Monday, March 12, 2007

Weekend High Water: Chickening out on Class III

If you live in the Northwest, you know that we were pounded with rain this past weekend. The big rains were coupled with rising freezing levels and rapidly melting snow, which translated into big rivers throughout most of Cascadia. Our backyard runs went from way too low on Saturday morning, to way too high by Sunday afternoon. Last I checked the Middle Fork of the Nooksack was running ~3500 cfs, about 4 times the recommended flows...

So, a few of us from Bellingham went searching for Big Water Class III fun up in Canada, which sounded like a nice way to warm up for the season and enjoy some of the water. The crew consisted of myself, Jon Dufay, Chris Tretwold, Ryan Bradley and Dirk Fabian.

Rallying through the rain in the Fraser River valley.

The plan was to hit the Chehalis River, which we paddled at high water last November. The run is long, the canyon is scenic, and the river itself is usually not that intimidating. However, when we arrived at the take out we found full sized trees floating out of the canyon and the water was about a meter higher than our November trip. We estimated flows were between 5,000-7,000 cfs, a good bit higher than the recommended 2,000. We quickly assessed our lack of recent boating missions, the continuing heavy rains, and the mobile strainers and high tailed it to more familiar territory.

Chehalis take out, a full meter higher than our last high water descent, with full sized trees floating out of the canyon.

Tucking tails and running away from the high water Chehalis option.

The Chilliwack River is just about due south from the Chehalis across the Fraser River. However, when we got to the take out we found that the Chilliwack was actually on the low side of medium. Slesse Creek was dumping in tons of mud which made the run look threatening, but there really wasn't that much water.

Chilliwack take out. Brown water and the smell of earth in the air, but flowing on the low end of medium. ???

We cruised up to the alternate put in on Foley Creek, which had been devastated in the last big winter floods, and proceeded to bash our way down the low, tree filled brook and then on to the Chilliwack proper. The Chilliwack itself has changed quite a bit since I last boated it. The last mile or so is deeply incised into the river bed, and there is lots of new wood in the lower gravel bars, but most are easy to see from above.

All in all, a satisfying day of early season boating. Now we just need to wait for Clearwater to come back in so we can go assess the much talked about changes since the storms this past winter.

Heading up to the alternate put-in on Foley Creek, which was likewise a bit low. Check out the channel on the right side of the picture left by the winter 06-07 floods.

Dirk bashing his way down a typical bony Foley drop. Plenty of wood in there now.

No comments: