We left the Outdoor Program Trip Facility in Eugene at about 6:30
pm on May 8th (right on schedule) and headed south on I-5 for Selma,
Oregon. The drive was an uneventful 2.5 hours except for a some frantic
cell phone calls and a 30 minute layover at Fred Meyer in Grants Pass when
Jerry realized he had forgotten his lifejacket at the OP facility.
Luckily Freddies was well stocked and provided an outstanding selection of
fisherman's PFDs and one suitable class IV rafting PFD... just what was
needed. Much relieved, though a bit poorer, we drove the remaining 30
miles to Selma and endured the 16 miles of jarring dirt road that would
lead us to the put-in at Miami Bar. After what seemed like eons of
driving at 5 mph on a winding, one-lane mountain road which was dimly
outlined in the 15 passengers van (complete with 20 ft trailer) we had
arrived. We promptly unloaded and proceeded to crash for the night
(actually 2am in the morning) in our respective manners. I chose the most
ridiculous route of refusing to unpack, and thus sleeping under (and on)
the seats of the van bundled in my fleece and Gore-Tex parka. I
nearly froze and ended up taking a 4 mile hike at 5:30 a.m. to get my
blood flowing again. I returned to find everyone else still sleeping
cozily or just beginning to roust themselves up.
The launch site just upstream of Oak Flat. Our party, plus one group of catarafters
Saturday morning, May 9th, we succeeded in loading and launching
from Miami Bar at approximately 10am. We shared the company of two other
groups at the put-in and for the first 30 minutes of the day, but were
soon left behind and were to never see another group for the duration of
our stay. The first several miles were a pleasant class II warm-up,
however my driving the night before, lack of sleep, forgetting my
noseplugs which were a crutch I had become dependent on, and a new, edgy
boat led to lots of flips in those first miles. I was having fun, but
felt a little intimidated especially when we hit the class IIIs which were
feeling pretty big and pushy to me in my edgy playboat.
After those first
miles the canyon narrowed down and the water became constant III(IV) for
several miles typified by flat pools culminating in steep technical drops
of 10-12 feet. You could tell everyone was still working to get used to
their respective craft and the water, and Pete (our 5 time Illinois
veteran) was obviously somewhat lost on what rapids were coming when.
Everyone else was a first-timer, and quite lost despite the use of the
dated Handbook to the Illinois. Typically we were running a couple of
kayaks down everything first, and then signaling to the raft crews for the
most open route for larger craft. Everyone was already coming together
well as a team.
Kim and Carrie (in the 13 foot Protar) getting a bit sideways in a large hole in one of the early rapids.
About noon we came to a bigger rapid on a blind corner and pulled
out to scout. It consisted of a very tight and shallow entrance through a
boulder field, an 8 ft drop with a large hole on river left, a sweeping turn
to the right along a submerged rock shelf, and a final 6 ft drop followed
immediately by another large hole. Finn ran through and eddied out
half-way down, followed by Randy and Gabi who ran all the way through.
Pete then made a clean run through and I eddied out just below the
entrance. Kim and Carrie then came through and were really having to work
to move their Protar. They appeared to be heading straight for the hole
at the top left, made a last minute attempt to pull right and caught the
back half of the raft in the hole partially sideways. It proceeded to
toss the boat and we had a couple of swimmers and an upside down gear boat
to deal with.
Finn managed to get to Kim and give her a tow away from the
second hole, while Carrie swam like mad for the left wall and proceeded to
scramble up and out 20 yards above the last drop. I hung around long
enough to make sure she was OK and then blasted downstream to chase the
loose gear, proceeded to catch an edge in the eddyline below the last
drop, flipped, rolled, and then helped push the Protar to the shoreline.
Kim and Carrie were obviously shaken, but otherwise OK and we hadn't lost
anything. We righted the boat, and the took a lunch break before heading
on. At the time we thought this was just one of the standard class IVs,
which worried the girls considerably since that would have meant there
were many more difficult rapids yet to come. Later we concluded that this
had in fact been York Creek rapids which is supposed to be a class IV+
churner. This became a big confidence boost for the Protar crew, in spite
of the fact they had flipped.
Next we were looking for class IV+ Boat
Eater rapids which was located at Pine Flat-- a large camping area which
Pete wanted to stay at. We passed one very large hole, but it seemed easy
enough to miss and not really class IV so we kept going downstream looking
for Pine Flat. Well we never found it. Eventually we saw a long, narrow
bench about 40 ft up on the right. Being 4pm we decided it was time to camp,
even if we hadn't made it to Pine Flat yet. Carrying our gear up to that
bench was a backbreaking task, but once up there it was a lovely spot.
was convinced we had to have missed Pine Flat due to the time we had spent
on the river, and after consulting my maps and memory of guidebooks
descriptions I decided we were in fact at Deadman's Bar about 4 miles below
Pine Flat and 3 miles above the Green Wall rapids (class V). This meant
that large hole we had passed must have been Boat Eater, and even our
Illinois veteran had missed it and Pine Flat. This was kind of unnerving,
but we had and otherwise good day and a great spot to camp and relax in
preparation for the most difficult part of the trip yet to come.
