Trip Guide Category

Rogue River Staff Trip 2016 – a Wild & Scenic adventure

Rogue River Staff Trip 2016

Wild & Scenic Section:
Almeda Park to Foster Bar ~ 38 miles
October 25-27, 2016

This fall, as the flurry of summer faded, our staff took an opportunity for some R&R on the water.  It’s rare for the staff’s days-off to lineup for a single session, and a chance to go on a multi-day trip is exceptionally elusive.  So, despite a foreboding weather forecast (100% rain all week), we rallied two rigs, a trailer, and nine of us south to the Rogue River.

(Don’t forget to check out the three slide-shows at the end!)

Team Alder Creek

Back Row: Dave, Matt, Byron, Andrew, Paul. Front Row: Meloy, Alex, Ethan, Brent


Kobuk River Alaska 2016


Walker Lake, Alaska

Kobuk River, Alaska

Put In: Walker Lake

Take Out:  Shugnak

Mileage on Kobuk River: 125

Rapids: class III for ½ mile in upper canyon and class II for ½ mile in lower canyon

Fishing: Arctic Grayling at Walker Lake outlet and Sheefish along the middle Kobuk.

Who: 12 old friends


Custom Ross Island Tour

Custom Ross Island Tour!

Alder Creek runs a full schedule of classes and tours year round but is always available for group trips, team building, and custom programs of all kinds.  Last Friday, top notch Alder Creek guides Malcolm Kelly, Steve Pilch, Linda Neel and I led one such trip for Rothermel Financial Services.  We were quite a site as all 37 brightly colored boats made their way across the Willamette River and down to Ross Island.  Just as we approached Willamette Park from the South, two bald eagles appeared overhead as if to show us the way.  We all picked ripe blackberries and waded in the cool, refreshing waters of the Willamette before heading back to Oaks Park for a lovely lunch.  It was another great time on the water with fun people!  It’s always rewarding to get back onto the water and out into my preferred “office”.  A big thanks to Damien and Sarah from the Rothermel Group for taking such great care of their customers and for bringing them out for a custom Ross Island tour with us. 


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Ross Island Tour

Ross Island Tour

Ross Island Tour

Ross Island Tour

Ross Island Tour

Ross Island Tour

Ross Island Tour

Ross Island Tour

Ross Island Tour

Ross Island Tour

Ross Island Tour

Ross Island Tour

Ross Island Tour

Ross Island Tour

Ross Island Tour

Ross Island Tour

Ross Island Tour

Ross Island Tour

Advanced Creeking Clinic on Canyon Creek

Enjoy Dave Trageser’s recount of his Personal First Descent of Canyon Creek during an Advanced Creeking Clinic!
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“A successful descent of Washington’s Canyon Creek was on my bucket list for 2015.  This gem of a run located just outside of Amboy, WA, is a staple of the steep creeking community in Portland and a wintertime playground for whitewater boaters from all over the region due to its incredibly favorable fun to consequence ratio.  In my mind, I had pictured myself checking Canyon Creek off the list sometime in April or May once I had spent all winter preparing myself for such a steep, intimidating class IV run.  Part of this preparation was supposed to be participating in one of Alder Creek’s Advanced Creeking Clinics on a less committing run. However, the script got flipped on me when a sunny weekend dried up all of our options for the class and the call was made: Canyon Creek would be had on Sunday, January 25th.
“Canyon Creek starts with some benign rapids in a beautiful setting just downstream from the Fly Creek bridge before picking up pace and delivering several miles of fun and exciting drops that carry you through an immensely deep & steep gorge before crashing to a halt when the creek dumps into Lake Merwin.  Most of the rapids are ledges, with some bouldery jumbles interspersed to keep you on your toes.  The first named rapid on Canyon Creek is Swizzle Sticks, a series of sporty holes which marks the beginning of the upper gorge section that should most definitely be scouted for wood.  Fortunately for us the whole section was clean & clear. The upper gorge ends with Terminator, a funky 5 foot ledge that requires a move up high on the left to avoid a very nasty hole at the base of this drop on the right.  Miss a stroke like I did and you’ll definitely need to show off the old combat roll for your friends 🙂
“Below Terminator, several more ledges and bouldery drops carry you downstream to Prelude and Thrasher, two of the most fun drops on the whole creek.  Prelude requires a big boof off the very right side of this broken ledge and then some solid paddle strokes upon landing, as the hole at the base is sticky and carries a powerful upstream current.  Thrasher itself has a more straightforward line. The most important component to a successful run is to point your bow to the right when you land (a big old lefty boof off the rock in the middle of that ledge).  Thrasher also marks the start line for the Canyon Creek race every Spring, something I hope to be able to participate in this season!
“Below Thrasher, a long and complex boulder garden follows and climaxes with… you guessed it, another ledge and several sporty holes.  One of these absolutely crushed me, which was fine since I was feeling warm and needed to check out the scenery below river level anyhow 🙂  After more than my fair share of fun taking the tour of the boulder garden, the creek reaches a fairly large horizon line that is the lip of the Big Falls, or Big Kahuna.  Kahuna is 18 feet or so of sheer fun & excitement. The classic line is down the right and off a very obvious rock flake that auto-boofs you down into the aerated pool below.  Take note: you should keep your weight trimmed forwards as the water gets very swirly and dynamic at the base of this waterfall. I ended up in the back seat of my kayak and had to show off the combat roll again for the whole group.  Despite a pounding ice cream headache from the icy waters and more than a little fatigue, this drop is a classic that I would gladly lap again & again if it wasn’t such a pain to get back up to the top!
“After Kahuna there’s plenty of bouldery mank to keep you excited before you reach Champagne and the Hammering Spot, two picturesque waterfalls that are each 10 feet or so.  I gladly followed Paul off the middle of Champagne, and with a healthy boof stroke I stomped the landing and then immediately headed for the very right side of the Hammering Spot (go left and discover why that rapid got its name at your own peril) and repeated the process: giant stroke, knees up, stomp the landing, war cry of triumph in the eddy below.  The last major rapid is Toby’s, a very ugly, broken ledge that is backed up with all kinds of manky boulders that I chose to portage on the left.  Below Toby’s is lake Merwin and about a mile of flatwater paddling to the takeout. Make sure you keep some victory beers in your kayak or at the takeout, because they will be well deserved after that much hard boating.  I feel so fortunate to have had such an amazing opportunity to explore a truly magical place that is off limits to most people out there. Without the skills, confidence and a capable craft, there’s no other way to see it.  Next up on my bucket list for 2015 is another descent of Canyon Creek – maybe with less time spent probing the juiciest holes and more time spent airing out some massive boofs :)”
-Dave Trageser

