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Old 08-16-2016   #1
Seattle, Washington
Join Date: Aug 2013
Posts: 29
Lower Salmon Questions

Hi guys,

First wanted to thank all the responses I got from folks regarding a trip I was considering on the Rogue with a family that was pretty inexperienced. I ultimately decided to change rivers to the Lower Salmon. Shappatack has been huge in doling out advice - I want to give him a break though as I have both called and emailed him with question after question.

So, we are heading out next week and my question is how low is too low for the flows. The BLM recommends not running if under 2500 cfs. I have seen others say they wouldn't run it under 3 K. Right now the flows are at around 3700 and have dropped over 1000 cfs over the last week. I realize that some of the rapids get more technical with lower flows and that new rocks become exposed in Snow Hole making it a little less straightforward. I hear there is a rental boat currently wrapped in Snowhole (on the left side so obviously they did not choose the right line) - I definitely do not want the family I am taking + kids to be in the same boat.

A related question: at lower flow does it become possible to walk kids around Snowhole?

Any thoughts appreciated and again thanks for all the great advice/ experience you folks bring to the forum. I hope some day to start contributing more



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Old 08-16-2016   #2
Bean77's Avatar
Rathdrum, Idaho
Paddling Since: 2015
Join Date: Aug 2016
Posts: 6
My dad just got off the Lower Salmon today, and we also ran it the first week of August. He said it's the lowest he's ever been on it, and most of the rapids were a lot less fun and more about picking your way through the rocks. They didn't have to worry about finding camps every night, but he said he's done with the Lower Salmon this year until the flow comes back up.

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Old 08-16-2016   #3
Southern, Oregon
Join Date: Sep 2011
Posts: 36
Well, the Rogue cfs is up as of late (over 2k in GP). Have you considered the lower Deschutes?
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Old 08-16-2016   #4
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Post Falls, Idaho
Paddling Since: 2000
Join Date: Aug 2012
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There are some folks asking the same question on river rafters anonymous of Facebook. Might want to join the conversation there.

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Old 08-16-2016   #5
shappattack's Avatar
Up North, Oregon
Paddling Since: 1985
Join Date: Jul 2008
Posts: 1,149
Bean77's dad must not have been on the lower salmon much. The current flow is 3740 cfs at 9:30 pm Pacific time on the USGS Whitebird gage. Median flows for Aug 16 are about 5000. 25 percentile flow (75% exceedence) for Aug 16 is 3720. The 75% exceedence is a good rule of thumb for a somewhat dry year, not a drought and not all that uncommon. Basically you have a 75% chance of that flow being equaled or exceeded each year, or in other words about a 25% chance that it will be lower than 3740 in each year. Another simple way to think about it is that a flow this low has a chance of occurring at this time of year in about 1 of every 4 years. Low but statistically pretty common. I floated the lower salmon in mid august 2007 on a 1 boat trip and the daily flow ranged from 3150 to 3350 cfs on this trip. By no means skinny whatsoever and totally enjoyable, We passed a couple 20 foot ROW gear rafts. Some pics at 3200 cfs from 2007. Its a big river, even at real low water its plenty to take 20 foot rigs loaded full of custy crap. For reference, its about like asking if the lower Deschutes is ever too low to float a huge raft down. Dave, feel free to talk off line anytime.

I think there is a big difference in perception of what "picking your way through the rocks" means. I wouldn't characterize it that way at this flow, its still big and deep.



We past these fine ladies on the trip in 2007, If they can get down easy at 3200 cfs you will be just fine:
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Old 08-17-2016   #6
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salmon, Idaho
Paddling Since: 2004
Join Date: Mar 2012
Posts: 639
Why not the upper salmon.. there is a permit open for almost every day right now.. we ran it at -28" last year..

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Old 08-17-2016   #7
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Up North, Oregon
Paddling Since: 1985
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Originally Posted by codycleve View Post
Why not the upper salmon.. there is a permit open for almost every day right now.. we ran it at -28" last year..

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That would be a better trip, but not sure the OP has the time, and it is a tad harder rowing for his inexperienced friend/family.

Mostly a time issue I bet. From Seattle, it is a long way to Corn Creek, I did that drive once. Toting kids and reasonable stops for food and pee, it is a 12 hour drive at least. So really you might want at least 1 or 1.5 extra days just for travel. The shuttle fee is more than double per rig. Also the trip is a lot longer so more days on the river (a positive if you have the time, not so good if you have limited days). I agree though, if you could score a permit, all things being equal, its a way better on-river trip on the Main Salmon.
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Old 08-17-2016   #8
Strangeville, Idaho
Paddling Since: 1978
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Walking around Snowhole

I am not positive, but I am pretty sure your passengers could walk around Snowhole rapid, preferably down the river left side. I have seen people about half way down the rapid on the left bank and assumed that is what they were doing, but I'm not sure. It looks like you could. That being said I doubt if you would need to. I have been down it a couple of times below 3,000 cfs, I think the lowest was around 2,600 cfs and it is very runnable in a 16 ft. boat. When it gets that low, you are moving through the drops/rapids pretty slowly and you have a lot of time to miss obstacles. Being with a green crew I would recommend that take your time and scout many of the rapids, and keep the boats of the less experienced boaters a little lighter. I personally think the fast cfs decline will slow a little, the nights are getting a little longer and cooler, I think you will have a great trip, and the rapids on the lower will definitely be a little easier to run at this level than the main. I have taken quite few pretty green rowers down this river and they have always done fine - a great place for them to cut some teeth if they are with a good crew.
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Old 08-17-2016   #9
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Rathdrum, Idaho
Paddling Since: 2015
Join Date: Aug 2016
Posts: 6
@ shappattack: We usually run it in July to mid-August, so just used to it at higher flows than 4000. I think he just prefers the slightly higher flows, not that it's unrunnable. Nice to know it's still good at 3100 as I'd like to do a September trip this year

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Old 08-17-2016   #10
dirtbagkayaker's Avatar
Bazzaro, World
Paddling Since: 2020
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Posts: 1,323
The lower rarely gets this low. I don't think it will get too much lower. Kids can walk around snowhole. Pine bar will be the biggest hit! If your in a 14' or bigger boat you'll need to try hard to put in wrong side up.

Bound is boatless man
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