By Kanako Iwata-Eng
Water-deprived in this area, Captain Bill Petty took the Team (Doug, Larry, Andy, and me) to Oregon in search of runnable rivers. Ironically, while we were away from October 29 to November 2, Western Washington had a huge amount of rain, and all rivers flooded. We, on the other hand, had mostly good weather, except raining when sleeping or driving.
We spent Day 1 driving. We camped about 90 miles east of Salem. On Day 2, we first went to look at the head of the Metolius, where water bubbles up from the ground and become the Metolius River. We didn’t put in there but drove down a little where the width of the river was about 20 feet. The water that just came up from the ground was clear and frigid. We paddled through a quiet but surprisingly residential area, and the river quickly got wider.
Soon we stopped seeing houses, but there were lots of campgrounds on river right. There were many low pedestrian bridges. At the flow of 1300 cfs, I could go under all of them. Tall inflexible boaters portaged over one bridge. We all portaged over one river-wide log. A big pastel-colored rainbow was with us all day.
At that flow, most rapids were easy Class 2-3, except the Wizard Falls. This is not a waterfall, though. Having seen two people paddling through the shallow right channel, I chose the left starting with a small drop with a hole at the top of the island. I was going to punch through the hole from right to left, but when I got in the hole, realized the left side was a shallow bedrock shelf all the way down for the length of the island and beyond. I had to go between the shelf and the island, about two boat widths of bluish white bubbly water, which was unique and fun. We took out at the Lower Bridge looking forward to the more exciting lower stretch on Day 3.
While Western Washington was having a big rain that night, we only had a little. The wind picked up during the night for a short time, though. The next day (Day 3), our shuttle drivers came back prematurely saying the road was blocked by a huge fallen tree. Bill quickly changed the plan and took us to the next river, the Crooked, putting in at the Crooked River Ranch. We could see the river in the bottom of the deep canyon. New to the team, Andy was appalled and skeptical about going down such a long way. Larry assured him this was not even a hard put-in by Team Petty’s norm, and I welcomed him to the Team. ?
Bill and Doug were already taking their boats down. About 20 yards below the top, there was a half-mile walk over a gradual downhill trail to the put-in just below a Class 4 rapid, China Dam. Bill and Larry had run this many times in the past but at lower flows. We had a nice flow of 1200 cfs (stick gauge 2.1 ft). We put in at 2:30 pm. The first drop was steep and technical. Doug got out of his boat and described it for Bill, who had remembered it from the past anyway (Note: This man remembers practically every rock of every river, though forgets where he put his knife every other day), and he and Larry ran it. Seeing Bill bumping some rocks, Doug went next with a slight modification. I scouted, liked Doug’s line, and went next. Andy, still not recovered from the initial shock, portaged this one, but soon started to notice how serene and beautiful this deep remote canyon was and how exciting and fun these rapids were. We enjoyed many Class 3+ and 4- rapids.
It was weird to see large amounts of water gashing out of the canyon walls. We saw a huge brown owl flying. We had to portage the power house dam, an easy 0.2 mile walk. There was one more long steep drop after that. We were supposed to scout it, but as Doug went in the middle, Larry went left, and they were OK, the rest of us went on, too. Remaining was three miles of flat water. In the strong tail wind, we paddled hard and managed to take out before the dusk.
On Day 4, we drove through heavy rain to the Clackamas. At the boat launch two miles below Bob’s Hole, a group of Portland boaters were gathering. We drove to Bob’s Hole where Bill had always taken out in the past but found a “No Parking” sign this time. We went back and joined the Portland boaters. We put in at the bridge above the Three Lynx Power Station. At 3100 cfs, this run was moving fast with many wild rapids with big waves, holes, and boils. Probably the hardest and most exciting drop was called Toilet Bowl. I was going to follow Bill, but he quickly disappeared beyond big waves that folded from both sides. The flippin’ contest between Andy and me that day was tied at three, but we both rolled up every time.
On Day 5, we went to the Sandy. Following my phone’s GPS, we found the put-in, Revenue Bridge, and the take-out, Dodge Park. The put-in was Class 3+, needed some teamwork to lower our boats. It was an easy and short Class 3, appropriate for the last day of the trip. At 1880 cfs, the water was moving fast, and there were some fun rapids. Done in a little over an hour, and we hit the road.
Though the Clackamas was super fun, I really liked the serene and beautiful Crooked. Yeah, it needed a little work to put in, had a two-mile flatwater paddle and a long shuttle, but this run certainly made everything worthwhile.