Moose Creek

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I first wondered about Moose Creek a few years back when we were running the South Santiam. Moose joins the Santiam right above Tomco Falls, and we thought it looked interesting enough to explore when we had time.

Eric Brown first paddled Moose Creek in 1988, and Dan Coyle had done it a couple of times since then and spoke highly of it. "A great intermediate run, and a good introduction to creeking." is how he described it.

Of course, before I get to Moose Creek, I have to admit we didn't set out to do this run. Our original goal was to paddle upper Canyon Creek Oregon, which we unfortunately managed to do the same day we ran Moose... "Unfortunately, you say ?..." Yes, well, read on and just be glad you weren't there...

So we set out to run Upper Canyon and we hit snow on the way up to the put-in, so we ended up hiking upstream. I think some people would refer to this as 'adding insult to injury', but we were still blissfully unaware of what the day had in store for us!

John and Pete, hiking up through the snow to run Upper Canyon Creek Oregon.

We got to the put-in and John one look at the logs in the creek and decided to pass. Pete and I knew better, but we were dumb enough to put on anyway, so we kind of got what we deserved... Upper Canyon Creek was a total nightmare of log choked drops, tight corners ending in huge piles of wood, and otherwise interesting drops formed by huge piles of wood. There were also a few bad pieces of wood up there, but we managed to avoid most of those by groveling through the thick underbrush alongside the creek. I think this section is rated class IV-V or something, but since we only rarely glimpsed the water underneath the enormous piles of wood, I can't really confirm that rumor..

"Where's the friggin' creek?" Pete takes the bold line through one of the cleaner rapids on Upper Canyon Creek Oregon and attempts to confirm that we are actually still on the creek and not lost in the woods.
It was hard to tell at times..

After one of the worst log-fests I have ever endured, Pete and I rounded the corner at the take-out bridge and joined John, who felt pretty smug after listening to our horror stories. "Let's go do Moose Creek." I said. None of us had ever done it, so it seemed like just the thing. "I feel like something easier and wood-free right now, and Dan said it was pretty good.."

So we headed over to Moose, which is very close to Canyon Creek. After scouting the final gorge that leads into the South Santiam (which had a log in it) we decided to take out at the bridge. (That was pretty unfortunate, because the final gorge looks like it has a couple of cool rapids!)

The put in for Moose Creek is pretty easy to find, just drive up until the road ends and slide down the steep slope to the creek. Moose was actually pretty fun, except that there was a lot of new wood down on it. ( Yeah, I know what you're thinking.. it was definitely one of those days...) We paddled this section just after the big windstorm of 2002, so we had to portage about six times if memory serves. That said, none of the major drops had wood in them, so we had a good time overall. The creek was very scenic, and if it hadn't been for the wood (much of which will probably come out with the next high water event) we would have given the run high marks.

Pete below the put-in for Moose Creek

Moose had a couple of nice drops that stood out. This one was immediately below the class III boulder garden visible from the road about halfway up..

And another fun drop downstream..

Soon we knew we must be near the end of the creek when I noticed a significant narrowing ahead. The water and gradient were picking up, and I couldn't quite see through what appeared to be a narrow slot ahead. I eddied out, only to be passed by Pete who suddenly started backpaddling frantically and ended up clinging to the wall on the right just above what appeared to be a significant rapid. John and I hurried downstream and helped him climb out of his boat, and we scouted what turned out to be a very narrow class four drop just above the take-out..

Pete and John scout the top of the class IV drop on Moose Creek. The last-chance eddy that Pete caught is in the foreground of the picture..

John didn't like the narrowness of this drop so he portaged. Pete came down and made the tight left turn ok, and then it was my turn. I didn't quite make the corner and got pushed against the pocket under the right wall for a few seconds, but I managed to surf my way out. Just below here was the take out, and we scrambled up though the brambles, relieved to be done after what had turned out to be a pretty long day.

Moose Creek would definitely worth doing, even if you do have to portage a few logs. The creek is very pretty, and the rapids are indeed interesting enough to merit the trip, and I would say it is very similar to Upper Thomas Creek. That said, I probably won't be back for a few years, at least until I hear whether or not it has cleaned up..