Middle Fork of the Salmon - water level for canoes? - Mountain Buzz
 



Reply
 
Thread Tools Display Modes
 
Old 11-14-2013   #1
 
Fort Collins, Colorado
Paddling Since: 2000
Join Date: Feb 2007
Posts: 58
Middle Fork of the Salmon - water level for canoes?

I did a little searching on the forums, but did not come up with much on water level for canoes on the Middle Fork.

My general impression is that one could most likely run the Middle in August or September in kayaks or canoes, but that rafts might be tricky, especially if they were heavily loaded. In low water, I understand that some folks fly in to Indian Creek, or at least fly heavy gear into Indian Creek. Is there a specific low water level at which we might see more problems? The expectation would be that this would be a canoe group, maybe with some duckies. If we had a raft with us, it would probably be a 13 foot raft.

I did the Main Salmon this September in a group that included one retired couple, maybe 70 years old, in a tandem canoe. They had canoed the middle fork and thought that it was not all that hard, maybe easier than the Main, at least at low water.

I loved the Main, maybe the best trip I have been on. We had four canoes in our group, and we all swam at least once. One member of our party swam somewhat more often than the rest of us, and elected to take out before Vinegar creek rapid. We ran it essentially self-supported, which is how I usually paddle.

I like the option of waiting til the end of the lottery season, which is what we did on the Main.

Any comments would be appreciated.

Richard

__________________
Open boater.
raferguson1 is offline   Reply With Quote
Sponsored Links
Advertisement
 
Old 11-14-2013   #2
 
cataraftgirl's Avatar
 
Sandy, Utah
Paddling Since: 1997
Join Date: Jun 2009
Posts: 3,344
There have been lots of threads on Middle Fork water levels. I'd go with the general advice given to rafts if it's your first time down. The advice you get will be dependent on people's tolerance for getting stuck and the extra work that goes along with a low water (under about 1.7 ft.) launch from Boundary Creek. Some folks wouldn't miss the top section for anything, even if it means more work & a lighter load of food/beer/luxury items. My group always flies in to Indian Creek in September because we like layover days & less stress. Our cut-off water level for a MF from Indian Creek is 1.5 ft. That is our tolerance level, and definitely not what all people will choose. Many folks will go lower than that. My only trip with canoes on the MF was a July trip at about 2.5 ft. and they did fine. They were experienced whitewater canoe paddlers. As for raft size, we take 14, 15, and 16 ft. rafts down from Indian Creek without any big problems.....other than the unavoidable moments of getting stuck, which will happen to everyone no matter what.
cataraftgirl is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 11-14-2013   #3
Shapp
 
the grove, Oregon
Paddling Since: 1986
Join Date: Jul 2008
Posts: 1,785
Quote:
Originally Posted by cataraftgirl View Post
There have been lots of threads on Middle Fork water levels. I'd go with the general advice given to rafts.
As a rafter, kayaker and canoer, this is crazy advice. You can generally canoe a river much lower than rowing a fully laiden 14' raft or cat. You can get a canoe and kayak through stuff, a raft could never get through without getting stuck or portage. I run lots of stuff a raft or cat could never touch due to width between boulders at low flow. There are plenty of trip reports and vids of canoes on the MF on youtube and vimeo. Check those out and email those folks for specifics.
These are not my vids, but examples of low flow MF canoes:



shappattack is offline   Reply With Quote
Sponsored Links
Advertisement
 
Old 11-15-2013   #4
 
cataraftgirl's Avatar
 
Sandy, Utah
Paddling Since: 1997
Join Date: Jun 2009
Posts: 3,344
[My general impression is that one could most likely run the Middle in August or September in kayaks or canoes, but that rafts might be tricky, especially if they were heavily loaded. The expectation would be that this would be a canoe group, maybe with some duckies. If we had a raft with us, it would probably be a 13 foot raft.]

