Kenobi Gorge

An account of the first known descent of the Kenobi Gorge section of Little Goose Creek on 6/14/2006.

Click here to see the video that accompanies this web report.

The team: Ben Stookesberry, EJ Etherington, Jon Fowlkes, Mike Long, Ryan Scott, Lana Young, Jason Rackley

Location: Washington, Columbia Gorge
Class: V ( V+ )
Gradient: 640 fpm
Length: ~1 mile
Flow: 200 400 cfs estimated
Nature: Steep boulder gardens punctuated by huge, runnable waterfalls.
Torture Factor: Low

Copyright © 2006, Oregon Kayaking. No part of this page may be reproduced, linked, or copied without the express written permission of the Oregon Kayaking webmaster, Lana Young, Mike Long, and EJ Etherington.

Kenobi Gorge is a big-drop kayakers dream run, with easy access, a spectacular setting, and a white-knuckled fistful of some of the best waterfalls in the Colombia Gorge.

The gorge itself is a worthy hiking destination even if you don't want to paddle this section. Kenobi has ancient old-growth pines and cedars, soaring columnar basalt walls, and crystalline springs cascading from the walls.

We scouted Kenobi over several weeks in June of 2006. Local kayaker and explorer Chad Belvill had sent Pete some photos of the upper sections, which piqued our curiosity and got the cars rolling.

Our first scouting mission was more informational than anything else. It was June fourth and our massive snow pack was cutting loose after a brief rain event. We hiked the upper part of the gorge, gaping at the churning, smoking towers of bowel-loosening whitewater below us. One of the falls ( Chewie ) had a truly evil hole/cave combo at that flow, which was nice to look at but not paddle!

The hook was set. We knew the gorge was going to drop into a runnable range very soon, so we made preparations and began to assemble a strong team.

Jon Fowlkes and Mike Long ran Upper Trout Lake Creek the following weekend and climbed up into the lower part of the gorge, and once the photos were distributed we began planning for our run on the following Wednesday.

A view of Imperial Falls, one of the big ones in Kenobi Gorge. This photo was taken at a more reasonable flow the following week during Mike and Jon's second scouting mission.
photo copyright Mike Long

I looped in EJ Etherington out of Corvallis and Ryan Scott of Hood River, who was joined by Bend-based kayaker and professional photographer Lana Young. Ben Stookesberry was a natural fit given the size and scale of some of the drops, so he made the seven-hour drive up from Ashland and arrived at the put-in campground Tuesday afternoon.

Mike, Ben and I spent Tuesday afternoon and evening doing a final scout of the entire gorge, working out the portage route around Imperial and checking for other nasty bits. We crashed out and dreamed of big drops..

The next morning seemed to stretch on forever while we waited for the rest of the team to arrive. Jon and EJ arrived just before eleven, followed shortly by Ryan and Lana. The next hour was spent discussing various options once we were in the gorge, and the group spent a little time scouting the portage around Imperial Falls.

Finally we were ready to go. The put-in is on the upstream side of the creek-left culvert ( which also serves as a gauge, see the end of this report for details. ) The exit of the culvert has a sweet sloping drop, and then it is a short float to the first falls, a fifteen footer.

Unfortunately there is a log blocking the lead-in rapid of the first falls, but it is easily portaged on the left. Jon probed this first falls.

Ryan Scott drops over the entrance falls, which is about fifty yards downstream of the put in.
Copyright Lana Young Photography

Below the first falls the creek enters a long bedrock slide, which twists around a couple of corners before turning left and disappearing over 40-50 foot Imperial Falls.

We had scouted Imperial Falls extensively the day before, and nobody seriously considered running it. The landing is pretty questionable on this one ( at least at this flow ) because a bedrock shelf extends out from creek-right. The left side is deep but not aerated, but the main hazard was the rock shelf..

Jon Fowlkes does the math at Imperial Falls.
Nobody ran this one because we weren't sure about the landing, which is quite sketchy due to a rock shelf that extends out into the pool. That said, this falls is runnable, and I'm sure someone will eventually drop this one.

Below Imperial the creek roars over a sweet twelve-foot slide, then rips down through a big, mean-looking pile of boulders which I dubbed 'The Trash Compactor'. Below TC the creek gets very wide and there is a two-hundred yard long section that was very scrapy looking at the flow we had. Everyone decided to hike up to the rim of the gorge from Imperial and bypass that part of the gorge.

Below the wide, shallow boulder gardens, the creek narrows dramatically and steepens considerably. At the first right corner, the creek drops out of sight over a long boulder garden, which leads right to the lip of a forty-foot tall slide. Ben dubbed the boulder garden 'Jedi Mind Trick' because it is a fairly intense section, complete with a thoroughly evil undercut boulder ten feet above the lip of the forty-footer.

Nobody wanted to run Jedi Mind Trick except Mike, who also decided to probe the big slide. He had a good line through JMT, and then dropped over the big slide, screaming down to the bottom and getting launched through the air off of the kicker flake at the bottom of the slide.. Mike later called this slide 'The Kessel Run.' Jon followed Mike over Kessel, then Ben had a clean line as well.

Mike Long halfway through his first known descent of the forty-foot tall slide ( later named 'The Kessel Run' ), getting ready to take flight off the kicker flake..
photo copyright EJ Etherington

Mike Long gets airborne off of the kicker flake at the bottom of The Kessel Run
photo copyright EJ Etherington

Ben Stookesberry drops into the The Kessel Run. The kicker flake is barely visible about halfway down. Everyone got launched and flew over the bottom half of this drop!
photo copyright Mike Long

Fifty yards downstream of Kessel is another waterfall, a double drop I named 'Chewie' after seeing it at high water when the first hole was really munching. At this flow Chewie was much more manageable, with a nice boof flake at the top and a sweet meltdown move through the bottom hole.

