river.  It looks bad from above, but further inspection proved to offer easy passage on the left.

The final portion of the first onslaught of class III+ whitewater.

Downstream the gradient drops slightly, and the wood decreases.  Diligence is still required as wood in the wrong place could be tricky, eddies were still rare at our flow, and the corners can be blind.  The logs are spread far enough, and the portages easy enough that they don't detract much from the trip at this point.

A couple of the logs on the NF John Day

The further one goes, the less blind the corners, the less steep the rapids, and the less hidden the log hazards.  There were some campsites along this part of the run, on our trip many of them had hikers in them as there is a trail along sections of this upper part of the river.

There is a section of good rapid in the mix a number of miles below the first onslaught.  This view is the indicator that you are about to enter this section of whitewater.

Making moves.

10-15 miles downstream of the put in, you cross under a bridge and Granite Creek comes in on the left.  I recommend hopping out at the bridge if levels are high, as just around the corner is Granite Falls, a rapid that should be scouted and is often portaged.  If you miss the opportunity to exit the river at the bridge, there is a decent last minute eddy at the lip on the right.

Foot bridge, Granite Creek comes in just below on river left.

Granite Creek Falls.

The couple miles below the Granite Creek confluence is the highest quality whitewater of the trip, the longest and steepest can easily be scouted from the right bank along a trail.

The whitewater is still pretty continuous below here at high water, and long miles of class II are often broken by fun sections of class III.  The wood situation and visibility improves drastically down here, from this point on the river was read and run.  Don't hold out for the picture perfect campsite, by the time you find one you will be within access of a road that comes upstream along river-right and one does not do a wilderness trip to fall asleep to motors.  We found an island that worked ok for us not far below Big Creek, and only one intrepid motorcycler had made his way that far upstream.

Big Creek confluence.

Our chosen island to camp on.

The floating eases further below Big Creek, and there is miles of lazy floating down to about a mile below the bridge at Trough Creek.

Lunch break.

When we were there a sign warned of downstream danger, and a scout was mandated by this sign.  We were unsure if the sign was related to the fish-counter not too far downstream, or a section of fun class III+ rapids further down.

The most interesting formations were in this lower roadside section.

Eventually the stream eased off completely, with some class II's downstream of Dale.  Knowing we were near the end it was pleasant just floating along slowly and taking it in.  We were further lulled into relaxation knowing the shuttle was already run.  After reaching the take out we leisurely loaded our gear before making the drive back to the Willamette Valley.  We took the route back through Redmond for the views, I passed up one gas station while at half a tank and very much regretted that.

Beautiful and new to me roadways helped me ignore the gas-light that had come on.

I pulled in to a Redmond gas station a few hours later, an hour after the gas light had gone on.  I found out that by really finessing the gas consumption our Toyota Yaris can have a tank range of 399 miles.

Back in Redmond was a reminder of why we had the three day weekend.

Flows:  3,000 cfs is the max I would recommend putting on at the NF-52 bridge.  It was stressful due to lack of eddies and wood in the upper reaches.  If I came back at similar or higher flows, I would put on to Granite Creek.  The section of the NFJD below Granite Creek was fun and not very stressful, with better and more challenging whitewater than what we encountered upstream.  If the levels were lower I would put in at the NF-52 bridge again.

Flows the days we were paddling the NFJD, Memorial Weekend 2017

Access:  We hired the owner of the Dale store to run our shuttle, we were happy with the fair price and the job he did.

541) 421-3484

The entire route is paved.

We took out at a bridge a couple miles downstream of Dale.  To get to the put in we headed North 15.3  miles on Hwy 395 from Dale.  Turned right, and another right 1.3 miles later in Ukiah onto Camas Street towards Granite.  This road becomes NF-52 and 40 miles from Ukiah crosses the NF John Day at the put in. 

Take out:  45.001482, -118.989199

Put In:  44.913070, -118.400401

Friday, December 8, 2017

Willamette Valley Whitewater Festival

The PDXkayaker film fest was cancelled this year, so some locals grabbed the ball and shifted the film fest to Ninkasi Headquarters in Eugene with the blessing of Next Adventure.  The event will take place in late February or early March, entries are due by February 20th.

Details at the event Facebook Page

2017 Film Fest Trailer


Thursday, December 7, 2017

Taylor Creek

Photo: Priscilla Macy


Stream: This is a small stream near Merlin, OR in the Rogue Valley.  The nature of the run is tight and adventurous.  The stream-bed is quality class IV, but there is wood in inconvenient, potentially dangerous locations.  Low flows make the run manky, high flows make it hazardous.  If I lived in the area and it was wood free I would run it all the time, with the current wood configuration I felt it was worth doing once.  It's possible to either see the next eddy or scout in most spots, just don't be too aggressive.

A log above, a fun chute below, vertical wall; a typical scene on Taylor Creek.
Photo: Priscilla Macy
Flows:  There is no online gauge, a unit gauge at the take out exists on river left though.
Anything below "0" units is not recommended, but the stream is passable down to -3".   