A Paddle; A Proposal

 “The story leading up to our engagement actually began on our 3rd date ever, when my now-fiance, Angie, suggested that we spend our next date kayaking. I put my foot down and refused. I had only been kayaking once, turned over 3 times, and ended up with seaweed all over my face. I had vowed then never to kayak again, and I wasn’t going to let some pretty girl change my mind. Angie was persistent, and I finally told her “if we make it to date #78, I’ll go kayaking with you.”
   Well, “date #78” came 2 years later at Alder Creek Kayak, with an engagement ring triple-knotted and fastened to me to surprise Angie. Things started out rocky, paddling in circles, hitting other kayakers, not being able to stop…but we swapped first-date and adventure stories with one of our guides the whole way, and took in the beautiful Willamette River. After making it to the dock without flipping over, I told Angie we should ask someone to take our picture. As he lined up the picture for us, I got down on one knee and asked Angie to marry me. She said yes! I have to admit, I may be a kayaking convert.
   Thank you for making our engagement day so special! Everyone was so kind and encouraging – we hope to come back soon!”
-Brianna P.
Check out a Ross Island Tour of your own!

Washougal River Post-Holiday Paddle

Washougal River Post Xmas Paddle
What better way to shake off the post holiday hangover than a little bit of icy cold water in the face on a wintertime Washington classic?  This year, after consuming entirely too much food (and maybe too much alcohol) on Christmas, I begrudgingly rolled out of bed for an early morning lap on the Washougal River near Camas, WA.  The Washougal has been one of my favorite winter runs for years because of its easy access from Portland, lovely rapids that range from very benign to fairly exciting, and surprisingly pleasant scenery for a river that lies just 30 minutes east of downtown Portland.  After spending some time at the fisherman’s takeout about 3 miles up Washougal River Rd. shaking off the cobwebs and realizing that one of our crew forgot his drysuit (sorry, Pete), we dressed for the cold and piled into Scott’s Tacoma and headed up the road.  The Washougal has several good spots to access the river along the road depending on how much excitement you’re up for, you just have to be respectful of private property.
For the classic “Big Eddy” section that we had chosen for the day, a permit parking boat ramp pull off at milepost 8 is an ideal spot to put on as it gives you easy access to the river and a little bit of a warm up paddle to get your blood flowing before you reach Big Eddy, a steep, boulder garden that is foreshadowed by (you guessed it) a very, very large eddy above the biggest drop on this section.  Having scouted this drop on the way up (pull off the road on the right after milepost 7 and a green chain link fence that punctuates a large bend to the left in the road), we were all confident in our lines and dropped in, diving through holes and hopping from one eddy to another as we worked our way towards the bottom.  This was an exciting experience for me as I chose a new-to-me line down the left hand side of the river that climaxed with a fun little slot move between two fairly large boulders right at the crux of the drop.  I couldn’t help but let out a little “yip” of excitement after a solid line through this challenging rapid, and after sharing some stoke in the eddy at the bottom I no longer wished that I had stayed in bed.
Peeling out & heading downstream we were treated to some warm sunshine as well as the rest of the run rapids that the Washougal has to offer.  Immediately below Big Eddy is a fairly straightforward class III rapid that is punctuated by a nice hole toward the bottom (small at our flows but with the potential to be huge, frothy & mildly terrifying at high water) that is easily skirted by working left as you near the bottom of the drop.  Smooth lines were had by all as we navigated our way downstream through the boogie water and around a few holes that punctuate the next major rapid downstream (look for a bridge over the river as a good indicator).
We weren’t the only ones out enjoying some post Xmas sunshine, the banks were dotted with anglers and we even had the requisite “you’re crazy” response from one drift boat full of fisherman after they asked us where we had put on and whether or not we’d run through Big Eddy.  Chatting with the locals ate up some time during the meandering flatwater stretches between fun surf waves & boulder gardens that characterize the Washougal, and before too long we had navigated our way all the way down to another drop that makes the Washougal one of my favorite rivers, Cougar Creek rapids.
Cougar Creek starts with the river splitting into two channels around a small, gravelly island (both channels go just fine) and rejoins above a decent sized ledge hole and then crashes down through some surging waves that amplify midway through the rapid as Cougar Creek enters from the right.  This rapid offers incredible scenery near the bottom and features some very fun and challenging moves with a clean, flat run out, making it an ideal spot for working on skills.  After slicing this drop up by catching some nifty little eddies, we hustled downstream towards the takeout, catching the occasional wave on the fly and enjoying a short surf to break up the monotony of the boogie water between us and the takeout.
The river’s flow on this day (around 6 feet or 1,000 cfs) on the Hathaway gauge) was on the low side of medium and made for a great experience overall.  This section of river is a great intermediate run as it has great features for skill building (ample surf waves, a few circuits to run) and a challenging rapid or two dotted in along the way.  Toss in a great crew and some sunshine and I didn’t miss sleeping in at all.  Happy holidays!
-David Trageser

Grande Ronde River Wild & Scenic

Minam access to Powatka Bridge

39 river miles – 10 on Wallowa river 29 on Grande Ronde river

Put In at Minam access 30 minutes north of Lagrande along Hwy 82

Gradient – 19 ft/mile

River Flow – 650 to 800 cfs very low but runnable in kayak, IK or raft

– Up to 10,000 cfs in the spring runnable in raft, kayak, IK or Canoe (with skills)

Difficulty –class II at all levels, rocky and slow at low water, rolling waves at high water.