Eddying out at the top of Prelude (The top right side of Prelude is pictured)
Sunday morning, we awoke to good spirits and ended up putting on
at about 10am again. We expected to hit Prelude to Green Wall (class IV)
in about an hour. I for one was feeling much better and even tried
hand-paddling through the IIs and IIIs for those first 2 miles. Pete was
still thrown off by having not recognized York Creek and Pine Flat the
previous day, and ended up missing the final eddy just above Prelude and
taking the Sotar through a slot (not the correct one) just barely wide
enough for a craft with tucked oars-- providing you don't mind scraping
both sides of your raft.
Kim and Carrie punching the ledge hole on the left side of Prelude
Randy and Finn ran the drop blind, and the rest
of us got out to look at the drop with Kim and Carrie. There were lots of
options for a kayak. There was a fun slide down a slanting boulder in the
middle of the rock garden, as well as the main 8 drop on river left. I
tried both, first boofing off the slide, then carrying back up and running
the main drop in which I got an awesome backender which I rode out of the
hydraulic. Finn ran and re-ran 3 times, Gabi ran the slide, and the
Protar ran the main drop quite nicely. We then eddied out and discussed
our plan of attack on the Green Wall which was 1/4 mile downstream.
Pete wanted to run the first 100 yards of class III lead-in, and
then eddy out at the bottom on the left just above the first big drop of
the Green Wall itself. He wanted at least two kayakers down there first
with throw-lines in case the rafts needed help getting into the eddy.
Finn and I volunteered to run down first. I got several backenders in the
holes leading up to Green Wall, but landed everything smoothly and easily
caught the eddy above the Wall. I then signaled for Finn to come join me.
We both looked at that eddy and the entrance and knew that the rafts were
going to have trouble catching it. I set up on a rock at the head
of the eddy with my throw rope, and Finn anchored himself to a rock using
his tow tether half-way down the eddy.
Then the Sotar came sailing down.
Pete and Jerry didn't seem to want the throw line from me, but had trouble
breaking through the eddy line and ended up throwing the bowline to Finn
who pendulumed them into a small moving eddy along the left bank about 40
feet above the first drop of Green Wall. Then Randy came down, flipped in
a hole in the lead-in, made his roll, caught the eddy and went jumped out
to help Finn hold on to the Sotar. Gabi was next and caught an eddy above
me and remained sitting there in her boat. Then Kim came rowing down
through the class III, and was obviously staying way to far right at the
bottom to catch the eddy below me!
As she rounded the rock I was sitting
on they saw the eddy and the big drop in front of them, and yelled for
Carrie to help her row. There was no one for me to throw my rope to!
They managed to make it back left some, but were still passing the Sotar
when both Carrie and Jerry threw lines to each other. Pete caught the
line that Carrie threw, and Carrie braced herself hard in the bottom of
the Protar while Kim was trying to help hold herself back with the oars.
So now we had Finn anchored to a rock holding onto the Sotar's bow line,
Randy helping, Pete and Carrie linking the Sotar and the Protar with a
throwrope, Kim and
Jerry trying to hold on, and everyone screaming for me to get down there
and anchor off the Protar which was just 15 feet from the top of the first
drop of Green Wall.
I reattached my throw bag to my waist belt, swam
across the eddy, and climbed through the maze of rocks while trying to
keep from twisting my right ankle which was already very weak from two
weeks earlier. Just as Finn and Randy were starting to slip I caught the
Protar's bow line and got them anchored off to a large boulder, which then
allowed them to pull the Sotar further up the eddyline into a more secure
position. We then got everybody to shore, and collected our wits while
repacking our throwbags and thoroughly scouting all of the Green Wall.
At that level (maybe 2-3000 cfs going down the channel), Green
Wall basically consisted of a 10 wide slot between boulders forming an 8
drop, followed in 20 feet by a line of boulders extending from the left
shore which necessitated a hard pull right, another 25 yards of screaming
water, and finally a 12 drop with a big hole in the center and water
slamming into the Green Wall itself on the right below the hole.
I were volunteered to run first. We both boofed off the first 8 drop,
moved right of the boulders, and Finn punched the final hole directly
while I did a tight left turn just above it in which only the back half of
my boat hit the hole and basically knifed right through the backwash. We
both then eddied out, ready to help out as the rest of the group ran the
rapid. Randy was next and essentially penciled in to the hole below the
top drop, endered back up, but landed it, went back right and punched
straight through the last hole. Pete dropped off the first part, worked
like crazy to stall out and cut back right, went over the ledge against
the wall on the far right, and pillowed off the portion of the wall
projecting into the rapid.
