By Kanako Iwata-Eng
On the misty morning of Sunday, May 26, 2019, Jim H and I started scouting the Chiwaukum Creek, near Leavenworth. Camping at the Chiwaukum Creek Trailhead the night before, we were tempted to run the small creek not listed in the Bennett book or the American Whitewater website. Walking up a little, there was a log jam. We drove around to get to the other side of the creek. It looked OK. We then went to the Highway 2 bridge crossing the creek, and it looked OK there, too. Next we went to the closed Tumwater Campground. We walked to the creek and looked up and down. We also checked the confluence with the Wenatchee. All looked good, so we decided to run this short section, about 1.5 miles.
We put in at the river right below a log hanging from the left shore. It was as steep as the Peshastin and as busy (i.e. few eddys) as the Ingalls. Within a couple of minutes, we already went under Highway 2. However, as soon as we went beyond the corner we could peek from the shore, we encountered a logjam. We stopped on a gravel bar and Jim walked across the shallow right channel to scout below the logjam. From the gravel bar, I could see a big tree from the right shore two-thirds of the way and a small tree from the left. There was an opening, but the left-side tree’s branch was sticking out. The river was bending to the right, and the current was fast. There seemed to be no safe way to paddle through. Jim soon came back and told me we could put back in right behind the big log on the right. It was a short walk, about 20 yards, through woods before we got back on the water.
We paddled a little bit only to see another log. Again we stopped on a gravel bar in the middle. Both channels had blockages, as well as another river-wide log downstream. On river right was the Campground. The current was fast, and the only way to stop was to get on the shallow gravel bar. It was a sketchy plan at best. We ruled out getting on the right shore. The left shore had a big eddy, though we didn’t know what was on that side. With no other choice, we ferried to the left eddy. We walked over a pile of wood and bushwacked a little. After about 10 yards, we easily got below the logs. There was one more log, but we could jump over the submerged part. Immediately, we saw the Wenatchee, flat and wide.
With two portages, the run took 50 minutes. Yeah, we spent more time scouting and portaging than paddling, but that’s the adventure. We scouted something unknown, overcame hazards, and safely paddled a short but exciting creek. Happily, we headed to the Wenatchee for some surfing.