Managing agency – BLM –

Gage –

Shuttles –  Minam Store $100 per car –

Group Size – Max 25 people

Port-a-potty, fire pans and invasive species permits & PFD’s required

Guide Books – There is a strip map that the BLM produces. It is available at the Minam Store or at: 541.437.5580 $6.00 – Wallowa-Grande Ronde River Boater Guide.

Description: There are two seasons on the Grande Ronde: Late Spring to Early Summer during the snow melt season or in October at low water for Steelhead fishing. I have personally run the river at 2000 to 4000 cfs in the spring as a family trip with dads, moms and kids. Rafts, kayaks & IK’s are all appropriate. A canoe, in skilled hands, would also be an adventurous way to go down the river. While I have not canoed the Grande Ronde I have heard multiple reports of successful runs, and a couple where folks have had to hike out or make major repairs due to the water being too high, or too low for the paddlers ability. The mild rapids are fun, the camping is excellent and there is generally little competition for nice camping spots. We take three days round trip from Portland and do not feel rushed. It is probably better to drive over the night before and camp at MinamState Park to make the first day a bit more leisurely. Besides the boating and camping there’s good trout fishing, scenic views of ponderosa forests and a chance of seeing deer, elk, osprey, eagles, otters and all the other assorted Oregon river wild life.

Grande Ronde River

The second season on the Grande Ronde, is late September to mid-November; This is steelhead season! Over the past few years there has been increased traffic on the river, but there is still plenty of room for great fishing. In the fall of 2014 we caught rainbow trout, bull trout and steelhead in good enough numbers to keep all our anglers happy. Our trip was at 800 cfs, and we got down the river in 4 days including driving to and from Portland/Seattle. I suggest 5 days if you want more fishing time! Our group usually runs Ik’s, but this time we also took a 14’ self bailing raft which we used as a three person paddle boat. We should have rigged it as an oar boat, as it would have made fishing easier. At this flow, it’s inevitable to get stuck now and then, but there are routes through every rapid and gravel bar.


The Grande Ronde is a highly recommended river at any time. During the long days of spring and summer this is a great place to get away from the crowds, and have a wonderful outdoor river adventure. In the Fall, anglers can have a very nice trip and get to fish fresh water with very little pressure, all while enjoying a wild and scenic river in beautiful Northeast Oregon.

Grand Ronde Camping

Waldo Lake trip report from June 2014

Below are two recounts of a canoe camping trip at Waldo Lake at the end of June.  Chris and Kristin (below) are friends of employees Andrew and Steve, and this was a personal trip, not a commercially guided one.  Boats and gear were rented from Alder Creek.


Waldo Lake

Waldo Lake, looking to the north.

Attention adventurous but low-level-outdoorsy-experienced humans: canoe camping is a must!

Recently, the fiance Chris and I decided to put our lives in the hands of what we must assume are two of Alder Creek’s finest guides and had a freaking blast. There were definitely challenges, but the gentle learning curve (and the knowledge that we came away with at least some canoeing foundations), the awesome other humans and totally gorgeous scenery lead to one seriously remarkable outdoor excursion.

Honesty time: learning the beginning steps of proper canoeing technique (that is to say, the knowledge required to prevent you from just going in circles) took some grunt work. Over an image of a nearly pristine lake surrounded by trees and not-surrounded by humans, please add rain, wind, kinda creepy fog, a record low personal cold intolerance and no sense of where you are headed. Guess what though guys: as the old trope goes, what doesn’t kill you makes you.. feel a little bit like a badass.

After loading us up with some Personal Flotation Devices (pronounced pffffffd) and helping us lower all of our fave camping gear into the center of a rather swanky looking agua-vehicle (a Wenonah Itasca), guru Andrew gave me a few tips about being the “rudder” of our boat. The person in the back, it turns out, has the most control over the steering (person in the front impacts direction but seems to mostly function as a momentum-generator). Our two-person canoe was stuffed because canoes are patient, gentle creatures that will schlep about as many things as you can fit into your four-door without all of the grumbly loud gas-guzzling nonsense. With ourselves and three other boats, we left our car and the launching dock behind.

The majority of the learning curve is difficult to put into words (particularly when you lack any technique-related vocabulary). There were about 15 minutes of what-the-crap-is-happening when I seemed to be working really hard to turn left but we did nothing but make a lot of progress in a quirky zig-zag pattern. Fortunately, trial and error, friendly pointers shouted over the water by guru Andrew, and the insulated, waterproof gloves guru Steve leant me meant we totally survived the first hour and half long trip across Waldo Lake.

It’s a little unclear if the guides were humoring us, but Andrew and Steve seemed to think our first ride over in the windy rain was a tad difficult. Luckily by the time we made it to the campsite that evening the rain had all but stopped and we set up our tent. With tired hands, arms, and upper body muscles I hadn’t even known about, we basically flopped onto our sleeping pads.