I'm sure canoes will be much easier at low water, but the OP said they might have a raft along on the trip as well, and since they've never done the MF before, I'll stick with my general advice. Better to have the knowledge & plan ahead than go into the situation blind. Canoes & a 13 ft. raft that isn't overloaded should be fine, but you know what happens when the raft goes along......gear pig city! Watch those canoe videos and then decide how you want to do your trip.
cataraftgirl is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 11-15-2013   #5
 
mgpaddler's Avatar
 
Cottonwood Heights, Utah
Paddling Since: 1972
Join Date: May 2009
Posts: 66
Always nice to see another canoeist on the water. Not sure given your description what level you paddle at but I will make some assumptions based on the report of swimming on the Main. If you don't have a roll or at the very least a strong brace I would keep my Middle Fork Salmon levels under 3 feet on the Gauge (MF Lodge). You will find it gets much easier as you drop in level. There is no minimum water level for a canoeist on the MFS. Sept levels will be quite enjoyable for you. Go from Boundary and really enjoy the upper stretch without nearly as many people as you would normally see. The water at that level could be technical for you but if you employ eddy hopping practices you will find it playful. There will be some areas that are pushy but relatively benign if you get knocked over. Pistol, Tappan Falls, Cove Creek, and Devils Tooth come to mind. All have pools for an easy recovery. Sulphur Slide, Hells Half mile to Velvet, The Chutes, and Power House should be approached cautiously due to broach and wrap potential.
If you want a primer on the MFS at low water go up stream and run the Marsh creek section to Dagger falls. It becomes a class 2-3 Mountain stream in the later season and will show some of the same Characteristics of the upper stretch of the Middle. It's an awesome day trip for escaping the Payette crowds and a true wilderness setting. If you find that enjoyable, you will like the MFS and it's slightly bigger proportions.
By comparison, the Main even at low water, is much easier technically but has bigger drops. Alder Creek, Black Canyon, and Vinegar will likely be pushier than the MFS drops I mentioned.
Happy Paddling,
mgpaddler is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 11-15-2013   #6
 
Join Date: Feb 2005
Posts: 786
I am not an expert canoer (canoeist?) by any stretch, but I canoed the Main in August a couple summers ago and I rafted the Middle Fork at low water (2.3) this summer. I had no swims or even rolls on the Main, but I think I would have had some issues with the MFS in a canoe. It's just a lot tighter, and there are a lot more moves to make (especially in the Boundary to Indian Creek section). I guess it comes down to what you are comfortable with, but the lines on the Main are wide open and easy to hit at low water. On the MFS it's a lot tighter, and I would want better control over a canoe than I currently possess. (FYI - I am pretty stable in a canoe after years of kayaking, but I am not an expert at maneuvering with a one bladed paddle).

That said, the MFS fairly slow and pretty forgiving at low water, and I wouldn't be too worried to take a swim on that river at low flows.
BrianK is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 11-15-2013   #7
 
pocatello, Idaho
Paddling Since: 1991
Join Date: Feb 2010
Posts: 471
It is all about setting the expectations bar in the right place.

Expect to have some tricky spots, to swim some and to have times where it feels just a little like work.
If you go in expecting a leisure cruise with no effort and no quirks you are going to be disappointed.

The base flow in recent years has been about 1.6 during boatable weather.

My absolutely useless scale of MFS difficulty for a rafter:
1.6' and below- Bring your A game and a pin kit. Leave all of the junk home and enjoy the river without icy beverages. Expect to be alone. You will get stuck often and hard. Lines are often the choice between ugly and less ugly rock slots.
1.6 to 1.8- Still extremely boney. leave the junk home. Fly gear in if you must. You will get stuck in places. It is possible to have relatively clean runs in every rapid.
1.8 to 2.0- Pretty boney. If you read water well you will scrape over rocks without having to get out and push a lot. Consider a small cooler.
2.0 to 2.2- Don't bring all the junk you own, but don't starve. Skilled rowers lightly loaded shouldn't have to get out and push but might get hung up for a few seconds here and there.
2.2'+ bring beer.


I'm not the expert by any means but I do have 6 trips off the top under my belt below 2', which is generally the cutoff for average parties to start flying in at mile 25.

Below 2' the top 25 is largely rock dodging. Velvet and lake/pistol are notable exceptions. They have significant drops but nice recovery pools.
After 25 miles the river feels bigger and the rapids are more powerful but less technical and less continuous. In fact the middle 30ish miles are pretty easy.

I am not a canoeist but I do kayak with a few. Your skills would need to be solid but not exceptional. I'd classify the river as technical class III below 2'. In some ways the main is harder for a canoe just because it has so much more power. But the main is straight forward. So if you were struggling or uncomfortable it might not be time to step up. MFS is more remote, much more technical and has fewer rescue options.
In general for a canoe I would say the less water you have the easier it gets. There is more time to make moves, the same basic lines are still open and you have less pressure on a pin or broach.
For rafts this is less true as some lines close down and sometimes it seems they go away entirely.

My groups have been comfortable putting inexperienced boaters in duckies and letting them fend for themselves. They sometimes swim, sometimes get bruised in the process but it isn't that big of a deal.
Swims could potentially be long and brutal if the swimmer freezes up, is not in good shape or just plain unlucky.
If you put any effort into your skills and fitness over the summer a MFS fall trip would be a capstone on the year.


My last trip was 1.7 at the launch. I ran a 15' cat solo packed like a backpacker and never got hung up bad enough to get out and push. I was hung up maybe 4 times, never for more than 15 seconds. Usually because I was trying to take photos rather than read ahead.

My first trip was at 1.64ish. A group in front of me launched with 2 rafts and a ducky for 3 people. Both rafts were loaded with enough gear to support an expedition. They had a 30+ minute head start. I caught them just around the first bend, they had just used a z drag to pull a raft off a big rock. I followed them for about 3 miles. They were really struggling to make the moves, dragging through the shallows and generally working very very hard. The kayaker seemed pretty happy and had no trouble making the moves despite seeming to be the beginner on the trip.
I was loaded light and would just fish in an eddy while they drug boats over and through rock gardens. They were moving at about 1.5 MPH. After I finally passed I made 32 miles including numerous fishing stops.
Despite being a bit of a train wreck they seemed to be happy. To them it was worth it to have the comforts of home along on an 8 day trip. They seemed prepared to wade a lot, bump and grind and generally bounce down the river off of rocks. Different strokes I suppose.

Also, Buy the Leidecker guidebook. it is awesome.
fiya79 is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 11-15-2013   #8
 
BV, CO
Paddling Since: 96
Join Date: Feb 2009
Posts: 1,453
Thanks for that "fiya79". How low do you think a self support kayak could go?
Phil U. is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 11-15-2013   #9
 
pocatello, Idaho
Paddling Since: 1991
Join Date: Feb 2010
Posts: 471
Never too low IMO

But I have a high tolerance for long days and a low need for equipment.
fiya79 is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 11-15-2013   #10
 
BV, CO
Paddling Since: 96
Join Date: Feb 2009
Posts: 1,453
Quote:
Originally Posted by fiya79 View Post
Never too low IMO

But I have a high tolerance for long days and a low need for equipment.
Yesss! That's good to hear. Thanks...
Phil U. is offline   Reply With Quote
Reply


Tags
canoe

Thread Tools
Display Modes

Posting Rules
You may not post new threads
You may not post replies
You may not post attachments
You may not edit your posts

BB code is On
Smilies are On
[IMG] code is On
HTML code is Off
Trackbacks are Off
Pingbacks are Off
Refbacks are Off


Similar Threads
Topic Thread Starter Forum Replies Last Post
Middle Fork Salmon High Water Info Oregon595 Whitewater Kayaking 15 06-01-2011 09:43 PM
June 10th MF Salmon what is safe water level reuben Whitewater Kayaking 19 03-29-2011 11:36 PM
Shuttle Options and Water Level on Main Salmon backwardsraft Kayaking | Trip Planner 8 09-21-2010 02:05 PM
Idaho Main Salmon and Middle Fork High Water eideho River Access & Safety Alerts! 0 05-22-2009 05:17 PM
Middle Fork Of the Salmon Full_Tilt Whitewater Kayaking 4 05-04-2004 11:46 PM

» Classified Ads
Powered by vBadvanced CMPS v3.2.3

All times are GMT -6. The time now is 09:21 PM.


Powered by vBulletin® Version 3.8.8
Copyright ©2000 - 2020, vBulletin Solutions, Inc.
vBulletin Security provided by vBSecurity v2.2.2 (Pro) - vBulletin Mods & Addons Copyright © 2020 DragonByte Technologies Ltd.