Can somebody clue me in ato what happens on the Main Salmon when flows are above 50K? - Mountain Buzz

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Old 05-28-2011   #1
Pendleton, Oregon
Paddling Since: 2005
Join Date: Feb 2010
Posts: 62
Can somebody clue me in ato what happens on the Main Salmon when flows are above 50K?

I've heard everything from "things get crazy" to "everything washes out" So which is it? Of course I am talking about change in rapids


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Old 05-28-2011   #2
Gnarnia, Colorado
Join Date: Jun 2006
Posts: 659
I ran it in '06. It was 92,000 cfs at Whitebird when we launched. The Main at that level was HUGE. The gauge on the ramp (brass numbers embedded in the ramp) at Corn Crk. was at 11 ft. The sign at the put-in that explains river levels says that 8ft = 32,189 cfs and is rated "extreme". The sign doesn't even list water levels above 8ft. At 11ft we estimated the water to be running 52,000 cfs at the put-in. The water was scary because it was so big, fast and cold. But even scarier were the trees - not logs - trees that were floating down the river. We had 3 18' oar rigs and 3 17' dories. We also had two safety boaters in creek boats. We made huge miles very, very quickly. We'd average 25 miles in 2 hours. I had a GPS with me and according to it we hit 22 mph in one rapid on the second day. The boils, eddies and seams were nuts. Much more so than any of the rapids. I'd never seen literal eddy 'fences', which were tough to deal with. One of the hardest things to do each day was to break the eddyline to get into camp. The biggest rapids were Killum, Big Mallard, Elk Horn and Whiplash (huge). There were other big ones but these stand out in my mind. A lot of the rapids were washed out, like Salmon Falls. The waves were huge and the holes were the biggest I'd ever seen. We hit some waves that the 18' rigs barely made it over. You'd almost crest, think you were not going to make it, then the front of the raft would creep over the top of the wave and you fly down the backside. It was awesome. One of the guys on the trip is a Grand Canyon guide (has been for 30 yrs) and he was even surprised by some of the rapids and their size and power. The camping was interesting since there were no beaches. We camped in forest every night. In fact, I don't even remember seeing any sand the whole trip. It was definitely an expert run at that level. Not so much because of the rapids but because if you had a problem, a flipped raft, swimmers, etc. The speed and temp of the water would have made rescue very, very difficult. Fortunately, we didn't have any incidents. All in all, it was an amazing experience. Some of the biggest water Idaho had seen in the previous 10 years and it was great to be on it.
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