The next morning Chris and I quietly mumbled to ourselves that after the difficult experience the night before, we would probably just explore the forest and rocky edges of land on foot all day. (Truthfully I said something to the effect of “Do not make me get into that boat please”). Fortunately for my naive self, a few hours later that Saturday afternoon I ate my words: when faced with spectacular water and sunshine, despite our sore bodies we could not resist the temptation to play.

Back in the boat for round two, we learned a few things:

1) The second time you get into a canoe, paddling motions make way more sense and even start to feel a bit intuitive.
2) If you are working really hard in a canoe while the water is calm, you’re definitely doing it wrong so ask for help.
3) It may be chilly on the water but for the love of what is holy, do not forget to put sunscreen on your face.
4) Staying closer by the shore gives you a much greater appreciation for how much ground you’re covering/how fast you’re traveling. This is a great idea if your patience for arriving somewhere starts to dwindle.

In fact, you will recognize the basics of canoeing proficiency when you travel where you intend to travel while feeling totally relaxed! The arms have to continue paddling, but there was so much coasting (probably in part due to our lovely boat) and so little involuntary water contact that we could have gone out comfortably in our pajamas.

What we thought would be a short water outing that day turned into several beautiful hours hanging out with mother nature. Dudes: lovely things happen when you leave your cellphone an hour and a half paddle away from your sleeping bag.

The next morning we enjoyed wizardry at breakfast (blueberry muffins made over a campfire!) and more solid canoeing tips from our guides as we packed up our stuff-and-things. Our final canoe expedition was leisurely and punctuated by a greater appreciation for how the wind affects your flight path (guru Andrew directed us straight at a distant mountain, which eventually cleverly angled us far to the left of the mountain towards the dock).

Between our Alder Creek guides, the stylish canoes, and gorgeous and instructive mother nature, we had an ideal trip. Next time (there will definitely be a next time!) I am determined to learn what the heck a “J-stroke” is and how we can use it to be even more efficient with the paddles.

Waldo Lake

Waldo Lake trip group photo.

Gigantic digital bear-hugs of gratitude to the crew that made this possible! Thank you thank you thank you!!

-Kristin Franco


I’m a complete novice at boats: this was my second time in a human powered boat of any kind and my very first time in a canoe. My first surprise: the canoe is a very forgiving craft – it resisted all my efforts to tip it over as we loaded up our camping gear and I hopped in. Good start. My second surprise: the canoe held a TON of gear – our guides Andrew and Steve brought some sweet amenities that would’ve been burdensome for even car camping with a routine 50 yard walk to the campsite (battery powered turntable? Yes please!). Our group of eight got launched pretty quickly and proceeded to learn the basics of paddling, turning, steering, and our personal floatation devices (which thankfully were not called upon to do any saving during our adventure).

My fiance Kristin and I were placed in a boat together, just the two of us…team-building time! As we set out after our safety lesson, the wind picked up and the water got choppy. Even the biggest waves didn’t make us feel unstable, but a trickle of adrenaline got us moving quicker and more deliberately.

Once we had the rhythm of paddling and steering, there was time to look around and really appreciate where we were. Waldo lake is majestic even on a slightly stormy, overcast day; fog clung to the trees along the shore and gave a sense of mystery to the unfolding scenery as we made our way towards the campsite. A light rain combined with the wind made us glad we layered up and had waterproof jackets and gloves – especially the gloves! I am a man’s man but I also have the hands of a princess and even those with tougher mitts will want some insulating protection in the wet. By the halfway point my better half had a pretty strong grasp of the rudder and our efforts were noticeably more effective at moving us in a straight line. A simple thing, but it gave us pride.

Waldo Lake

Waldo Lake, Chris and Kristin exploring the area.

We kept at it and ended up working ourselves pretty hard to keep up with the group, but our guides stayed in sight the whole time and called out their encouragement as we pulled ahead for the home stretch into the campsite. Getting ashore was a team effort and we were glad to only have to haul our gear a very short way to our tent spot. Our dry bags were doing their job quite well and despite the rain all of our things stayed dry – comfort bonus! We packed a full size, crazy-heavy and luxurious 4-man tent for the two of us and after our exertions we slept like we’d earned it.

The next morning gave us a truly gorgeous view of all that had been half-shrouded by fog the evening before – mountains in the distance, lush forest all along the shore, and the clearest sapphire blue water that I would not have believed to exist in North America. After a good stretch and some breakfast, we were happy to be in decent condition and ready to get out and explore the woods. We came back to camp for lunch and all hung around relaxing and taking in the big views in every direction.

Kristin and I were glad to find our arms and backs feeling up to some more paddling that afternoon so we took a canoe out by ourselves to do some exploring, soon to be followed by another couple in our group. I got to be in the rear seat this time so it was time to learn how to be an effective rudder – easier said than done but thankfully Kristin has developed a superhuman level of patience as a result of our relationship so the process was overall pretty playful.

Our first inclination was to take it slow and look all around us, including straight down to the bottom of the lake since the water was so clear. After a bit of that we felt adventurous and took our friends up on the suggestion to check out a cove further down the shoreline. We were shocked to find vivid red pebbles ground almost as fine as sand all along the cove, such a contrast with the deep blue water around it. We landed our boat and tied it off to take a brief walk around before the desire to be on the water overtook us again and we set off.

By the time we arrived back at camp it was almost evening – few experiences in my life have gone by so quickly. We had an amazing chili stew for dinner as a couple of us contributed some music and we talked over what we had seen that day. Andrew and Steve gave some intermediate level pointers for us to try out the next day on the paddle back to the dock – we all felt like we’d made some progress and could try a few fancy moves on our way back. It’s a good feeling when you try something a bit out of your skill-set and actually pull it off so I was looking forward to a little more learning to round out our adventure.