Nobody had any problems here, but at higher flows be sure to set a rope on the creek-left side of the top drop, because there is a cave under the left wall that all of the water feeds into. ( In the photo below, the small cascade of water coming in on creek-right is actually a spring that pours out of the wall.. )

Jon Fowlkes drops into Chewie
Copyright Lana Young Photography

Just downstream of Chewie is a dangerous log blocking the left channel, which is also where all of the water is going. This forced a short portage in the creek-right channel, which would be runnable with more water. Below the log is another steep boulder garden which lead directly into the grand finale, Beggars Canyon.

Ben Stookesberry runs the chunky lead-in to Beggars Canyon.
Copyright Lana Young Photography

Beggars Canyon contains one of the best series of waterfalls in the Pacific Northwest, rivaling the mighty cascades of Salmon River Canyon.

Beggars drops about eighty feet in a hundred yards. The drops go like this: First is a mellow eight foot tall low-angled slide, followed by some fast water which leads to the lip of a sweet, folding thirty-foot falls, which flows into Sarlacc Falls, an intimidating twenty-footer, then a short drop leads to Supercollider, the final twenty-foot falls.

Sarlacc Falls ( the middle drop ) is quite consequential, because if you don't make the far right side boof you will end up in the nasty hole, which is backed up by the overhanging wall ten feet downstream.

The overhanging wall at the base of Sarlacc gets closer to the falls the farther left you go, and the power of the hole increases as you move left as well.

We had already spent a lot of time scouting these falls, but another half hour went by before everyone was in position and Mike was ready to be the first person to enter Beggars in a kayak.

Mike rounded the corner and dropped the first, folding falls. All of the current pushes against the left wall on this one, which means you have only a few paddle strokes to scramble back over to the right side to avoid ending up in the nasty hole on the left side of Sarlacc.

Mike punched the first hole cleanly and easily moved to the right for Sarlacc, hitting the right side boof perfectly!

Ryan Scott gets ready to scout Beggars Canyon
Copyright Lana Young Photography

Mike Long makes the first known descent of Beggars Canyon. The evil hole in the second falls is clearly visible from this angle. The further left you go, the worse it gets. If someone swims in that hole, they will need a rope, as EJ was about to find out..
Copyright Lana Young Photography

After Mike's perfect run Jon was up next, and he also had a clean line, making it back over to the right for the critical boof at Sarlacc Falls, seen below..

Jon Fowlkes drops Sarlacc Falls, the second ( and most consequential ) falls in Beggars Canyon.
If someone ends up in the left side of this hole, they will need a rope!
photo copyright Mike Long

EJ followed Jon, but he was too far right when he boofed Sarlacc and ended up tumbling towards the left side as he went off the falls, landing on his head in the hole below. "Oh S--T!" I yelled as we watched EJ start getting beat down at the base of Sarlacc. He pulled and started trying to swim for it, but the hole was backed up by the wall and kept pulling him back in. He said later that he ran out of air so he grabbed his boat, stuck his head inside, and managed to get a breath ( a very smart move! ) which kept him going.

Jon threw EJ a rope, but he didn't see it at first. We were all helplessly yelling "GRAB THE ROPE! GRAB THE ROPE!" ( like that was going to help ) and finally his flailing arms tangled in the rope. Jon and Ryan pulled hard and he was out..

Luckily EJ was the only person to end up on the dark side of the hole at Sarlacc, but I'm sure he won't be the last person to get a whupping there.. Just downstream of Sarlacc is Supercollider, a beautiful slide falls that dumps into a stunning green pool lined with symmetrical columnar basalt. This is really a spectacular spot, worthy of a lunch break. We hung out here for awhile!

Ben Stookesberry drops into Supercollider, the third and final falls in Beggars Canyon.
Copyright Lana Young Photography

Just downstream of Supercollider is an airplane turn drop, then the confluence with Trout Lake Creek. From there it is three miles of splashy class three down to the Trout Lake Creek Campground bridge, which is the take-out..

This creek is inaccessible all winter because the road is not plowed. The road usually opens up sometime in April, when the first snowplows rumble over the pass. Kenobi is formed by two creeks which come together just upstream of the put-in culvert ( Smoky and Little Goose Creek ). Both of these creeks are fed by small lakes up high, and this run appears to have a solid snowmelt season.

There is a primitive campground on the left-hand side of the road just before you cross the creek. There is no bridge, so it can be a little tricky finding the creek. Turn onto the dirt road that leads to the campground and hike down the faint trail that winds along the creek-right side of the gorge. The trail peters out at Kessel, forcing you down to creek level if you want to scout the rest of the run.

The flows on Pat Welches site at the time we ran the creek. This only provides a very general correlation, because Kenobi is on a tributary of a tributary of the White Salmon.

The upstream side of the creek-left put-in culvert has a handy bolt gauge on it.
See the photo next photo for details.

This is the bolt gauge in the upstream end of the creek-left put-in culvert. We had six bolts for our exploratory, which is the minimum flow for Kenobi. Five bolts would be better and might clean up the stuff between Imperial and Kessel.

Kenobi is indicated by the red dotted line below. Once you are on Trout Lake Creek, it is a three mile paddle to the take out bridge near Trout Lake Creek Campground