Pete and Jerry in the gear raft, punching the monster hole in the first (crux) drop of Green Wall
The gear raft (14 foot Sotar) charging down the middle of the Green Wall
Gabi did the same thing in her kayak, although
she said that she had in fact be planning on going way left on the bottom
stuff. And finally Kim took the first drop, wasn't able to make the cut
right, got pushing into and fortunately through the line of boulders below
the drop, then cut right, punched the right side of the bottom hole, and
pillowed off the wall. We then took a well-deserved lunch break at 2pm,
nearly two hours after leaving Prelude.
The Kim and Carrie getting pushed into the broach rocks directly below the crux drop of the Green Wall.
Kim and Carrie riding out the rollers at the bottom of the Green Wall.
Regrouping at the bottom of the Green Wall (rapid in background).
Next up was Little Green Wall (or I prefer to think of it as
Little Green Nightmare). Its a IV+ that's hard to scout, and as it turns
out not so easy to run. Finn dropped in first, got worked in a relatively
small hole, rolled on his third attempt, got worked in another huge hole,
rolled on his third attempt, and then got flipped on a small rock at the
bottom, where he just barely got up after several tries. He said that he
just sat there in an eddy, totally exhausted and barely able to catch his
breath and his nerves. Meanwhile Pete entered a far right slot from
upstream, got slammed into the right wall with his hand between the oar
(out of the oarlock) and the rock, but he was able to get it back in, and
dropped around the last ledge and had to do a big high-side as they
pillowed off a huge boulder at the bottom right.
The Sotar riding down the middle of the Little Green Wall.
Watching this made Gabi
and I want to avoid that final boulder by cutting very close to a house
boulder abutting a horizon line just above the rock with all the water
slamming into it. Gabi disappeared around the corner, and evidently
dropped into the last hole that Finn had gotten worked in, got sidesurfed
at the bottom of it, and opted for a wet-exit. Kim and Carrie then came
downstream following a slightly different line than Pete and made
everything look easy. Finally I made my way downstream, and crested the
horizon line next to the house boulder. I was looking straight down at a
10 foot deep hole with water pouring in on two sides, the house rock on the
third, and about 7 of recirculation coming back in just 4-5 feet
downstream. This was the hole which had worked both Gabi and Finn (as I
was to find out later).
It scared the living daylights out of me!
immediately went into overdrive, and paddled like crazy straight towards
it while trying to touch my nose to my knees, continued stroking down the
drop, knifing into the foam pile, and then stroking as my boat started to
climb back up. It proceeded to flip me end-over-end, but I
had punched through the worst of the backwash and upon a deep underwater
brace, felt myself get pulled on downstream and rolled up. I eddied out
just below the hole on the right and saw Gabi's empty boat floating down
towards me, which was my first realization that things hadn't gone so well
for the other kayakers either.
I pushed Gabi's boat down to where
the rest of the group was gathered on the shore, and everyone began to converse about how
nasty that rapid had been. Finn and Gabi still looked a little shaky,
Pete had bloodstains on his PFD and was dressing his smashed finger, and I
was contemplating the finer points of punching through holes. Only Randy,
Carrie, and Kim had made the run unscathed; although, Randy had in fact
found a shallow little sneak route on far left which had taken him out of
all the action entirely.
From there we experienced continuous, pushy, technical, class
III+ to IV rapids for the next couple of miles. The average gradient for
this section was about 70 feet per mile. Eventually we got down to
Submarine Hole where everyone had textbook runs, except Gabi who was
getting tired and flipped in the Sub hole, but came through and
made a solid roll and ferry back to the left away from some nasty
whitewater on the right. A few minutes later we pulled into the camping
area just below Collier Creek, and we set about
Everyone crashed pretty hard that night, but we were also
ecstatic about the days run.
On Monday, we again pulled out of camp about 10am under dreary,
drizzly overcast skies. In fact the whitewater was so tame that everyone
had to work to stay warm. There were only a couple of class IIIs and lots
of flat water along the way, still the scenery was a feast for the eyes.
Ten miles later we rounded a corner at 2pm to see our van and trailer
parked at Oak Flat. I think everyone felt quite a let-down that the trip
was actually over. I was already planning the next time I'm going to play
with the Illinois.
The drive back up the coast and through Roseburg to Eugene was
mostly quiet and uneventful. With a lot of reminiscing, and longing
inward stares at what each of us had learned during the trip. All I can
say is that it was a ton of fun, and an absolutely awesome group of people
who meshed as a team. I can't wait until I can get another trip going down
the Illinois, or any other comparable river; and I hope I can do it with
this same group of people. Thanks a lot folks; this just made May 98 a
month which I'll never forget!