The next morning we reluctantly packed up our gear and loaded up the boats. The bittersweet feeling of leaving a beautiful campsite was softened by getting to do another medium-big paddle on another day of fine weather. I was feeling really into the rhythm of it and Kristin was getting more efficient too. We were starting to see where some of the real skill had room to develop which felt like yet another reason to get back at it and spend some more time on the water. We took our time getting back and went a different route to get a look at the opposite shore before we made it to the dock and unloaded. Talking about it on the drive home, she and I agreed that our Alder Creek guides took great care of us the whole way through and gave us the right mix of challenge and achievement. This was definitely a thing to be repeated and shared – I think we’ll try it as a ruggedly romantic vacation after a little more guided practice.

-Chris Browne

Waldo Lake

Waldo Lake, Chris and Kristin gaze south while their moment is unknowingly captured on camera.

Rogue River Trip Report

Rogue River Trip Report:
Graves Creek to Foster Bar Self Support
3,800 cfs

Earlier in May I had the opportunity to check another classic multi-day river trip off of my list by heading down to Merlin, Oregon and putting onto the Rogue River for a fantastic adventure.  After working at the store for nearly 3 weeks straight, this 3-day trip on the river with a group of friends was a very welcome chance to decompress after a hectic spring sale.  The Rogue River trip is an absolute classic multi-day adventure that had always eluded me.  After completing the journey, I don’t think I could ever go so long without doing it again.  Although this trip was my first self support adventure on a river, I quickly found that years of multi-day sea kayaking adventures prepared me well for the challenge of properly loading all of my belongings into my creek boat (BTW I could not endorse the LG Karma enough for this type of trip; I could have easily packed twice as much stuff in there and still had room to spare) at the Graves Creek boat ramp just west of Galice.  The action starts right away with Graves Creek Rapids (class III) and then the river settles into its pool drop character and establishes a nice rhythm of features and flat water all combined with breathtaking scenery.  Fairly soon we came upon Rainie Falls, and after dodging poison oak down the hiking trail to scout it, I opted to run the fish ladder on the far right which was a fun, splashy ride into the eddy below.  Numerous wave trains and small drops dotted the next 15 or so miles until we reached our camp at Big Windy Creek on day 1.  Were it not for the bugs, I would have slept out underneath the dazzling array of stars, but the mosquitoes were biting so I settled for an obstructed view through the mesh of the tent (no rain fly, though!) and caught some much needed sleep for the mammoth day that lay ahead.  Day 2 of our Rogue River trip was an epic slog through most of the famous portions of the Rogue, we covered almost 25 miles that day of hair raising rapids and flat water stretches through river canyon walls that appear almost completely untouched by the modern world.  Most of the day was straightforward point & shoot river running through many fun class III drops which all provided a nice warm up for the crux of the whole run, Mule Creek Canyon and Blossom Bar.  Mule Creek was stunning: the river winds through sheer rock walls and has many small cascades tumbling into the narrow, swirly channel.  Mule Creek was in fact so beautiful that I felt compelled to check out the “fish perspective” for a second or two.  Fortunately I rolled up and didn’t have to test out the dryness of any of my bags or find out just what I hadn’t secured well enough into my kayak.  Directly after Mule Creek Canyon lies Blossom Bar, an ugly, bouldery jumble that looked significantly harder in a raft than it was in a kayak.  After some scouting and deliberation on river right, I saw my line and scrambled back down the bank (still dodging poison oak left and right) and climbed back into my kayak.  Everyone in the group styled the rapid and we rejoiced by paddling for another 7 miles through flat water to find an unoccupied campsite.  Sunday morning was a dreary and rainy paddle to Foster Bar boat ramp, which was mercifully short and sweet without many rapids of note.  Peeling off the wet paddling layers and warming up again with some hot cocoa while we waited for our shuttle rig to arrive hit the spot almost as much as cracking a couple of victory beers during the windy shuttle ride back to Merlin.

DT all smiles on the Rogue River trip!  Photo by Heath Barber

DT all smiles on the Rogue River trip! Photo by Heath Barber

I could not recommend this trip highly enough; the Rogue is a magical place with scenery and whitewater that stacks up against any trip anywhere.  If you’re going to go, here are a couple of recommendations: mind the poison oak, it is seriously everywhere and can ruin a trip (or the 2 weeks after) very quickly.  The early bird doesn’t have to paddle through the wind in the afternoon, get up and get moving so you can be off the river once it gets windy.  Bring a camera, I wish I had brought one to capture just a few of the sights and the natural beauty of this place.  Instead of paying someone to shuttle your car to the takeout, pay them less money to come pick you up and bring you back to the put in, this is so the way to go it’s not even a joke.  Think about it: you can have them use your gas and drive your car like it’s an off road rally and have it sit unattended at the boat ramp for who knows how long, or you can leave your car behind a locked gate for 3 days and have someone else with a trailer grab you and your gear and chauffeur you back, plus it is legal to drink in the shuttle rig as long as you don’t sit up front.  Stop making excuses and go do this Rogue River trip, you will only regret not having done it sooner!

-David Trageser

Check out some photos of the trip by Heath Barber HERE!

Plan an Owyhee River Trip!

Owyhee River

The Owyhee River Journals

If you missed Bonnie Olin’s presentation on the Owyhee at the Boathouse on May 6th, we would like to followup with a link to some of the resources Olin spoke about, that might be helpful to anyone thinking of making a trip into the Owyhee Canyonlands. For the boating community there is an excellent new mile-by-mile river map, put out be the BLM, that covers the Bruneau, Jarbidge and Owyhee River . You can print sections of the map from the pdf file on-line at this link.

But if you call the Boise or Vale BLM office, they’ll send you a water proof map of the entire river system for only $5. This was last years price, so check first, but even if the price has increased a little, it’s a steal!