I don't know what high water is indicated by on this gauge, but you don't want high water.

Note: The "0" unit starts where the concrete goes from angled to vertical near the bottom of the pillar.

The WF Cow Creek gage can be used to get a ballpark sense of the situation.  

- 500 cfs at noon and dropping was low (-3") VIDEO
- 700 cfs at noon and dropping was also low (-1") *trip report found on this page*
- 900 cfs at noon and fairly stable looked perfect (bridge gage not noted)
- 1200 cfs and rising between 6-8pm on March 23, 2018 was reported as perfect flows.  It was felt that max recommend flows would be even with the next bar (the 1 unit bar) visible above waterline in this photo by Joseph Hatcher on their perfect flow day.


Access:  From Merlin, OR drive about 8.5 miles WNW on Galice Rd until you reach the bridge over Taylor Creek at the take out (this is also where the gage is).

Drive up Taylor Creek using the NF-25 road on river left (visible and obvious from the take out) about 3 miles to the sign for the Taylor Creek trailhead.

Walk about 50 yards on the trail, but when the trail bends back to the left, leave it and follow the lesser used path going straight towards the creek.  It takes about 5 minutes to reach the creek.

Trip Report

Taylor Creek is a would-be go-to run near Merlin, in southern Oregon.  We ran it the Friday after Thanksgiving in 2017.

A couple of years earlier, Priscilla had been paddling Jump-Off Joe Creek with her brothers.  While signing the waiver required to run that creek, the RV Park host told her about one of the local gems of the area.  He said it was fun and ledgey class IV in a gorge, and got her really excited about it.  We tried to run it the following year, but the water was too low.

This year we had our eyes on Hurdgygurdy, but Priscilla's hip was bothering her and she wasn't up for hiking so we thought we would check out Taylor Creek, the run the RV Host had told her about.

We met up with Willie Illingsworth in Merlin, and drove to the take out hoping for healthy flows from all the rain.  The storms had been dropping most of their precipitation in the Coast Range, but we hoped enough had landed in the Rogue Valley for good flows.  Instead, flows looked low (-1" on the gauge).

We knew it had been run lower (at -3"), so without any other good options for the day in the near vicinity we drove to the put in to check out the run that Priscilla had been wanting to do for a couple years.

Photo: Priscilla Macy

From the Taylor Creek trailhead, we left the main trail within 50 yards and followed the more direct, less developed path straight towards the creek.  We put on to a low floatable flow, and made it to the first rapid in a matter of a couple minutes.  It's a quick scout on the left, and we all made it through without issue but it was apparent we were not going to have padding on this trip.

The first part of the run has a gorge character, we had read about "class 6 eddies above wood" which had us a bit on edge.  There was in fact a good bit of wood on the run so it was important to be diligent of blind corners, but nothing felt harder than class IV. 

The gorge was unique, and we were happy to be there.
Photo: Priscilla Macy

The second half of the run has lots of boulder gardens that could be eddy hopped at this flow, but would be a bit blind as the levels rose.  Willie was doing 90% of the probing, his role at the sharp end resulted in a couple rolls in manky water, but helped us move along at a nice pace.

These boulder gardens lasted longer than I was expecting, and were engaging.  We found ourselves wishing for more water and less wood, but it was a neat place and there were more smiles than frowns. 

One of the rapids had a cable running the length of the rapid, we did a partial portage on the left and ran the second half.
Photo: Priscilla Macy

More rapids continued until eventually the stream eased to class I-II and we floated past some houses, pleased to not have to portage at all in this final stretch before reaching the bridge.

Photo: Priscilla Macy


Thursday, November 30, 2017

WF Cow Creek

Photo: Priscilla Macy / along the lower run


Stream: A brushy class II-IV stream only half an hour off I-5 near Glendale.  There are some quality rapids, unique scenery, and the shuttle is straight forward.  It's no classic, but its worth doing.  If you use the put in we did, you will get a bonus canyon that includes Dothan Falls.  

                                Priscilla Macy running Dothan Falls

From Dothan falls to the lower put in (at a bridge), the stream is brushy class II-III.  The stretch below the bridge is a more mature stream-bed with higher quality class III/IV, less brush and more to look at.  Everything was easily scout-able and portage-able at the low flows we had.

Flows:  From our scout in 2016, I think 1,000 cfs or just under is perfect.  Our flow was low, it was plenty of water to float but because the character is more river-esque than creek-like, the rapids were not quality at low water.  By the end of the day when we ran shuttle, flows looked ideal.  We had missed the bubble by a few hours.

Access:  From Riddle or Glendale, get on Cow Creek Rd and follow it 15-20 miles to the confluence with the WF Cow Creek.  Follow the WF Rd as it parallels WF Cow 3.8 miles and turn left on a road that leads to the take out bridge.  To get to the put in we used return to NF-25 and continue upstream 6.3 miles (crossing another put in option at a bridge at 4.5 miles) and veer right. 1.1 miles later stay left. 2.8 miles later you will reach a rock quarry which marks the put in.

