In the summer of 2005 Jared and I each bought a kayak to take up to Lake Superior. We had heard of an area called the Apostle Islands where there were some magical sea caves carved out by the waves. Apparently the caves were large enough to kayak into, so we figured we had to go. After buying the kayaks and constructing a sketchy homemade roof-rack in the parking lot, we were on our way. Unfortunately, the trip didn't go as planned and kind of sucked. Nonetheless, we still had the kayaks and the gear that went with them. Over the next few years we would find pitifully few opportunities to take the kayaks out and it wasn't until we both moved to Portland, Oregon, that the real adventure started. In the late Spring of 2011 Jared and I started our mad dash to run Oregon's rivers. Our method was to utilize our new and improved homemade rack, my car, and a bicycle shuttle system whereby we would drop my road bike at the bottom of the run and I would bike up to fetch the car. This system ended up working out remarkably well. Here's a shot of the car at the put-in for our first-ever run on the Mollala River:
My bike had already been stashed at the take-out, but you get the idea. Anyway, with our old kayaks, new gear, and persistent determination, we set off on one run after another, chronicled below...
River (Click for Larger Pic) Location Difficulty/Length Date/Flow Notes
Feyrer Park to
The Mollala was a great first river choice. It was fast, continuous, and had several exciting but not too-dangerous drops. The flow was clearly above normal and we enjoyed cutting through the waves and learning to read the rapids. I would estimate that there were about 30 class I rapids, a handful of Class I+, and two Class II. The latter required some minor manuevering to avoid hitting obstacles at high speed, so that was really thrilling. The run took us about 90 minutes, and we were totally stoked on whitewater kayaking from that point on.
Unfortunately the Alsea was not a great choice as a second river. Driving two hours each way, I was expecting a more remote experience, and certainly less flatwater. As it turned out, we were required to paddle quite a lot to make up time, and the river was pretty slow. There were some rapids, perhaps a dozen class I and a couple class I+, but not really enough to keep our interest. Nonetheless it was a peaceful trip and a good learning experience. From this point on I expect to look for faster water and rivers closer to home.
This section of the Clackamas is one of the closest whitewater rivers to Portland. It was only a 15 mile drive to get to the take out. The river itself was pretty bloated, and this seemed to make it a bit less interesting, since there were very few exposed rocks. There were some sections of fast water with sizeable waves, but it was generally a very relaxed run. Fortunately the water was moving pretty fast throughout so we weren't required to paddle much. The entire run took about 100 minutes, and our total round trip time from door to door was about 5 hours, which was really good! I think for our next few outings we will look for Class II+ rapids.
Class II+ (III)
Jared and I decided to attempt this section of the Sandy river in the evening on the Friday prior to the 4th of July long weekend. Although the difficulty was rated higher than the rivers we had run thus far (and there was supposedly a class III rapid) I still felt pretty secure going into it. After putting in it took me longer than normal to get my wetskirt on, and by the time I did, Jared had already left and reached the first rapid. This would not have normally been a problem, except that it turned out to be the class III rapid! With no chance for a warmup, both Jared and I had trouble with it, although Jared fared far worse than I. When I arrived at the rapid I looked down to see Jared, below, in the water, and struggling to hold onto his capsized kayak! After running the rapid in the most circuitous way possible, I met up with Jared on the rocky, slopey shore, where I discovered that he had also broken his paddle. We were pretty unsure of what to do. I thought for sure that we would have to hike back up and abandon the run, but Jared seemed okay with continuing with a half-paddle, and so we did. As it turned out, the run was by far the most thrilling we'd done thus far, and we had an incredible time. There were probably eight or so class II rapids, each of which got the adrenaline flowing. Somehow neither of us capsized for the remainder of the run, although there were several places where I felt I was close to losing it. It's a miracle that Jared made it through with the one paddle. Awesome!
Mill City, OR
After running the Sandy River, Jared and I had a month-long break from kayaking while I was out of town. When I returned we immediately saddled up to try the North Santiam, which is about 90 minutes away, near Salem. This particular run turned out to be a gem. There were about a half dozen class II rapids which helped keep things interesting. A couple of them were particularly intense, and once again Jared was thrown from his boat. This time he managed not to break his paddle, however, so we were able to continue unabated. The run was also more scenic than expected, with a majority of it contained in woodlands without houses or other development in view. I think it was only slightly less intense than the Sandy, which is still our favorite run to date.
After Jared left town I needed a buddy to do a relaxing run with me, and Joe Lovato from my office stepped in. We did this moderate-length run early on a Saturday morning, putting in at exactly 8am. Overall the run was pretty mild with only two class II- rapids, the remainder being I or I+. It was very scenic and peaceful, however, and a good introduction to whitewater kayaking for Joe. At one point we had to portage around a small dam. This was the first portage of my whitewater kayaking 'career'. After the portage I developed an insanely intense itch on my bum, and this pretty much put me out of my mind until I solved it by wrapping my shirt around my waste and covering my bum with the dry cotton. Craziness!
Milo McIver Pk
Anthony and I decided to do this run on a rainy day since kayaking is so fun in the rain. We ended up getting less rain than we expected, but the run itself was really fun. There weren't a lot of class II rapids but those present were very fun. Anthony impressively picked it up right away. He swamped his boat on a large class II wave that managed to break through his wet skirt. I also had my first capsize when I tried to take a II- backwards and got pulled into a strong eddy. Overall this run was really enjoyable and close by. On to Class III!
So after doing seven runs in my first year of whitewater kayaking I have definitely fallen in love with it. I would say that I do not enjoy it quite as much as rock climbing, but it's certainly different and provides a unique and exhilirating experience. I look forward to breaking into Class III rapids next year!
Back to Index