Sunday, February 8, 2009

NFMF of the Mighty Willamette

The weekend of February 1st, Shell and I drove down to her folks place in Cottage Grove, Oregon to help with some home improvement projects and help her mom get ready for an extended trip to Nebraska to visit her parents. In hopes of being able to make it back to the White Salmon to join my buddy Lanson for a run down the Farmlands section of the White Salmon River (Class IV), I brought my gear along, but after spending the better part of Saturday removing and hanging drywall in my in-law's laundry room, I knew I wouldn't be up early enough to make the drive home. So, with a "pass" to go boating from my lovely wife Shell, I called a buddy of mine who lives in Corvallis to see if he was interested in running the NFMF of the Willamette (Below the Gorge to Westfir), a Class III, 8 mile stretch of beautiful whitewater. The run features some really quality drops, 2 of which are 3-4 foot ledge drops. This was the first solid Class III run I ever paddled, so it is pretty special to me. In short, I was stoked!

The flows for this trip were on the low side of okay (837 CFS) and it showed once I got up there. Pretty much everything you can scout from the road (which lies quite a ways above the river). The last time I paddled the run, it was at 1200 CFS and everything was super clean. However, at this low flow, both ledge drops looked pretty manky. We headed up to the put in and discovered quite a bit of snow and downed trees. Reports indicated that the river was clear, but, given everything I was looking at, I anticipated a slow move down river, with lots of boat and foot scouting. Once we got on the river, we were met with beautiful opal green water and some nicley technical Class II+/III- boulder gardens.

We quickly approached the first significant horizon line, identified by a huge rock wall on river right. We could see the line from the road and we entered a sweet sweeping green tongue on the left of a large boulder... the river dropped maybe 6-7 feet and had a really nice pool below (though everything flowed straight into the rock wall, so you need to execute a bit of a "S" move coming down the tongue). Moving down river we approached the first ledge drop and go out on river right to scout it. Though there appeared to be a questionable line to the left of the main flake, I couldn't determine how rocky the landing zone was, so we opted for the 3 foot seal launch below. After this we paddled several other Class III boulder gardens and chute-style drops, most of which required boat scouting. The last ledge drop required a portage on river left, as the two main lines looked pretty questionable and, with only the two of us, the better side of caution indicated that it would be better to shoulder our boats. Just below this drop, however, was another excellent 6-7 foot drop, with a beautiful green tongue on river left... very good times for sure!

Towards the end of the run, paddlers get to the "Ledges", which are a series of 3 distict drops, Class III in nature, but at this level required some very tight and precise moves to avoid the obvious pinning potential. Spending time watching my friends from the Tri-Cites in Washington (Lanson, CB and Jim) scouting on Tumwater Canyon on the Wenatchee really helped here, as I eddy hopped my way up to the edge to get the line and lead down... thanks for the lessons guys!

All in all... a fantastic run!
Have fun out there... it's a big beautiful world we live in.

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