Tuesday, April 8, 2008

NF Molalla, III/IV

"Dan, I just discovered an incredible gem close to my house. It's 3 miles of 200 fpm clean class IV/IV+. It runs suprisingly often too and almost never gets run. I guarantee this is the first you've heard of it."

The e-mail from Ryan Morgan definitely intrigued me. I was already on my way through the Portland area and a paddling detour sounded like fun.
"Of course there's a downside..." Strangely enough, this was the deal-maker for me: the four-mile uphill hike in. Ever since I got the backpack system for carrying my kayak, I've been dying to use it. So one Thursday morning, I got up early and rallied up to meet Ryan and follow him to the take-out.

I was in the process of moving a load of furniture and treasured junk to my parent's house, so my car made a very stylish, yet impractical shuttle rig.
We ran a short shuttle to the trailhead, rigged up our pack systems, and started walking. My system worked amazingly well after I made a few adjustments on the trail. Ryan had a lower-profile homemade system that also got the job done, although he was in a little pain by the time we reached the put-in.
The run started out with tight, shallow boulder gardens with a fair share of mank throughout. After a few hundred yards, we arrived at a horizon line. This was the first portage that would certainly go at higher water, but the channel spread out too much for us to safely scrape down. The portage was very quick and painless and we were back to bouncing through rocks again before we knew it.
The first half-mile was a little junky with two such portages but would clean up nicely with more water. Eventually we reached the slides section of the run which started off with a portage around a slide into an undercut. After that one, we didn't have to get out of our boats again for the rest of the run. The gradient continued with countless fast slides and a handful of fun ledges and boulder gardens.
After about three miles of the good stuff, the gradient tapered off to the 100 fpm range, which was pretty low considering our volume of just a couple hundred cfs. We boogied down through a long class II/III paddle-out to the take out where Ryan's car awaited.
At our flows, we took a little over two hours to complete the run with no scouting and only a couple portages. At higher flows, Ryan took the same time with lots of scouting. At high water, the run could possibly be completed in under an hour. The hike in is certainly the most difficult part of it all.

The big downside to this run is access (duh).  Right now the run requires a four-mile hike in and special permission from land owners, which Ryan was able to coordinate for us.  Right now WKCC is working on getting permission to cross property and possibly even open the gate during the paddling season.  If we can get this worked out, this will quickly become a very popular run.  The road is in great shape and continues up the river for another five miles, all of which is runnable whitewater.  Do whatever you can to support the opening of this run, and please be respectful of landowners.


Anonymous said...

In my opinion it's quite lame to not disclose the location of the creek...lots of creeks require illegal entry, but noone else hides them as there own...we all share beta as kayakers and our sport relies on it quite heavily...Even American Whitewater has access information about illegal runs posted on there website...do the right thing, just name that creek, it doesnt look THAT good so I wouldnt be too worried about it getting overly used.

Dan Thurber said...

Duly noted, and thanks for the comment, but I'm not trying to keep this creek under wraps for selfish reasons. American Whitewater lists illegal runs because they're an organization that advocates for access and needs to demonstrate recreational use to government agencies and prove their worth to supporters. To the best of my knowledge, we're not trying to protect this run from being dewatered, just get legal access. Now you're right, it is lame. But I made a promise to the land owner. What's really lame is when land owners object so strongly to people crossing their property to reach public land. But based on how things are going, I'll probably change the post and name the creek soon, so check back in a week.

jsr said...

Jason here from OregonKayaking. I've done this run a couple of times and it would be run often if there wasn't a gate. Pete and I went up there a few years ago and I made a short film about the run.

The owners are cool, just be respectful. Basically the road goes in front of their house, then you have to park at the gate a couple hundred yards after that. We got lucky and some random guy in a truck gave us a ride up.

What the heck, here's the video I made, it's a couple of years old but you get the idea, you saw it here first I guess.. =)