Bonnie introduced Chris Hansen, the Owyhee Coordinator for the Oregon Natural Deserts Association. He spoke about their efforts to preserve the Oregon section of the Owyhee with Wilderness Status via a petition calling for wilderness protections. Check out their website for more information about the Owyhee , photos of the area, things to do, petition information and more HERE.

Olin’s latest blog piece for the ONDA Wild Owyhee website can be found at this link.

Her books can only be purchased via her website or at the presentations. Olin reports that no other presentations are scheduled until Fall, so that she and Mike can enjoy the rivers and canyons they love. Her web site is HERE.

For Boater/hikers, you might be interested in a new Adventure hiking book by Steve Stuebner and Mark Lisk, which includes detail instructions, GPS points, etc. You can also download individual hikes., etc. This book will broaden hikes into the Idaho region.  Check it out HERE.

So what are you waiting for?  Plan an Owyhee River trip!

Northwest Creeking Competition 2014

The start line

The start line

What do you get when you combine 200 racers with equal parts spectators & volunteers to match, lots of sunshine, tasty beer, amazing raffle prizes and a dash of water?  You get the amazing 2014 Northwest Creeking Competition of course!  This year team Alder Creek was out in force at the NWCC and this year’s event was better than ever.  It was truly great to see so many smiling faces all over the race course and event grounds for what is becoming one of the West Coast’s premiere whitewater festivals.  Pros and locals (and many local pros) mingled throughout the weekend on and off the river as hundreds of people converged on Sunset Falls campground on the banks of the East Fork of the Lewis River for this two day, downriver race.  On Saturday the stoke from team Alder Creek was at an all time high as Andrew Romanelli celebrated his 30th birthday by participating in the race for the first time and Paul Kuthe took home the hardware for winning the K1 Long Pro race category and turning in the fastest time of the day in his super nifty P&H Hammer.  Ninkasi Brewing from Eugene, Oregon made sure that nobody went thirsty on Saturday night (although they may have also ensured a few hangovers the following morning, so it goes) and the good vibrations carried on well into the night.  Sunday’s race down Canyon Creek near Amboy, Washington was also a smashing success, this year we had more racers than ever and sunny weather with temperatures reaching 70+ degrees.  Despite some grumblings from the rubber pushers about low water I think everyone had a great time at this volunteer run & organized event, we could not have asked for more.  A big “thank you” goes out to all of the event sponsors and the volunteers for making it happen, until next year!
David Trageser


Paul Kuthe races to 1st place!

Paul Kuthe races to 1st place!

I’ve been hearing about this awesome event since moving to Portland in 2010.  Two of my co-workers, Paul Kuthe and David Trageser, volunteer a lot of time and effort each year for this mystical race.  Each year I get to hear how awesome the atmosphere is on the river while I’m working in the shop over the weekend.  At this point in April, we aren’t staffed very heavily which makes it difficult to get three of us the whole weekend off.  This year, however, I had something of a golden ticket: the Creek Comp was also my birthday weekend!  What better way to celebrate that past three decades than with friends along the river?!  It also provided some significant leverage to draw enough sympathy that my shifts got covered!  I got to Sunset Falls Campground a day before to lend a hand.  In exchange for a bit of yardwork, a nearby resident graciously allows all of these paddlers to take out at his property, the finish line.  What took 20 people little more than an hour would have taken him days, and I’m happy that we could help him out!  We could all use a little more river karma, right?  Practicing “race laps”, searching for the fastest line rather than catching as many eddies as possible, was a new thing for me.  Saturday, my birthday, would present the first paddling of being 30 years old as well as my first race ever!  Full of buzz Friday night, I sat by the campfire counting rocks, drops and turns in my mind.  Saturday came with the sun shining and a steady trail of colorful paddlers streaming towards Sunset Falls.  I was very pleased with my race that day!  Though I came nowhere close to the fastest times, I look forward to cleaning up my lines and working out my racing strategy.  The Saturday race on the East Fork of the Lewis River is a long, hard haul, paddling with sincere purpose and direction for almost 12 minutes (10.5 minutes for the winners).  I was exhausted by the time I slid into the eddy at the finish line.  Searching for a balance of rest and celebration that afternoon, I had a great time sitting by the falls with endless entertainment flying downstream.  Saturday night wrapped up with a great raffle and over 100 excited/exhausted racers.  I “birthday’d” about as hard as I raced that night, surrounded by amazing company and cheer, and Sunday came a bit sooner than I would have liked!  Slow around camp, my right shoulder was still feeling unstable from the day before, and I felt no guilt in relishing in all of the excellent moments that Saturday offered.  Passing on the Canyon Creek race that Sunday, it was nice to leisurely pack up camp and make my way home for a cheeseburger and a nap.  I had an amazing time with great people that weekend.  Our paddling community is rich (in spirit and smiles, that is) and supportive.  What an incredible venue with excellent safety for this stellar event.  Oh, and Paul Kuthe won his race for the first time after nearly a decade of volunteering and organizing this event!  Way to bring home that belt buckle, buddy!  With any luck, the weekend will line up again next year so I can return to this wonderful event.  I’m hoping to cut 30 seconds off my East Fork of the Lewis race lap next year, and I’m going to be DIALED for that Canyon Creek race on Sunday.  I’ll also be sure to get some more sleep. 😉
Andrew Romanelli

Andrew Romanelli with a birthday boof!

Andrew Romanelli with a birthday boof!

Kayaking and Snorkeling Belize

Check out Rod’s photos from the trip HERE!

