The Upper Mollala (Three Bears Section)

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The Mollala drainage offers plenty of quality III-IV boating, yet it is often overlooked. One of my personal favorites in this area is the Upper Mollala, affectionately known to locals as 'The Three Bears Run.'

Three Bears is a great trip for a sunny afternoon; bring the playboat and take your time. There are several really nice playspots on this section, intermingled with enough whitewater to keep most folks interested. To top it all off, the scenery is great, which all adds up to make this one of the best intermediate runs in the Willamette Valley. There are three major rapids on this section, all of which can be scouted from the road on the way up.

The guidebooks break this section up in slightly different ways, but we always run from the first bridge over the Table Rock Fork on down to the rapid known as Baby Bear. In my opinion, this provides the most bang for your buck in terms of rapids, scenery, and play.

Just below the put-in the Table Rock Fork joins the Mollala and the river splashes and twists it's way down to what is known as "Horse Creek Rapids". Here the river narrows down to about 15 feet at the bottom of the drop and flows through a very nice, short gorge. Above and below this rapid are some nice playspots, so keep an eye out for them..

Entering Horse Creek Rapid

Below Horse Creek Rapid the river mellows and there are several miles of waves and small holes, with several smaller drops but nothing too exciting. The first major rapid is Papa Bear, a long drop consisting of three distinct sections. Papa Bear is easy to recognize on the river by a large basalt outcropping on the right, in case you didn't scout it from the road ahead of time.

Most folks start right on this drop (avoiding the undercut right wall) and then move back to the middle on the second drop, then back to the right for the last part of the rapid. The bottom drop has two unfriendly rocks on the left side that are not visible from the road, so stay alert when you run this drop so you don't end up getting plastered against them.

The Mollala has some of the best scenery around; a nice overhead view of Papa Bear

Shell Jeppesen enters the first part of Papa Bear.
The right wall extends out into the current and looks undercut, but it is pretty easy to avoid.

Below Papa Bear are several more nice playspots, (including a couple of large, violent rodeo holes), and then paddlers encounter 'Mama Bear'.
Here the river turns sharply to the right and rushes down into several large boulders which choke most of the flow off except in the middle and right side. The middle drops into swirly water and then rushes about 30 feet into a couple more boulders which can be avoided with a quick eddy turn. Below these boulders the rapid has a long runout, ending abruptly in a wonderful little basalt gorge with amazing swirling basalt columns and deep, green water.

Entering the top part of Mama Bear.

The runout below the boulders at Mama Bear, which ends abruptly in the nice gorge below.

The gorge below Mama Bear has some amazing columnar Basalt formations..

A short distance downstream from Mama Bear is Baby Bear, the last rapid on the run. The main drop on this rapid forms a funky V-shaped hydraulic due to a submerged basalt outcropping on the left. The right side is not friendly looking at all, so we always run the left side. It should be noted that this move is harder than it looks. The top wave tends to surf paddlers to the right into the main part of the hole, so you have to paddle like you mean it if you want to run this drop clean!

The main drop on Baby Bear; there are three boaters in this photo, but not all of them are upright..

Roll number two at Baby Bear..