Monday, January 2, 2012

Celebrating New Years on the Water

It had been a tough start to the kayaking season in the PNW, fraught with a cold/dry weather pattern. Probably the most unfortunate outcome was for my buddy Jason who was up visiting for the holidays from Southern Cali. You see, Jason was one of my most dependable boating buddies while he lived here in Eugene, so I was hoping to get on the water with him while he was in town. The first week he was here we had nothing, although we still had a good time just hangin' in town visiting some of our old haunts. Just when we started thinking that boating would not be in the cards for this visit, everything changed...

The following week we got 4 1/2" of rain in the period of a couple days, which was more than enough to send the rivers and creeks sky-high, signaling the true start to the boating season. Overnight, the mood in the boating community went from depression to elation, with the message boards and social media sites lighting up with plenty of giddy chatter. With that, we had plenty of local (Eugene) options available for the New Years' weekend, and we ended up hitting two of our favorite class IV/IV+ runs, Brice Creek & Upper Quartzville.

Brice Creek, OR (12/31/11):
Saturday morning the flows on Brice looked to be perfect, and good enough to bring a few other local boaters out of semi-retirement, including Eric Emerson (who I hadn't really boated with in a year), and Roman Androsov & Shawn Haggin who for various reasons hadn't been boating much the last couple of months -- okay, mainly due to poor water conditions... Whatever the case, it was really good to have elements of the ol' crew together on the water once again! We drove ~1 hour southeast to the takeout, where we confirmed we'd have excellent flow for both the Upper & Lower runs. Fired-up, we drove ~8 miles upstream to Parker Falls, one of the best put-ins to any creek I've ever run. Basically you pull out of an eddy, make a S-Turn through some fun hydraulics, and then drop down a ~20' sliding waterfall!

Roman makes some last minute adjustments
before dropping into Parker Falls

Roman drops down the last pitch of Parker Falls

Jason at Parker

Shawn takes his turn

The run-out below Parker Falls -- Beautiful!

Below Parker the creek winds its way downhill with a gradient of more than 200' per mile. This "Upper" stretch lasts for 3-4 miles and is basically one long boulder garden with a couple of ledges mixed in for good measure. The "Lower" run drops with half the gradient, but has more water and some pretty stout ledges throughout its 4-5 miles. Here are a couple shots of some of the action. For full trip reports of the both runs , which I put together last year, go here (Upper) and here (Lower):

Shawn drops down Bubble Trouble

Eric boofin' over the bottom hole of Bubble Trouble

Shawn slides into The Snake

Jason lines up The Snake

Jason goes for the boof at Orthodontist's Nightmare

Roman grabs for the boof at Upper Trestle

Roman scouts Lower Trestle. The hole on this one
is nasty, you're gonna wanna keep your bow up...

Jason shoulders at Lower Trestle

Shawn does it right at Lower Trestle

That night we rang in the New Year at our buddy Scott's house, who is also a boater, so there was plenty of talk about what everybody had run that day and were planning to run the following couple of days, which we still had off of work (or school). After a quick check of the water levels via smartphone technology, it looked like another one of our favorites, Upper Quartzville, would drop in. Having banked this run back to back with Brice is almost unprecedented!

Upper Quartzville (1/1/12):
This drive takes a little longer, a solid 1 1/2 hours to get to from Eugene. This time Jason, Roman, and I would be joined by Scott Bridgham and Bobby Brown, for another good sized crew. It's actually a very difficult run to catch in the winter, due to snow, but the lack of water when it was cold, and the warm front that accompanied the rain made it possible to do without hiking in. Since we planned to do two runs, we decided to skip the last mile which would also cutout a portage and some water that isn't as good as the top four or so miles. Once again, we had perfect levels and I won't get into the details of the run, but here are photos of some of the action. Like above, to see a full trip report that I posted last season, go here.

Loading up for a day on Upper Q

The Quartzville crew
(Bobby, Jason, Roman, and Scott)

Roman takes the slot at Grocker

Bobby goes for the boof at Grocker

Scott resurfaces

Bobby rounds the corner at D.f.B.

Collision course at D.f.B.

Roman at Corkscrew

Jason readies for impact at the bottom of Corkscrew

Scott on line at Corkscrew

The Author gets ready to drop into Corkscrew
(photo by Jason Naranjo)

The Author runs Corkscrew while Scott looks on
(photo by Jason Naranjo)

The Author below Corkscrew
(photo by Jason Naranjo)

Boater talk between laps

Well there you have it, a great couple of days of boating to finish off the old and bring in the New Year with my paddling buddies. I only hope 2012 will consist of many other good days on the water -- Bring it on!


  1. Nice post. How far of a drive would you say it is from Portland to Brice Creek?

  2. It's a solid 3hr drive from Portland -- definitely worth it if flows are good for an upper/lower combo. It can be a hard one to hit just right (flow wise), kinda like Hagen Gorge is.

    Let me know if you ever want to give it a go.