Photo by Rod Richards

I recently spent 9 days on a real-life Gilligan’s Island! I discovered Half-Moon Caye, a tiny coconut palm forested island on Lighthouse Reef, a coral atoll 50 miles off the Coast of Belize. Nearby is the famous blue hole. A week on Half-Moon Caye guarantees a return to natural rhythms – awakening to the sunrise, sounds of gentle surf and rustling palm fronds, paddling sapphire clear waters, snorkeling amidst nature’s underwater splendor, and no hashtags. Plus, the 80+ degree water doesn’t hurt, either!

After a 10 hour flight, a few hours spent waiting for the rest of my 9-person group to arrive, and a three-hour boat shuttle, Half-Moon Caye came into view. The mile-long island is a World Heritage Site, protected by the Audubon Society due to its colony of Red-Footed Boobies. The island and several square miles of reef are 100% off limits to fishermen. My tour operator, Island Expeditions, was the sole operator permitted to lodge tourists.

Lodging is a misleading term, because we “lodged” in platform tents – each with beds. No super resorts here: exactly what I wanted. There were 12 tents lined up along the shore. Island Expeditions runs a sustainable operation – with water from rain collectors, a well, and composting toilets. Electricity was on four hours per day, just enough to charge your camera batteries. So, we were far from luxury yet far from roughing it. The kitchen served up three sumptuous meals daily. Dishes included Creole fair (lots of bbq), plus conch soup, coconut pie, pineapple and mango, and when we caught fish, catch of the day.

Photo by Rod Richards

Paddling Lighthouse Reef is definitely living a fantasy. The water is utterly sapphire clear and it’s warm. Inside the reef’s 22-mile long ring, the lagoon is only 8-10 feet deep. The protected waters are packed with an array of life. Our guides were of African, Mayan and Mestizo ethnicity – and they’d switch between English, Creole and Spanish at will. Kayaks included Necky single or tandem polyethylene kayaks, Seaward tandem fiberglass kayaks and a few Boreal Design polyethylene single kayaks – and SUPs. The tandem kayaks were set up for sailing. They also had a selection of Kokatat and Astral PFDs. A good portfolio of boats for a tour operator, I thought.

Our agenda shifted each day depending on weather conditions. Sunrise was followed by 6:30 a.m. yoga with Tisha, from Vancouver BC. After breakfast, we would launch kayaks and paddle out to the reef, where we would snorkel. Day one was mandatory snorkeling and kayaking introduction including wet exits and rescues. As for snorkeling, there is much to see inside the shallow lagoon or where it meets the ocean. There is an easy ‘octopus garden’ 50 yards off our beach with plenty of sea life like parrotfish, squid, turtles, rays, and lobsters. There is the famous World Heritage Site – The 400-ft deep Blue Hole, made famous by Jacques Cousteau. There is a “wall” off the ocean side of the reef where it drops to 12,000 feet. Out there, snorkeling, one can witness ocean going giants like whale sharks or even great hammerhead sharks. Or we could try our luck kayak fishing! Let’s not forget kayak sailing.

Photo by Rod Richards

My favorite place was the Blue Hole. It’s a 1000-ft diameter shallow coral reef ring surrounding a 400ft deep hole. The reef is super pristine! If you are a diver, you can go down and explore this sunken cave with stalactites etc. As a snorkeler, I could weave in and out of coral and glimpse myriads of schools of fish such as blue tang swimming like synchronized swimmers. There were barracuda, stoplight parrotfish, midnight parrotfish, blue striped grunts, and angelfish. I learned a little about how to free dive – something you’ve got to do in order to get good pictures. There are all kinds of corals – brain coral, stag horn coral, plus sea fans, and barrel sponges.

Closer to Half-Moon Caye, I could just go out at lunch and see tons of underwater life! Just 50 yards off shore, I ran into a shark, and a ray. But I also saw grouper, grunts, trunk fish, butterfly fish, queen trigger fish, turtles and squid.

I tried fishing. Incredibly in only two hours we caught 25 fish on hand lines. We could keep 19 of the fish. We caught red snapper, queen triggerfish, porgeys, and lots of grunts. Back at camp we cleaned the fish, which we shared with local nurse sharks that seem to know when dinner time is! They made a meal for two evenings.

Night life at camp ranged from quiet discussions of the day’s discoveries to African drumming dance, to sing-alongs with Jess Karper, a guide who brought a small National Geographic group through. We had a lot of fun! Jess knows plenty of Bob Marley and Bob Dillon.

Photo by Rod Richards

One afternoon we tried kayak sailing. We used ruddered tandem kayaks, and the sails were mounted in between the cockpits. I have to say it was fortunate I have a lot of sailing experience, because the guides pretty much said, “Here you go. Sail down to a big stick down the reef and then come back.” I steered and held the sail and my “crew” was Tisha. Remember that sailboats have keels or centerboards, which are like a fin in the middle of the boat. Kayaks don’t have them. So sailing a kayak is more an exercise in getting there without paddling, but not efficiently or in any way IMHO satisfyingly. We all arrived at the stick within one minute of each other…but that was the more downwind leg. On the way back, it was what we sailors would call a close reach – meaning we were more or less with the wind coming from the side. The return leg really “separated the men from the boys,” and I had to use every trick in my sailing skills base to get that kayak going straight instead of sideways, and to land on the island and not miss it entirely and wind up in the ocean. When we turned around at the stick, Half Moon Caye was almost invisible. I had to hold the sail as low and stiff as possible, using my outstretched arm, to spill air, whilst pushing the rudder with my feet so we had the correct angle. Lucky for me I was wearing my Astral Brewer shoes. Others got blisters! We learned to lean into the wind to keep the boat tilted right. Anyway we were so focused we simply doubled down on getting back to the island, and never looked back. When we landed, we were amazed that the others were dots on the horizon! We KILLED IT! We had 30 minutes of swim time before anyone else landed. After the experience, though, I say sailing is for sailboats!

