Alright ladies and gents, here's the goods. I have already spoken with a few of you over PM but here is the spill. Videos at the bottom, 5 part series. This trip report applies ONLY to the flows at which we saw it and is in no terms meant to generalize the creek/river. Do your homework, do your scouting!
If you want to look at a SAT map of the run, click here: https://mapsengine.google.com/map/ed...Y.kFy_RqyEcsX4
Saturday May 17th:
It was a gorgeous day in the Eastern Oregon and the stoke was high. We arrived at Dale to drop off a rig and were greeted by a NFJD that was pumping good, about 3200 at Monument and still climbing. The road over the top was closed so a long shuttle up the MFJD Highway through Bates and down to Sumpter then back up to Granite and a little beyond, we were finally there. Granite Creek was a beauty. It looked deep, wide and ready for the pickin'. (Video Part 1.)
After a few turns things started to pick up a little and the valley closes in as the stream gradient increases. Pretty soon you're cruising right along. It became evident that things might get hairy so we pulled over to check things out. We picked our line as far as we could see and we went for it. This is the entranced of what I'm calling the "Upper Cascades". The rocks are sticky and the water is pushy, this little creek means business and it let my partner know that right away. He was tailing me nice and tight and missed a sneak by a few inches and the rest was history. Our agreement, being a wilderness trip in boats that were already loaded and of no use for rescue, was self rescue to shore and the upright guy would chase the other guys boat/gear. Bettis kept his boat on the first swim but spent a lot of energy trying to flip it and swim at the same time, not to mention some real good stingers to the kneecaps.
We got gathered back up and continued our journey. By now it was continuous 3's with holes that would hold and recirculate. The slow glimpses between fast sections were not enough to regather your breath completely and having swam, I'm sure it was even worse for Bettis. We were fine but we were aware of the potential ramifications of the situation. Even having not swam, I was already starting to feel the toll of the exertion. (Video Part 2)
Eventually we made it to another scout and quickly realized that we hadn't seen anything yet. I dubbed the place "Roughneck Gulch" (Video Part 3) and it is referenced in the map. It builds from Class 3's with a line to Class3+ and you gotta pick at least one hole to some Class 4 moves at the bottom with big wood danger, pushy corners and big holes. It's runnable, and someday I wanna shred it but you gotta be fresh. The trail on river left was nice so we portaged the section (appx. 1 mile-see map)
We put back in at the Lake Creek footbridge and headed down more 3's. The floating speed was so fast it really just seemed relentless. It was loud and the water was cold. It was amazing. The scenery that I had a chance to glimpse at was great but I never really got to enjoy it until I watched the videos afterwards. Enter the NF John Day....A quick look at a known Class IV drop that we named "Rip Torn" due to a sliced tube on the portage and we realized that @Wadeinthewater had seen a different animal (and still called it a IV<for different reason at his flow>- his video can be seen at:
and this drop is at 7:30.....) The drop can be seen towards the end of Part 4 of my video series.
After we put back in, we were spent. The river didn't let up. (Part 5) A couple more turns and we made camp for the night. We had lots of light but it was too dangerous to stay in the water. With dinner on, we took a walk down the trail on river right and scoped out "Ledges", a solid 3/3+ section with big strong holes and a Class 4 at the bottom. We'd tackle it in the morning.
Sunday May 18th:
We got woke up by a rainstorm that might have been the final straw in the end. It cleared up here and there but never went away and air temps were much colder. We were wet before we hit the water. And the GoPro was dead
. After dropping into Ledges, everything was on point at first but we both got crossed up over one of the meatier hits. I went over it backwards and Bettis sideways. One more just below and the crossed up Outfitter was upside down. I got myself spun around just in time to see B reaching up to grab a tube. He stayed with it for a bit, but again, it was too hard to flip and swim, he rode it into right side of the big hole at the bottom and got surfed for a few. I stayed tight but the line between navigating my own boat and trying to assist in some way was thin and a double swim would have been extremely dangerous this deep in the wilderness. He let go of the boat and swam to river left. I gave chase to his boat but no 'beaner meant holding his bow line in my teeth. Then my paddle was tangled in it. Then I came around the corner to Class 4 Granite Falls. I let his boat go.
A de-rig and ferry to retrieve Bettis and we were on the trail. We deflated my boat and started out. A few miles down and we found his boat...river left
. He swam like Phelps to get that thing. My man was solid and he had that red bomber back in the current in no time. I re-rigged and we set back out....The physical and mental demands had already taken their toll, though. A few miles down, a misjudged pour-over stuck Bettis hard. His bow was in the line I needed and my bump sent him into the upstream side of the hole. As the current swept me away, I watch my buddy getting hammered again and again. This hole was something I would normally hit with a smile but it's power was impressive and has given me new perspective. Again, his loaded boat was in my teeth but this time I made it to shore. I've never been so relieved to see someone walk around the corner.
By this point, things were as real as they could get. We were in the wilderness, we were wet, cold and out of time. We had to make a move. We beached the boats and stashed our gear and hiked that pig out. Our feet were bloody and blistered and we could barely move. Bettis retrieved our gear with ATV the next day like a BOSS and the rest is history.
That being said...I HIGHLY recommend that you get your ass in there and experience the wilderness of the North Fork John Day. The trip was dangerous, yes, but it was in the wilderness. It was incredible and we didn't even get to enjoy it all. The entire section above Dale is maybe the premier whitewater in Oregon that is East of the Cascades in my opinion, especially at high flows- save maybe for the Owyhee. Tacking on the Oriental to Dale section on a Dale-Monument float would be a crowd pleaser for sure.
Be smart. Know your limits. Bring more calories and less pleasantries.
Respect the River. It will eat you.