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Little South Trip Report 06.15.2014:
Rumor is no one has run little south in a year or two. Fables of it being choked with wood, ravaged by fires or douched with floods were everywhere on the internet. So what better a time to go see if it was true!!?

Overall experience was a fantastic day, a BIG day, but a fantastic one. The scenery was amazing and the level was perfect. That said… it was a long day. It took us 9.5 hrs from put in to take out with a break for lunch.

Flows splashed between 72 and 80 on the newly replaced bridge gauge as we noticed post launch the old one was wrapped around a tree 1000’ downstream. Armed with two water proof radios we began hopping eddies around corners working on our signaling vocabulary. I mention the radios because they were invaluable for those blind corners with two and a half eddies. I would not recommend anyone go with a group larger than 4 without radios.

Throughout the day we had a total of 4-6 portages, plus two non-portages that were a tight squeeze after a scout. Most of the wood was fresh falls of bank eroded trees that fell directly across the river in the boogie water of the run. That said, keep an eye out and stay well spaced to grab last second eddies. Both the first and second gorge were passable. The third gorge… was not.

The forest was baked out back there, but it is beautifully recovering. Black match stick trees stand from valley to peak with a heavy green and yellow carpet of grass and flowers. We even saw a full size black bear. But don’t expect to portage any of this beauty, trees only fall across rivers and in heavy woods.

My opinion: Get it while you can, but don’t expect it to be easy.
 

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9.5 hrs? Holy shit! I did it in 2011 and remember being glad that we brought playboats to do Steven's down afterwards so it was worth the drive. Isn't it only a couple of miles? I think we did it in an hour or two max and most of that time was pulling out a submerged boat we found in the middle of the river.

Did you spend all your time climbing in and out of gorges looking for wood or what?
 

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It's an 11 or 12 mile run and 2011 was before that whole 87,284 acre fire thing, plus you had prior trip reports to go by, but I appreciate your sarcasm. go for it and post your new lap record for me :)
 

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SarahofTheWaves
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2011 was also after Eric Norse (RIP) and friend went in during the winter and did some trimming. That made the run fun and not so grueling.

Adventeur did you portage third gorge on river right? That killed me last year. They were doing a lot of helicopter work in the area. After our run, they closed access.

No water proof radios, but we had Pagel to save our butts.

Sarah
 

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yep, third gorge was four full sieves plus two partials. walked all the way from the right bend entering the gorge to the bottom of the island which is sieved out on both sides. Left could be cleaned, right is gruesome. If someone were to go in there and cut wood out they should bring a "saw" with a blade that is at least 20" and preferably the gasoline powered. but that is highly illegal and I would never recommend anyone do that.

And sorry to hear about Eric, someone mentioned him on our trip and I understand why he would do that.
 

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Was actually serious about wondering what took so long, esp. given the recommendation to go run it. We not doubt benefited immensely from the prior cleaning fest. I remember lots of class II/III and a couple of fun stretches of whitewater in the gorges. My notes said it was beautiful and fairly remote (we saw a moose), and I was glad I did it but the whitewater wasn't worth rushing back for. That was with only having to deal with a few minor wood issues. Good for you for getting off the beaten path though. I think exploration is the best part of boating.
 

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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.
 

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