Lower Salmon Trip Report and Shout Out - Mountain Buzz
 



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Old 09-01-2016   #1
 
Seattle, Washington
Join Date: Aug 2013
Posts: 42
Lower Salmon Trip Report and Shout Out

I wanted to send a shout out to all those on the Buzz who helped inspire me to lead a group of fairly green boaters and their families down the Lower Salmon. When I joined this forum in 2013 I had asked for advice on getting into rafting with the goal of eventually getting my wife and kids out on multi-day trips. I have since heeded a lot of your advice and by my count have logged over 300 river miles on multi-days, and many more on day trips. This trip was my first as trip leader responsible for all the planning and organizing a fairly large group, including 7 kids age 7 to 13. By the way, I wrote up a post yesterday that somehow disappeared - so if it magically pops up, forgive me for being redundant.

We ended up running from Pine Bar to Heller at flows of around 3300 CFS. I was somewhat concerned going with such low flows, but in the end I think it worked out as the slower flows were forgiving for the newer boaters and no one got stuck or wrapped. I was happy that we put in at Pine Bar - first off it is a pretty nice camp and we had it all to ourselves. Secondly, it allowed the first day to be mellow class 2, giving me the opportunity to assess the skills of the other boaters and do some teaching. The first night we camped at a nice sandy beach above Packer's Creek. It was a great spot but the only one we had any issue with bees (1 sting).

The second day launched us into some of the more notable rapids which, I realize, are not much for more experienced boaters. The first class 3 was Bodacious Bounce, which we quickly scouted (the BLM recommends scouting at flows < 4 K) - really it was just a fun wave train with no obvious exposed rocks. One kid got bounced out of the boat but was quickly pulled in by her mom. The next class 3 was Half and Half which we boat scouted from the eddy on river right. The river was moving so slowly it was easy for everyone - though if you didn't go left you would likely get stuck (I've seen some folks on You Tube go right at higher levels). Finally, we got to Snow Hole, the rapid I had been losing a little sleep over in the week prior to the trip, not being sure how well the newer boaters would take direction and follow my lead. We scouted it hard and I made sure everyone knew exactly where to enter and what boat angle to use. The boat from Minam is still wrapped on river left and looking ragged. At these low flows, it is hard to imagine how this could happen (no criticism implied) - I suspect at higher flows things are moving so much faster that you could get pulled in if you do not ferry to river right fast enough. I am sure there are various ways to run Snow Hole but it seemed following the downstream V on river right, angling your stern to the left and letting the current do all the work was the ticket. This is a little nerve wracking as the current seems to be pushing you straight into the big, ugly, mossy rock at the bottom - yet at the last minute the current pushes you to the left. Your instinct is to start ferrying to the left as you descend but to do so lines you up to hit another ugly, huge rock in the left part of the wave train. One of my friends did this but was able to correct at the last minute. As it turns out, the moms ended up walking the kids around Snow Hole - the one kid who had been tossed out at Bodacious was a little freaked. Other than some boulder hopping, it wasn't so bad but I suspect, as some had mentioned, the danger from snakes was higher than actually running the rapid.

We camped that night around Malhoney Creek - another great campsite. We did have some snake encounters there, including at the groover (which I promptly moved). The next day we scouted and ran China. This is one rapid definitely worth the scout, at least at lower flows. Once you get around the blind curve, you really have to hug that left bank or you are in a world of hurt. Scouting this rapid put an end to us letting kids join us for scouting (not that there was much more to scout). One of the 11 year olds jumped up on a rock a foot away from a rattler - they are so damn camouflaged I did not see it until she was right on top of the rock. It was unnerving but also a reassuring reminder that snakes are not aggressive and want nothing to do with you. The rest of day 3 was a mix of painful upstream winds in slack water and some nice class 2-3 runs as we reached Blue Canyon. It was also the only day we had trouble finding an unoccupied camp. We ended up having a long day and camping just above Checkerboard on river right at an unmarked but very nice site.

