After a couple weeks of dry and/or cold temps in the Pacific Northwest, we were running out of boating options. Normally I'd wouldn't stress it too much, but one of our good buddies, Jason Naranjo (a former Oregonian), was flying up from San Diego for a couple days of boating, and the weather wasn't cooperating. Due to the weather situation, we were planning to head to the Smith River drainage in Northern Cali for the weekend, but I also wanted to get him on something local during the week. Jason arrived Wednesday afternoon, and the next day we were still unsure of what to do. After a lazy morning, I threw out the idea of a "park & huck" at Wildwood Falls, on the Row (rhymes with Cow) River, which drops about 16' to 18'. I had always wanted to run it, but had never actually made an effort to do so, or when I did, it was a little high with a pretty nasty hole. We checked the level online, and it was sitting around 650cfs (inflow to Dorena, here). We figured it would be a little low but still be at a fun runnable level. With a quick phone call we were also able to wrangle Roman into joining us, which wasn't hard since he was looking forward to meeting back up with Jason.
When we left town it was a blizzard of wind and snow. None of us spoke it but I knew we were all thinking, "why the hell are we doing this?!" Wildwood Falls is less than an hour away, and by the time we reached it, the winds had died down, the clouds had dissipated, and the sun actually showed itself! After giving the falls a brief scout we determined it was good to go down the right side of the main falls. The entrance was a little screwy, but we figured we could still line up on it, and heck, the consequences seemed pretty low since we knew it was plenty deep and there was really no hole to speak of. Roman offered to fire it off first while I setup for photos and Jason set safety.
Roman's first line went relatively well, but he did have to snap off a roll after being flushed away from the base. I had noticed that, above the falls, the current had pushed him left and toward the center rock outcropping, complicating his line a bit. seeing this, I planned further left and start driving right a little higher up; sometimes it's nice getting to watch your buddy go first...
Now my turn, I walked over to the lip of the falls to take one more look. After memorizing the line, I strapped into my boat and paddled toward my chosen entrance. Since the water was relatively low, the chute I chose was pretty dry, but with minimal effort I was able to make it through and set my trajectory. As I crossed over into the main current I too was taken off guard by its power and was also driven toward the center rocks. Luckily, it had somewhat of a pillow that deflected me back into the main line of the falls. I was able to get off a last minute attempt at a boof stoke and finished off the drop better than my entrance would have suggested. It was certainly a harder line than it appeared during the scout.
Jason went next and had a similar line to both Roman and me. I have to give it to him for coming off the couch and firing it up!
We each enjoyed more runs over the falls, with some lines being better than others. I believe Jason got in 2, I got in 3, and Roman took the cup with 5. On my last run I decided to give'er the old "Oregon Tuck" for kicks and giggles (come on, we are in Oregon). I ended up going pretty deep and resurfaced on a deep brace; fun stuff indeed!
I think we were all pretty surprised at how much fun Wildwood ended up being. It also brought back some memories, as the pool at the base of the falls was also the put-in for one of the first runs I had done in a kayak, and one that I had done with Jason many times during the first year of my boating career. Roman made the comment that we should run it more often for practice, since the line is somewhat challenging but the consequences are relatively minimal. I'd certainly go back for more, and would love to run it at higher flows when the center rock outcropping creates a boof option, it would probably make the lead-in a little nicer as well.
Some head-cam footage of our trip to Wildwood Falls: