Sunday, June 20, 2010

Copeland Creek (06.06.10)

For a couple of years now, Shawn Haggin has been harassing me to head down to the North Umpqua and run Copeland Creek with him. My reluctance mainly stemmed from the fact that the forest service had dumped 100+ logs into the creek as fish habitat. They later stated that they didn't know that this creek was navigated by kayaks... Regardless of whether a recreation study was done or not, the damage had already been done to this once classic class 4/4+ creek.
Shawn had told me that after some high water events and convincing the forest service to remove a log jam below one of the best drops, that it was down to only a couple of quick, painless portages. This brings me to my other reason for lack of motivation. You see, Shawn has had a spotty record for runs that are deemed as "clean", only to be chalk full of sketchy limbo logs and wood portages (e.g. Little River, Upper North Umpqua). I really can't say that I blame him though, he always drives north to boat our local runs and it's only fair that we travel to his neck of the woods from time to time. I'm sure he also wants to enjoy the fruits of his labor.

This trip report is actually the second time that I've run the creek, for the first time was in January when he finally convinced us to come down and give the run a try. Brad Bassi wrote up a great trip report of that run down, which can be found here. As it turns out Shawn was spot on and only a couple of portages were required. His word had been restored, for now at least...

It is now June, and thanks to the strange weather we've been having, Copeland was once again flowing and on the radar. After rounding up my two other companions, Roman and Dan, we headed down to Colliding Rivers in Glide, OR to meet Shawn. After a quick rally and a bathroom break, we headed up in two cars up the North Umpqua drainage until we came to where Copeland dumped in, the take-out. We quickly changed into our boating gear, piled into one car and headed upstream to the put-in. On the previous trip we had hiked into the base of Paul Bunyan Falls, and right above Sneaky Snake. This requires about a 15-20 minute bushwhack down to the creek. The benefit is getting to run the Snake, but other than that there isn't much before the lower put-in where a road bridge crosses over. Since I've not ventured above Paul Bunyan Falls, I can't say if there is anything worth doing up there. We had made the decision earlier to run Steamboat Creek afterward, so to save time we just put in at the bridge instead. You can also see a writeup on Oregon Kayaking for a description of the upper stuff, here.

On the bridge is a painted gauge that can be used to determine the flows. According to Shawn, the flow range looks something like this:

1' = minimum
1.25' - 1.75' = good flow range
Over 2' = high end

The painted bridge gauge. ~1.25' for us.

The best online gauge for determining flow is Boulder Creek - Near Toketee Falls. The flow range based on this looks like so:

3.7' = minimum
4.2' - 4.6' = good flow range
Over 5' = high end

On this particular day (6/6/10) we had ~4.2, a good medium flow.

After putting in at the small pullout on the upstream side of the bridge, we passed underneath and immediately came to our first horizon line, a fun ledge with a couple of rocks in the center to avoid, and a couple of small hydraulics to spice it up. I got out above to snap some photos as the others ran through one by one. Shawn and Dan opted to gut it down the center, while Roman and I ran the shallow boof on the hard right.

The drop immediately below the lower put-in bridge.
This one is easy to scout from the road, which is where
this photo was taken.

Shawn guts the center line at the ledge below the bridge

Dan follows using the same line as Shawn

Roman opts for the shallow boof flake on the right

Once below this, we headed downstream through some fun class 3 and log dodging. We soon came to the first wood portage of the day. We took a couple of different routes over the jam, but all met up just on the other side, and right above the next major drop of the run.
This rapid consists of two good options for entering: a run down the left flume, or a sweet boof off the right. Of course, I always prefer a good boof. Be aware that whatever line you take, there are rocks just under the surface that have been pitoned into and/or landed on. If you go for the boof, just make sure to have some right angle and try not to boof into the middle; you see in the video below that I nicked a rock while landing. This said, it's super fun, and one of my favorites of the run.

A view of the rapid described above. It's wise to
scout this one from the road on the way up, since
logs could be in play hidden just around the corner.

Shawn hits the hard right side of the boof

Shawn emerges from the base of the boof ledge

Dan once again follows with a similar line

A few more fun drops (boat scoutable) and a log portage later, we came to a the single largest (and most fun) drop of the run, "Fountain of Youth". Basically, this is a gimme 15-foot waterfall with no real hole at the base. The only concern I typically have is stalling out on the shallow slide that flows directly into it. On this day we had plenty of water, so that wasn't an issue, but it's still wise to build up as much steam as possible just to make sure. You don't want to goof it up since you only have one shot, as it would be difficult to hike back up and do it again. Way too much fun...this one will leave you smiling.

Dan flies over Fountain of Youth.
You can't see it but I'm sure he has a big smile.

Shawn feelin' younger at Fountain of Youth

Roman digs for the boof at Fountain of Youth

Roman surfaces after running Fountain of Youth

Below the waterfall is one of the best stretches of Copeland Creek, read & run (fairly continuous) class 3-4. There are some fun boulder gardens and a few logs to navigate under and around. There is also another wood portage in this area, but it's easy to identify from upstream. As always, things shift, so you'd be wise to boat scout cautiously, especially with all the wood that lines the banks.
This really good section of whitewater ends as you round a right bend and encounter a cliff wall on the left that forms somewhat of a bowl shaped amphitheater. It's pretty spectacular, and the view is highlighted by the blue-green water and Eagle Rock downstream on the horizon (on a clear day).
From here it's just a short distance through mellow class 2 to the confluence with the North Umpqua. When you enter the North Umpqua, it's quite a contrast from the lower volume creek you were just on. It's only a hundred yard dash or so to the takeout, or if you're needing more, continue down the North Umpqua all the way to Gravel Bin; it goes pretty fast at this flow and Pin-Ball gets pretty exciting.

We chose to run Steamboat instead, so we got out just below the confluence and loaded up before heading to that destination. Once again, I had not done Steamboat before, so was excited to finally get on it. That said, I wasn't super impressed with the run and definitely wouldn't drive down just to do it, but if I was in the area I might try it again. There is one class 5 which we all portage, and Steamboat Falls was a fun way to start the run (seen at the end of the video below).

Roman contemplates the line at Little Steamboat Falls
(our takeout for Steamboat Creek). The hazard is the
vicious hole on the right which feeds into a nasty undercut
wall. None of us wanted to roll the dice on this particular day.

All and all, a great day of boating with good friends. Thanks again Shawn for getting us down there, and for the work you've done with the Forest Service on its behalf. It's made this classic runnable once again!

Here is some head-cam footage of our run down Copeland, in HD!

Copeland Creek by Kayak (head-cam) from Nate Pfeifer on Vimeo.


  1. Yet one more reason to move back up-north! Sweet!

  2. Yeah, it's a shame you never got to run it, but it does give you just one more thing to get back for...

  3. Great! I am not too late for this adventurous trip.