The next day we were only a few miles from the Snake. We did not scout Eye of the Needle, and there was no need to. The kids loved this drop! We ended up rowing about 8 miles down the Snake and camping at an awesome, flat beach on river left. It was a Sunday and jet boat traffic was moderate but not bad. The next day we got up early and rowed the remaining 14 miles before noon, with no wind!

This was a spectacular trip, and a perfect confidence booster for all of us. I appreciate those from the Buzz, especially Shapatack, who answered my PMs and helped me work up to this!

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Old 09-02-2016   #2
 
Canmore, People's Republic of Alberta
Paddling Since: 1982
Join Date: Aug 2013
Posts: 22
Did you put the groover towards the creek at Maloney? I took a look at the jungle of poison ivy and figured there would likely a few rattlers in the riparian zone. I threatened all the kids with tales of full body rashes and deadly snake bites if they ventured near the creek.

We just got off the river a week ago. Great trip. Snow Hole wasn't too rocky, but we've run it <3,000 so it seemed well cushioned compared to that (we've run it much higher as well). The Snake did almost double in volume one night so we had a few minor items swept away (camp high!). I heard a different group lost their raft during the night and had to hire a jet boat to go search for it. Hopefully they found it!
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Old 09-03-2016   #3
 
Chico, California
Join Date: Aug 2014
Posts: 2
Thanks for the detailed trip report and congratulations on getting the family out on the much awaited multiday. I am inspired! When my time comes, I might keep the snake talk to minimum with my wife and kids until we are on the drive to the put in.
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Old 09-04-2016   #4
 
Seattle, Washington
Join Date: Aug 2013
Posts: 42
Bruce. You are a wiser man than I. I initially put the groover near the creek in desperation (one of the kids was hopping up and down as soon as we got to camp). It didn't take long to learn it was not an ideal location.

That is crazy about the Snake. I had heard stories and made sure the rafts and IKs were tied down well.

Thanks for the feedback!

Dave


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Old 09-04-2016   #5
 
Canmore, People's Republic of Alberta
Paddling Since: 1982
Join Date: Aug 2013
Posts: 22
Dave, I used to catch rattlesnakes for a living (true story!). They can be anywhere, but riparian zones are good hunting grounds so I'm extra wary near shrubby creeks like that. Plus poison ivy sucks, with or without venomous snakes....


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Old 09-05-2016   #6
 
Seattle, Washington
Join Date: Aug 2013
Posts: 42
Hey Bruce. I wouldn't want your old job catching rattlesnakes. I do know better and quickly corrected my mistake. Any other general tips on keeping crazy kids from getting bit?

Thanks

Dave


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Old 09-06-2016   #7
 
Canmore, People's Republic of Alberta
Paddling Since: 1982
Join Date: Aug 2013
Posts: 22
I'm not as bright as I pretend to be. One day, after spending an hour beating the bushes and searching for snakes, my work partner and I started to sit down on a nice rock for lunch. There was a snake coiled up right there where we sat down. So they are very very good at hiding. You get pretty good at pattern recognition if you practice, but still, they are very very good at hiding.

Be very careful putting your hands and feet where you can't see them. Kids love to scramble and play around on rock piles and such. Bushes, long grass, wood piles, perfect terrain for a snake to hide in and an unforseen defensive strike. When in doubt poke a stick in first, see if anything rattles. A classic bite scenario is the guy at his cabin who goes out to grab more wood, reaches into the wood pile and gets bit. Same concept in natural terrain. Or heck, when in doubt, stay in the middle of the sandy beach and drink cold beverages
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Old 09-06-2016   #8
 
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Albuquerque, New Mexico
Paddling Since: 1985
Join Date: May 2012
Posts: 203
Where's Waldo the reptile.

We once found a rattlesnake coiled under the tie-off railing on the long boat dock that protrudes into the Snake river at Cache Creek station. The snake had likely made his way down the steep aluminum ramp to the floating dock and looked like a rope coiled in the 2" gap of the wooden mooring rail.
Plenty of rattlers and other biters here in NM but the biggest snakes I've seen are on the northern rivers. Be alert, especially with kids and dogs along.
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