If you would like to add more class II-III you can put in higher, or take out lower.

Notes:  If the flows are good, the water quality will be bad.


Trip Report

The WF of Cow Creek has been on our list for a couple years.  It stands out on maps despite the low gradient, due to narrow sections and satellite imagery showing plenty of bouldery rapids between longer stretches of little action.  We had driven along it a couple times heading in and out of the SF Coquille drainage.  Last year we drove along the headwaters on our way to Woodenrock Creek and because the road follows much of it we were able to scout enough to put it on the "lets do it someday" list.

We were heading from Albany down to Grants Pass for Thanksgiving, and this creek happens to be a pretty convenient option along that route.  Oddly enough, the week before the trip we got one last piece of inspiration from Sam Box, who sent us a couple intriguing photos his friends had taken at Dothan Falls during the summer.

Mmmmm, bedrock.

As the time grew closer to head South, the lack of rain in the Rogue Valley had us losing motivation for WF Cow.  It looked like it would be too low, so we made plans to head to The Gem on the SF Coquille instead.  On the drive down, we saw levels had started to rise.  We had a cutoff of 2k for The Gem, so when we stopped for gas in Roseburg and checked to see that the SF Coquille had hit that mark with no signs of slowing we decided to divert back to WF Cow, since they share a headwaters ridge we hoped WF Cow would continue to rise as well (it had been too low that morning).

We left I5 near Glendale and started paralleling Cow Creek, which was very low. However as we turned off onto the WF road, the further up the drainage we drove, the more water there seemed to be.  We had high hopes we would be able to float the creek, reaching our take out we decided it was going to be low but we could get down it and still have an enjoyable day.

Our planned take out, and a scene we ended up seeing plenty more of on the WF of Cow Creek.
 Photo: Priscilla Macy

We dropped off our motorized bike to do the 9 mile shuttle at the end of the day along with some snacks and headed to the put in.  We had not remembered where the gate was from our scouting trip (it had been open that day), but were pleased to find the spot we wanted to put in was below the gate anyway.

We find odd-ball runs usually have at least some sort of logistical challenge to reach the put-in, this was a stark exception to the rule.
Photo: Priscilla Macy

There was a brush island that required using the correct channel, and some class II-III before the walls rose briefly and the creek veered right.  Priscilla hopped out to scout and grab a photo of this fun one.
Photo: Priscilla Macy

Just around the corner was Dothan Falls, the most anticipated rapid of the trip.  We were not sure it would be runnable as from the road it appeared to drop into the left wall, and the photos Sam's friend had taken only showed the lip.

A quick scout revealed a nice flake that allowed us to avoid the left wall.
Photo: Priscilla Macy

The creek eased off considerably below Dothan Falls, and there was much brush to deal with.  It was all passable, and  kept us engaged through the 2 miles of class II that followed down to a bridge (42.8469, -123.7525).  After that, occasional rapids and abundant brush carried us another 2 miles down to another bridge (42.8297, -123.7185) we had passed over during the shuttle which we felt might be a higher "bang for your buck" put-in option on a return trip.

One of the rapids between the bridges, a welcome break from the brush-bashing.

A short way below the mainline bridge passed over during the shuttle, and about 5 miles into the trip we stopped for a lunch break.
Photo: Priscilla Macy

I had heard from Yann Crist-Evans that the section below the bridge was a nice class IV high water option.

 Not too far below the mainline bridge, the stream started to mature.  The creek entered a beautiful canyon section, the brush eased up and the whitewater started to get better.
Photo: Priscilla Macy

Large boulders started to make it tough to see downstream, we hopped out a couple times to scout out the best route.  While only class III-IV, there were places that were better to be than others.
Photo: Priscilla Macy

This ended up being the best part of the run, and would be a hoot at the right flow.  At low flows the rapids were not filled in, and while we had plenty of water to float, the character of the stream was more river-like and needs the boulders to be covered to bring the rapids to life.
Photo: Priscilla Macy

The scenery is unique, and worth taking in.
Photo: Priscilla Macy

About 2 miles before our take out, Priscilla remembered that she had not left the keys for the bike lock at the take out, they were in fact back at the put in.  After trying to think up any other option, we resigned to stopping at this point and walking the 7 miles back to our vehicle.  Given it was Thanksgiving (we were planning to celebrate the holiday Saturday), we didn't see anyone else the whole time we were in the Cow Creek drainage.  The walk back up to the vehicle wasn't as big a bummer as we were anticipating, which we completed and returned to collect our things well before dark.  During our walk, we again noticed that the stream had more water the higher we went.  And when we reached our vehicle it was obvious the heavy showers throughout the day had brought the stream up, and we had missed the bubble by only a few hours.  Oh well, the whitewater might not have been as good at the low flow but it was still a neat canyon worth checking out.