Armed with the recent update, we couldn't resist a revisit. Three of us - “Tree whisperer” Doug, “Blind corner” Ken, and Gezer John - launched yesterday at 9:45 with a level of about 68 (surging ~65-70). Doug led the way and frequently demonstrated his limbo and slalom skills, allowing us to quickly pass what seemed like innumerable trees in the water. By the end, we portaged four times, all due to trees. Three are mandatory and one might be optional. We arrived at the main stem at 3:30, including a relaxing 30-45 minute lunch. This is an average time for my past runs. I’d attribute our “quick” time to cold beer at the takeout and the absence of radios
Of the four portages, three were short and easy. The long one was around two trees and the log-jam in the final gorge (as described above). This really sucked. The flood modified the traditional scout-eddy on river left and none of us was badass enough to attempt the “new” eddy (or lack thereof), or ferry below the next tree, so we carried the entire mess on river-right to the log jam and ran the last couple ledges. The left chute (not preferred in the past) looks open enough to run, but most of the water is pushing right and failure to make the left channel would be memorable, at best, and possibly fatal. It would be really nice to remove the middle tree (in the picture), which would permit an easier portage and ability to launch into the left channel. Even better to remove all the trees, but the bottom log jam looks formidable.
My notes suggest the new gauge is very close to the old one. From past runs, and assuming the gauges are closely correlated, my guesstimate is that < 60 is too low; 60-65 = low; 75-80 = optimal for most; 85-90 = high but good (optimal for confident boaters); > 92 (95?) = too high. The hand-made gauge at the confluence with the main stem is gone. My highest run was ~90 and I thought it was fun. Strong boaters (much more skilled than me) have had white-knuckle runs at 95 and above. They reported that unlike many other high-water runs, it wasn’t fun. High water involves bombing around eddy-less blind corners at high speed, worrying about trees, and grabbing willows at the last minute. Of course, your mileage (and comfort level) may vary.
With the recent fire and flood, it’s a very interesting run to revisit. As noted above, this drainage is almost completely burned by what appears to mostly be high-intensity fire. The runnable beaver dam (a fixture for decades) is gone. My impression is that in general the river bed is cleaner, although there are still many annoying rocks in the later part of the run. There are a couple new debris fans from drainages that I never noticed. With foliage burned off most of the trees, and mostly only tree skeletons remaining, you can see a lot of topography that was previously hidden. Despite the fire and flood, the water was clear (but the long portage was messy and dirty).
Before the flaming starts, it’s worth noting this is a very scenic wilderness run, and at moderate flows it’s mostly class 3 with a few harder sections. Class 5 boaters looking for a thrill will be disappointed.
If I got this right, the first picture shows the old scouting eddy - used to be behind the obvious rock. You can also see the tree just around the corner. There's another tree about 50 yards above this picture (a mandatory portage at this level - maybe a ski jump at high water).
The second picture is the log jam.