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Old 11-30-2014   #1
Boulder, Colorado
Join Date: Feb 2007
Posts: 42
Middle Fork of Salmon Report - canoes in low water

Having asked a few questions earlier in the year about a low water run on the Middle Fork of the Salmon, I thought that I should post a brief report on our trip.

Four canoes launched at Boundary Creek Sept. 27th, gauge about 1.7 ft. Our first broach occurred within sight of the ramp, perhaps an omen of the difficulty of the trip. I and others kept getting hung up on rocks, and often were unable to maneuver due to dragging on rocks. One member of our party flipped three times on the first day; we made only 9 miles the first day. Things got better after that. The only boats we saw on the upper sections were two rangers, each in a large raft. They seemed to do better than we did in terms of hanging up.

Perhaps the most interesting thing was that three of our of four Royalex canoes suffered significant damage during the trip. One crack, one hole, and one broken thwart. I have never been on a trip where the canoes received that kind of damage. Serious fiberglass work occurred after we got back.

Three of us had conventional whitewater canoes, lots of rocker and around 13 feet long. One guy had done it before and ran it paddling solo in a 17 foot tandem canoe; he generally made it look easy, although his boat was damaged.

Would I do it again? No, not at 1.7 feet in a canoe. Too much damage, too much getting hung up on rocks.

It is a cool trip, however, especially the last day. I wish that we would have had a bit more water.

Open boater.
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Old 11-30-2014   #2
Paddling Since: 96
Join Date: Feb 2009
Posts: 1,373
Thanks for the report. How experienced were you before the trip? It seems odd to me that rafts could get down something that a 13' canoe could not.

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Old 11-30-2014   #3
Boulder, Colorado
Join Date: Feb 2007
Posts: 42
I believed that the group was very experienced, with folks having successfully run Deso-Gray, Gates of Lodore, Yampa, and the Main Salmon, among others. Most of us paddle two or three weeks a year, and have done so for many years. As is common on canoe trips, it was an older crowd, generally around 60 years old. The guy who had the most trouble was more experienced than I am. Yes, there are better paddlers out there, but everyone was a good boater.

We did not expect that the low water would cause as many problems as it did. My boat had the most rocker, which may have contributed to me getting hung up on rocks more than others. The 17 foot boat probably drew the least water, which I think helped him, especially in the early going.
Open boater.
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Old 11-30-2014   #4
Paddling Since: 96
Join Date: Feb 2009
Posts: 1,373
Gotcha. Kind of disappointed to hear that. Have been thinking about self supporting in there in my 10' kayak at that kind of level.
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Old 11-30-2014   #5
Boulder, Colorado
Join Date: Feb 2007
Posts: 42
One of the advantages of a canoe is that it is relatively easy to get in and out of. We got in and out a lot.

I would suggest that if you want to do a low water trip in a hard shell kayak, fly to Indian Creek. The scraping mostly occurred above Indian Creek.

The rangers seemed to do well, but they knew the river. However, I think that a big boat, lightly loaded, might be the ticket for low water, and that was what they had.

Not sure if the material in your kayak is slipperier than Royalex. We think of Royalex as relatively slippery.
Open boater.
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Old 11-30-2014   #6
Paddling Since: 96
Join Date: Feb 2009
Posts: 1,373
Kayaks are slippery enough. Are the rocks sharp or rounded in there? I would expect rounded. I spend a lot of time kayaking quite low water though usually not in a loaded boat. BTW, 60s are a great time to be boating...
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Old 12-01-2014   #7
cataraftgirl's Avatar
Sandy, Utah
Paddling Since: 1997
Join Date: Jun 2009
Posts: 3,121
We do the MF every rafts & duckies......from Indian Creek. The upper section is way too much work, even in rafts. We run our rafts a little soft to "slime" (slide) over the rocks. We still get stuck a little bit here and there. Having done low water MF trips in a cataraft many times, and now a raft once, I can say that the raft didn't get stuck as much as the cat. We went in early Sept. this year at 1.7ish feet, and this was my best MF ever. My guess is that inflatables will deform to slide over the rocks, where canoes aren't able to do that. Throw in the canoes length at 13+ feet, and I can understand how you were getting stuck a lot, even with the maneuverability of the canoe. Just too many rocks to dodge. Maybe borrow some duckies and try it again from Indian Creek. I've seen self support duckies many times. Bummer that your canoes got damaged.
"We are all visitors to this time, this place. We are just passing through. Our purpose here is to observe, to learn, to grow, to love....and then we return home."
Australian Aboriginal Proverb
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Old 12-05-2014   #8
malloypc's Avatar
Albany, Oregon
Paddling Since: 2002
Join Date: Jun 2009
Posts: 256
Some friends from the LCCC (Lower Columbia Canoe Club) styled a late season Middle-Main trip last year, launching on the MFS at 1.63.
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Old 12-06-2014   #9
Jenks, Oklahoma
Join Date: Oct 2004
Posts: 1,408
I just watched the LCCC middle and main salmon video

One of the best videos for me that I have seen.

I grew up in the SE around Atlanta. Started my boating in Grumman Canoes and war surplus yellow rafts. Used to sky dive down in the Macon GA area with a local band's road manager who often brought band members to the jump fields. I became a life long boater and Allman Joys AKA Allman Brothers band follower. Moved out here and discovered western rivers with Middle and Main Salmon being favorites.
Yup, I am past 60, still boating and having fun just like this group.

This is one of the best filmed adventure videos I have seen and the music is unmatched.

The LCCC crew is just awesome to watch and the ones who created this video did a wonderful job for us to watch and hopefully follow the floats they illustrate so well.

Thanks for making my day!

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