By Kanako Iwata-Eng
On Friday, February 12, 2016, Captain Bill Petty, Pete, Doug, and I headed to the Dosewallips. Our original plan of running the Hamma Hamma was postponed due to the high water combined with our unfamiliarity with the river. Because three of us had just run the Lower Dosewallips on last New Year’s Eve, we thought it wouldn’t be too bad. A Port Angeles boater Colin joined us at the take-out, Dosewallips State Park.
On the way to the put-in, the Six Mile Bridge, Bill, Doug, and I were busy talking – we not only missed the canyon we wanted to scout, we drove past the put-in. The flow was 2270 CFS in the NF Skokomish gauge, much higher than last time. We flew down the first few miles and got to the canyon section. At the entrance where the river bends to the right, I tried to stay far from the logs on the right and went too far to the middle. I couldn’t avoid the huge hole that suddenly appeared when turned around the corner, and I flipped but rolled. We caught a River Left eddy. This short but beautiful canyon has 30-50 feet high walls in both sides. The river bends 90 degrees to the left about 50 yards below us, and we knew there was a log jam immediately around the corner. Last time with the low water, we could approach it slowly and went under a log by the left wall.
By this time, it had stopped raining, but water kept flowing down from the top of canyon walls. There was no way to climb out. Doug volunteered and went down to the next eddy on River Right, trying to peek at the log jam. The sun created a blinding glare. Doug couldn’t see anything and just shrugged at us for a while. Bill and Pete at River Left tried to talk with Doug across the river for a while, but with loud water, it wasn’t successful. Eventually he got in the boat. Paddling toward a log jam, one can only communicate so much. Doug disappeared before we figured what he meant by a quick signal. Though we couldn’t see anything, Doug went to the right side of the log jam, leaned against it, inched forward until he could get out of his boat, and then he used a webbing to move his boat and paddle over the log jam.
Not knowing what had happened to Doug, Bill went to the eddy where Doug was earlier. He climbed over a boulder and thought he saw an opening to the left side of the log jam, i.e. the inside corner of the bend, where we went under the log last time. He signaled us to join him. Pete went there telling us to wait. As soon as Pete got there, Bill left. Though I couldn’t see anything from the upper eddy, Bill went to the left wall, found two submerged logs, couldn’t go over them, and ended up between them. He quickly jumped out of the boat on top of a log, and his boat was gone. Meanwhile, Pete signaled me and Colin. We joined him in the eddy and followed him to the log jam. As he had seen Bill go to the left before Bill disappeared, Pete went to the left wall and successfully paddled over the submerged log. Without knowing what had happened, approaching the log jam, I first saw Bill, standing on the log jam and yelling me to paddle hard. Though I am not as skilled, my light weight helped me easily go over the log. Colin went between logs like Bill, but Bill could release Colin. Bill asked Pete to chase his boat. Doug towed Bill across the river to a house whose owner agreed to take Bill to his car at the take-out.
About a mile downstream, Doug, Colin, and I saw Bill’s red boat stuck in a small channel with logs on the shore and Pete waiting for us on a gravel bar. It took the three men about 30 minutes to retrieve the boat, and Doug towed it for the remaining Class 2 section to the take-out. We won’t go there again at the high water.
The rest of the weekend was fun, running the Lower Dungeness twice and the high-water Sol Duc (Park to Riverside).
*As I was between old and new cameras, there were no photos for this trip. These photos are from the low water trip on last New Year’s Eve.