Well, that is how each day unfolded. A snorkel? Maybe SUP? Kayak? Watch the birds? Or, nothing…lie in your hammock and let the noise of the surf wash your troubles away…and as quick as that…it was over. Back to the USA!

Rod Richards

Steve was in New Zealand; Part 2

About a week after my first river adventure down the Rangitikei River in New Zealand, my family ended up on the South Island. Given that February is the peak of summer there, paddling around one of New Zealand’s most gorgeous coastal national parks was a good idea. After some searching, we found a beachfront rental shop on the northwest edge of the park near the town of Pohara. With the scorching sun and warm winds, everyone opted for either a sit-on-top kayak or stand up paddle board.

After about 20 minutes of paddling down the jagged shoreline, we had lost sight of the town. We navigated the headwind to explore some compact inlets and caves of Ngawhiti and Motu Islands. Around every outcropping there was a new archway to paddle under or submerged rock to eye through the clear water. We found a protected beach to park for lunch and play. Everybody tried the SUP boards, and despite some apprehension, all had success and fun.  On the return trip we looped to the far side Ngawhiti Island to check the looming overhangs and birds perched above.

For being such a pristine place, I couldn’t think of a better way to see this National Park. The fact that the family was with made it that much more memorable. It also gave me a relatively tolerant group to irritate with my incessant pranks.

Steve Pilch

Owyhee River Journals

Tuesday, May 6th
at Alder Creek’s Boathouse location
-3rd floor, Mt Adams Room

Owyhee River

Owyhee River Journals

Join writer Bonnie Olin for a richly-illustrated journey into the canyonlands of the Owyhee River in Nevada, Idaho, and Oregon.  Her presentation is based on her book, The Owyhee River Journals, which includes 125 color photos of rarely seen landscapes by photographer Mike Quigley, created over many years of travel together.  Very little is written about the Owyhee, so Ms. Olin will share a brief history of the area, discuss why it is unique and deserving of wilderness protection, and show a 20-minute video of an expedition into Deep Creek and the East Fork of the Owyhee.  Her presentation will be followed by a brief question and answer period.  Signed books will be available for sale, as well!

Check out Bonnie Olin’s website for the book HERE!

Call 503-285-0464 with questions!

San Juan Islands Kayaking Staff Trip

Check out some photos from our trip!

The Alder Creek gang is more of a family than a shop staff.  We plan a little “family vacation” at the beginning of each season to help bring us all together again before the madness begins.  This year we went on a 3 day scouting trip around San Juan Island!  The sun shined each day as we awoke. We were greeted by more eagles than we could count each morning and were eased to sleep with the lullaby of frogs and shifting tides each night.  Things are really taking shape for our NEW 5 day expedition training being offered this year.  We can’t wait to get our customers and students out there to enjoy the beauty of the islands for themselves this summer.  Our little family reunion was a reminder to me of how fortunate we are to live in such an amazing place!

Paul Kuthe


My favorite part of the San Juan Island staff trip was staying on the small island of Posey. This island was only accessible by man powered boats and was so small that it only had enough room for two campsites. Apparently Posey Island can be very busy in the summer months and our group of nine was lucky because we had the entire island to ourselves. I recommend to anyone interested in kayak camping in the San Juans to check out this gem of an island and make sure to reserve in advance (especially in the summer!).

Thanks guys!

Chelsea Neilson

San Juan Islands Kayaking

San Juan Islands Kayaking Photo by Malcolm Kelly

As this was my first time going to the San Juan Islands, I expected lots of rain. I was, instead, stunned by the weather and the views. I enjoyed the paddling thanks to a friend for loaning me his Xplore M. I love Tiderace kayaks! It was nice to paddle without having to coordinate all of the arrangements. Thanks to Paul for stepping up! All in I had a great trip, and I look forward to the next one.

Malcolm Kelly

San Juan Islands Kayaking

San Juan Islands Kayaking Photo by Steve Pilch

What an awesome trip to spend with some great co-workers! I would like to particularly thank Dave Slover for arranging the great weather; that really was above and beyond. The stretch from Lime Kiln Park to Posey Island was my favorite. Great views of Vancouver Island, exciting coastline, and it was great to see all the bald eagles along the way. It’s not going to be difficult to get clients excited for the five day trips this summer.

Steve Pilch


When I find myself in the San Juan Islands kayaking, I’m normally leading a group around on the water and making their food and coffee when we’re on land.  So it was very refreshing to paddle around San Juan Island with a group of peers and relax around camp!  It also turns out that San Juan Islands kayaking can be sunny and calm in the middle of March!  Not only was the weather and company excellent, the scenery was nothing shy of breathtaking.  Rounding Cattle Point in the golden, morning light, the Olympic Range owned a distant horizon to the south.  To the west, Canada’s Vancouver Island.  The cliffs beside us stood quietly, displaying ages of terrific storms slowly pulling land into the sea.  Countless bald eagles, innumerable laughs, and a touch of sunburn rounded the trip out nicely.  On the last day, paddling east into dawn’s low light, it was hard pulling my boat onto the beach when there was still so much paddling to be done…

Andrew Romanelli

San Juan Islands Kayaking

San Juan Islands Kayaking Photo by Andrew Romanelli

The San Juan Islands is one of my favorite paddling destinations: it’s reasonably accessible, there’s plenty of paddling options, and always lots to see. Getting to paddle there with the other Alder Creek staff recently was particularly memorable. Freakishly good weather the whole time (in March!), loads of wildlife, clear unrestricted views of the snow-capped Olympic Mountains, and the good company of fellow paddlers. And plenty of those moments, tapping away over the glassy water, where you think… damn, it’s good to be a sea kayaker!

Andrew Brown