Marsh Creek Report 2016
Hey there Mountainbuzzards...
I've been lurking around your site on and off for the last couple years, picking up some good info and some good laughs and thought I should finally contribute something... I just got off the Middle Fork on Saturday, maybe a 2016 Marsh Creek report will be of interest.
Our group of four kayaks and one raft put on Marsh on Sunday May 8 at about 6.2ft looking back at the graph. The flow had us a bit intimidated but we planned to proceed with caution and work our way down carefully. Photos on the forest service site from a week before we dropped in were showing logs across the river in at least a couple of places so we figured we may be in for a portage or two. Our strategy was to pack light(ish) and use radios to communicate between kayaks in front and raft and kayaks behind. We also had two people on the raft to deal with communication, provide a second set of eyes, and help with landing the raft on a small river with few eddys.
Marsh Creek on our first day went really smooth. It was stressful with the high water but the radio communication made it manageable. We encountered no river wide logs. We pulled up as a group once to scout, and once directions were relayed back on how to deal with a tight section. We also cut out two logs with a hand saw that extended into the river. Marsh has a slack bit in the final third of its length, we were calling it the lake section. Following the lake the river pitches off a bit steeper than anything else. I had a tip to scout there so we did. At over 6ft Marsh gets pretty gamey there droping through a series of diagionals then splitting around an island, then to a left turn and finally a 180 right. There was a clean route through this section but we opted to portage our whole show there cuz the line was tight; big log jam on the island and 2-3 logs projecting jousting style into the river. In the end the carry wasn't too bad with the trail on river right. We camped right there for the night, not the best camp but far from the worst. We also hiked down as far as where Bear Creek was pumping in a shitload of water. In retrospect we could have carried on to Bear where there is a great riverside camp on the right. As it was we were pretty drained. We had the time to split Marsh into two days and felt it better not to get drawn into a long day.
The next day was a bit of a white knuckled blur.... The river was cresting somewhere in the 6.4ft range and I think its safe to say Bear Creak was raging. We were also starting to see wood traveling with us. To add to the show the weather went from warm sun to cold with regular hail/snow storms. We pretty much got the full Marsh Creek experience. We adjusted our travel strategy on the second day and floated as a single group, no more need for the radios. The river below Bear Cr. (now the Middle Fork if I understand it correctly) was at a volume and width that river wide obstructions felt unlikely. The river there was definately bigger than we expected, and although we boat scouted right through to Dagger Falls, it was pretty nervy. Looking back we felt that the paddling through there was maybe slightly more difficult than anything on the rest of the Middle Fork at a couple of the blind corners. Mostly big wave trains but plenty of holes that could have easily turned our 14ft raft. One drop had 4 raft flippers stacked back to back and I was relieved to see our party intact at the bottom. As you approach Dagger the river splits around 3 or 4 islands just to keep you on your toes. We were all relieved to see the big yellow 'Dagger Falls Ahead' sign. Making the final stop was tight though with a couple of sizable logs bobbing in the takeout eddy. Of course the first order of biz was beers on the Dagger viewing platform where we saw the river wide log across the canyon just below the pack bridge. It would have been bad news to miss that eddy above Dagger.
That night at Boundry the river droped back to a friendlier looking level. We paddled the rest of the Middle Fork in the 5-6ft range (really great level) without seeing another party. It was my first time down the river and I was blown away by it right from Marsh to the Main... world class.
Marsh Creek seems to be a notorious approach and I can now see why. Its challenging. I'd be pretty hesitant to recommend it to anyone without knowing their skill and experience, at the water level we saw it at anyway. I would definately use it again to get to the Middle when the road is snowed in, preferably with a bit less water.