By Kanako Iwata-Eng
On March 30, 2019, twenty-eight boaters gathered at the Chehalis River Campground in British Columbia. One third of the group was the WKC crew, and the rest were the Vancouver Whitewater Club (VWC), to which I also belong.
There is no gauge published on the internet, but there is a stick gauge at the take-out. On the beautiful sunny Saturday morning, the water was at 9.3m. It was at the lower end, but some Vancouver folks had been running the river at that level the last few days.
It took a while to herd “cats” and load boats. Finally, the VWC leaders, Richard and Ben, did a safety talk making sure we had enough First Aid Kits and spare paddles and identifying boaters who may need support. We drove the dirt road up to the put-in on the Statlu Creek. This creek, as well as the Chehalis it merges into, has very clear green-colored water. I fondly call the color “Jolly Rancher Green.”
Some people walked up to run one extra ledge, but our group put in at the bridge crossing the creek. Without waiting for the people who went up, about 10 of us started going down, because the Statlu is a small, steep creek to begin with, and the low water limited where we could go, so it was important for us to keep a safe distance from one another and go down one at a time. Fortunately, everyone in our group was skilled enough to catch small eddies and not to run into each other, at least not too much.
We soon arrived at the first big drop. Most of us got on the right shore to scout, because the second half of the rapid was steep, and we couldn’t see what was beyond. At this low water level, there was no clear line. Many boaters hit a rock or two at the bottom of the ledge. Some portaged. No flips or swims, though. As I portaged last time in 2015, I am happy I ran it this time.
Due to the low water, many rapids were shallow on one side and flowing into the headwall on the other side. It was technical, but all holes seemed punchable. The same continued after the confluence with the Chehalis River, but the flat water between rapids became longer.
The Landslide is the biggest rapid on the Chehalis. Again, most people scouted the ledge from the right shore. The center line was steep with a big hole and a boulder below it. Some ran it, all did OK but didn’t make it look too easy. The rest of us ran the left side on the green tongue.
Rapids, though not as hard as the top, continued till the end. Suddenly the canyon walls ended, and we saw the take-out bridge. It was a pretty long run, but the fun day flew by so quickly. I checked the gauge on my way out, and it was still holding 9.3m.
After the run, Mike S who paddled in Canada for the first time, commented the Canadian whitewater ratings seem lower than ours, i.e. this run felt harder than the advertised “Class III+ to IV-“. I agree it was nothing III+ in Washington standard. Canadian measurement can be deceptive (or Canadians are crazy?) – e.g. most Canadian licensed cars drive at 75 mph on the 100 kph (60 mph) roads, too!
The WKC crew stayed at the Chehalis River Campground. After dinner, Mary and I went to the Harrison Mills Public Pool for a nice soak in the hot springs. I went to bed about 9 pm, and the campground was noisy, not because of party people, but because of howler monkeys. Next morning, I learned those monkey calls were owls. They were pretty loud and kept me up. Otherwise, it was a wonderful day.