Prepare to Suffer!

(Originally posted January 7th, 2008)

Actually, it wasn’t that bad. Quote of the day from Trev.. “Well, that was fun, in a kinda masochistic way.”

Trev running the “bonus” rapid

A week earlier Trev, Jes, Paul and I had run the NF Kilchis and explored a mile of the SF Kilchis.
We had hoped to check out the Little South Fork of the Kilchis after hearing about it from an old PDXKayaker post but ran out of light. Paul and I were able to scout some of it before it got too dark and thought it looked possible so we started working out the logistics. We were hoping for high enough water but there isn’t a gauge on the Kilchis so it’s really a crapshoot until you get to the river. When we saw the river we immediately realized it was going to be a scrap-fest. Oh well. That’s what you get a lot of times with an exploratory run. I’d rather have it too low than too high.

At the put-in bridge, Paul and Trev decided to run a couple drops above the bridge as a “bonus”. Trev went first and preceded to get pinned 3 times in about 10 yards. I found it hard to take pictures while laughing. Paul corrected off of Trev’s line and actually had a pretty smooth run. I decide to put in just below where the river looked like it got a little bit deeper.

Small creek, little water

The first 1/2 mile was a little bit rough. A lot of the creek was runnable but it was a lot of banging, pushing and scraping. Plus we had some relatively easy portages around logs. We did get a couple nice sections with small ledges and boulder gardens which would be fun with more water. Then it was back to portaging wood. At one spot, Trev was leading and got out above a mess of branches and logs blocking the river. He was out of his boat on the shore as I came cruising by and thought I saw a way through so preceded to keep going. I heard “You’ve got to be kidding me!” as I disappeared into the tunnel of branches. Thankfully there was a way through and I stopped downstream to see first Paul and then Trev work their way through. Yea, it was a little bit ridiculous. Below this the creek got noticeably better with a nice boulder garden and a couple good drops in a small gorge. One drop I pitoned so hard I whiplashed my neck and left a good gouge in the nose of my boat.

Very shortly after the good stuff we met up with the main fork of the Little South Fork of the Kilchis and finally had water! What fun to actually be floating and not banging our way down the riverbed. Some nice scenery and fun rapids led up to a big boulder garden we saw from the road while driving to the put-in. We all scouted this long rapid for a while and then I fired it up first so I could get in position to take some photos. This is a great rapid with several good boofs and tricky moves. I went deep in the last ledge and got pushed towards the left wall but finished o.k. and set up to take some pictures.

Trev dropping in
Trev was up next and got thrown around a bit on the top and then almost got sucked back into the hole below the big ledge before paddling out and downstream. He decided his run wasn’t up to his standards so he promptly hiked his boat up to the top again and did another run. This was followed by a third run as well. Meanwhile, after a long scout Paul fired it up. He got pushed to the left before the big ledge and ran the chunky slide on the left. I thought he looked pretty good but he told me afterwards that it wasn’t his intended line. All in all, a great rapid. We all wished there was a few more like it as the river gradually got flatter and flatter before the take-out. We did see a bald eagle and a few steelhead to spice up the run out.

Paul finishing up

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Upper Eagle Creek (Clackamas)

(Originally posted April 25th, 2009)

There are a couple Eagle Creeks in Oregon. There is the Eagle Creek in the Columbia River Gorge that has been featured in a number of kayaking videos with big, runnable waterfalls and dramatic gorges. This Eagle Creek flows into the Clackamas River about 6 miles west of the little town of Estacada and contains lots of Class 2-3 rapids and a few easy waterfalls. Eagle Creek flows south out of the Salmon-Huckleberry Wilderness and was ground zero for one of the most contentious anti-logging protests in Oregon back in the late 90s and early 2000s.

The upper section of Eagle Creek has been on my radar for a long time. I’ve done the middle and lower sections many times over the years but for some reason, never ventured up to the upper section. The description in the guidebook doesn’t exactly make it sound like an outstanding run and there is the hike to the put-in….maybe I’m just getting old and less adventurous.

View from the put-in

Finally the day arrived and what a day! Sunny and close to 70 deg. Really the first real spring day we’ve had this year. When I tried to get to the put-in earlier this year there was too much snow on the road but today, there wasn’t any snow in sight. We stopped a bit early on the drive to the put-in and decided to hike because I wasn’t all that excited about getting my car beat up and stuck. After a hiking probably 2 miles or so we could see the river and started to look for a way down. We were in some really nice old-growth forest so getting down to the river was pretty easy. Once there we found a low but o.k. flow and got geared up to do some rock bashing until the creek picked up more water.

Paul bashing some rocks early in the run

After quite a bit of rock dodging, rock bashing and one portage around a log, the creek finally started to consolidate and some nice, small rapids appeared.

Most of this section was boat-scoutable but we stopped every now and again to check for wood and take some pictures. The scenery was excellent and the rapids were very classy and fun Class 3.

Paul in the middle of the good stuff

More nice stuff around the corner

With the change in the geology and the fact that it seemed like we’d been paddling for quite a while, we knew we must be getting close to the waterfall at the end of the run. As we rounded a corner it was obvious that we’d arrive. The falls really wasn’t anything like what we both expected from the guidebook description. I was expecting a friendly falls similar to the ones on the lower sections. Maybe it cleans up with higher water but it was a bit ugly at the flows we had. Very runnable but a bit ugly. It’s too bad because the man-made features of the falls really made it much harder to run safely.

Fish Hatchery Falls

We both chose to portage along the structure on the right and after hanging out for a bit, ran the small weir in the run-out of the falls and headed downstream. We decided to run all the way through the hatchery and hope that the electrified fish barrier wasn’t in play before the take-out. I probed and wasn’t electrocuted so Paul came through and we took out at the put-in for the middle section.

I hopped on the moped for the shuttle and Paul took a nice nap in the sun. I was pretty satisfied with the run after waiting so long to do it. I think it makes a great mini-exploratory run for those interested in a mild adventure off the beaten track. With higher water levels the upper section would be fun, the rapids above the falls would be great, and the falls might be more runnable. Definitely worth checking out, particularly on a sunny, warm spring day.

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