The Lake Branch of the West Fork Hood

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This two mile run is an excellent alternate put in for the West Fork if you want something a little more exciting than the WF has to offer. Boaters who venture up onto this steep creek will be well rewarded for their effort, but be aware that the lower mile involves IV+ whitewater in a nearly inescapable canyon, so you are committed once you get there. That said, all of the rapids are pool drop and fairly easy to scout, though portaging would probably be a lot of work.

We ran into a berm about halfway down the logging road that leads to the put in so we dragged our boats about a quarter mile downhill to the river. It was a beautifully sunny spring day, so we didn't mind. Below the put in the river is pretty mellow for the first mile or so with lots of splashy class II-III stuff and no wood to speak of. The first major drop is Helmet Peeler, a powerful IV+ drop that is like the Slot on the Breitenbush, only much larger and more hazardous. The main trick at Helmet Peeler is staying upright after you drop over the first ledge.

Running the violent chute below the ledge upside down isn't recommended! Jeff Bennett told me that the reason this is named 'Helmet Peeler' is that when a buddy of his ran this drop and flipped, he rolled up and his brand-new, much-admired helmet was gone! (He had forgotten to attach the chin strap on the aforementioned brand-new, much-admired helmet...)

Jesse Coombs drops into the confines of Helmet Peeler.

Below helmet peeler are some smaller drops and then the river takes a gradual right turn and drops out of sight again through IV+ Boat Beater. We ran this one far right because the left has some wood and the middle has severe pinning potential as much of the water piles up onto a large unfriendly boulder.

Pete Giordano runs Boat Beater while Mike Haley stands by with a rope.

The author runs a fun drop below Boat Beater...

The grand finale on the Lake Branch is a large IV+ rapid known as 'Right or Left'. ROL starts with an eight foot vertical drop over a ledge formed by a line of huge boulders blocking the river. This rapid has a long runout, so if you get into trouble at the top try to stay in your boat! Also, the large middle boulder just downstream from the ledge is undercut and there is a fair amount of wood lurking just under the surface, so keep your bow up when you sail over the ledge. We ran this one far left because the right side pushes hard into some creepy wood filled undercuts.

Here Pete gets ready to launch over the eight foot ledge on the left side of the top ledge at Right or Left.

Pete catches an eddy above one of the last drops. Upstream is the rapid below 'Right or Left'.

Below Right or Left is one last fun chute just above the confluence with the West Fork.

Flow and Access information on the Lake Branch can be found in Jeff Bennetts excellent Guide to Washington Whitewater, 2nd edition. This book is a must have for any serious Northwest paddler and it contains many high quality northern oregon runs that are only found in his book.

The flows on the day these photos were taken were 5.5 - 6 ft on the Tucker Bridge Gauge from Pat Welch's website.