Class I – II whitewater 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


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

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!

Whitewater Christmas

A day on the water is a good day.  Add a few drysuits, and even winter days can be spent on the water.  So it was on Christmas Eve!  Five of us got out for a mellow float down the lower Washougal River (MP5 to Hathaway Park).

Gotta love drysuits! Photo by Andrew Romanelli

This splashy section of river was an ideal venue to bring two new paddlers along, and the holiday allowed our schedules to align for once!  This was also a good excuse for me to paddle a tandem IK (inflatable kayak) for the first time!

The Crew. Photo by Andrew Romanelli

Used to paddling hardshells, I found the IK slow to respond but exceptionally stable and forgiving.  I really had to pick my line from the top of the rapid to catch the eddies I wanted.  The abundance of stability actually made edging difficult, and the closest we came to capsizing was while catching eddies!  Not even while surfing the tandem IK (yes, you read that correctly) did we feel unstable.

Photo by Andrew Romanelli

Photo by Steve Pilch

The inflatable kayaks were a perfect addition to our fleet that day.  Along with Dennis in a medium Karma (Jackson Kayak) and Steve on a SUP’er Charger (Jackson Kayak), the Tomcat Solo and Tandem (Tributary) provided everyone with a craft suited to their desired experience on the river.

Challenge by Choice. Photo by Andrew Romanelli

That's a happy paddler! Photo by Andrew Romanelli

It was cold and foggy, but we were dressed well for paddling.  My hands were even steaming inside my pogies!  Still, a giant thermos of hot cider was welcomed when we reached the take-out.  Dreams aside, I did get my Whitewater Christmas.

-Andrew Romanelli

Photo by Steve Pilch

Photo by Andrew Romanelli

Fighting that wrist gasket? How about a hand? Photo by Jennifer Wilde

Whitewater SUP: an introduction

My background in the paddling world has primarily been aimed towards kayaking.   I grew up kayaking on the Nehalem Bay which is located on the Northern Oregon Coast.  I lived in the perfect area for recreational and tour kayaking.  Recently this year, I made the big move to Portland to finish up my final year of college, and I was fortunate enough to get hired at Alder Creek Kayak & Canoe.  Immediately, I took interest in the stand-up paddle (SUP) department and was completely hooked the first time I stood on a board.  I found that SUP was a sweet combination of kayaking and surfing.  I suddenly had the access to try all types of boards including inflatable stand-up boards; these boards can be used for a variety of paddling (including whitewater).  Having little whitewater experience, I was nervous to try whitewater stand-up.  Luckily, one of my co-workers (Steve) was also interested in trying this up-and-coming water sport.

Steve Pilch SUPing on the Lower White Salmon. Photo by Andrew Romanelli

We decided to do our first run on the Barton-Carver section of the Clackamas River.  This section of the Clackamas River is pretty mellow except for several class II rapids.  We decided to practice on a smaller section before attempting these rapids.  I was completely stoked to be paddling on water that was actually moving, and by the time we approached the first rapid I was really excited (and nervous).  I managed to fall off the board: “When in doubt, paddle it out” quickly became my motto for that day.  I found that if I was nervous and raised my paddle out of the water to focus on remaining stable, I would actually become less stable.  Having the paddle in the water acts as a brace, or something to lean against and stabilize myself when feeling unbalanced.

Steve Pilch SUPing on the Lower White Salmon. Photo by Andrew Romanelli

We finished out that awesome day in a couple hours and were completely enthused about whitewater SUP.  Since then, we have run Bob’s Hole to Memaloose on the Clackamas River, and Steve just did a run on the Lower White Salmon.  We hope to keep getting out there in our spare time and do more whitewater SUP!

-Chelsea Neilson

Steve is from Alaska: Part 2

May 28th, 2013

Hey! Hope you guys survived the memorial day weekend. I went for a quick float down Willow Cr. on Friday and thought you might like a write up for the archives.

I’ve been fortunate enough to make a trip back to my old stomping grounds in Willow, AK this spring. So naturally I decided to impulsively float Willow Creek at 8’o’clock on a Friday evening. I didn’t have to worry about it getting dark since it only gets twilight at 2am.

Photo: Steve Pilch

So I aired up my 8 foot cataraft and slid off the ice covered banks intending for my float to the Parks Highway to take about 4 hours. Last fall there was severe flooding in almost all of the river drainages in the Matanuska Susitna Valley. Willow Creek had its fair share of problems too. Washed out bridges, destroyed property, houses lost and the river rerouted in a few areas. I got to see it all during my float. It was a mess! Trees, cars and a couple houses in the river. I ended up portaging around a lot of log jams and I swear that raft gained 20lbs every time I pulled it up on the bank. There must have been 6 to 8 beavers I spotted in that 4 mile section of river along with 3 moose eating alders. Even with all the portaging and bushwhacking I still made it miraculously to the take out in 3 hours. It was a very humbling trip. No matter how peaceful and familiar a river can be it can all change in a heartbeat.

Looking forward to returning to Alder Creek next week!


Photo: Steve Pilch

Photo: Steve Pilch

Photo: Steve Pilch

Photo: Steve Pilch



Beginner Whitewater Kayaking Classes: Full Immersion Whitewater 1

Whitewater Classes, Tips, and Techniques: Full Immersion Whitewater 1; Photo by Andrew Romanelli

I took Alder Creek Kayak & Canoe’s introductory whitewater class, Full Immersion Whitewater 1, in the early spring of 2010.  Rivers will NEVER be the same for me.

Coming from a primarily flatwater paddling background, I understood the concept of current, but had no idea how to read the water.  This whitewater kayaking class covered basic river hydrology, opening my eyes to the creative power of water in motion.  I learned not only which river features were hazardous, but which features were FUN and PLAYFUL!  Suddenly, every bridge I drove over was a hazard, my eyes on the river searching for eddies to catch and waves and holes to surf!

Whitewater Classes, Tips, and Techniques: Full Immersion Whitewater 1; Photo by Andrew Romanelli

Exploring the bountiful wilderness of the Pacific Northwest, splashing down innumerable rivers, Alder Creek Kayak & Canoe’s instruction on whitewater kayaking classes equipped me with the skills and knowledge to safely pursue a recreation that has simply made my life better.  The safe and fun environment made learning much easier.  Instructors gave me new challenges as needed, catering to my ability, while covering and reinforcing the class content.

Eddying in and out, ferrying, and surfing are maneuvers that challenge and refine edge control, stroke selection and timing.  Both pool and river time provide ample practice for capsize prevention, basic assisted rescue, and simple self-rescue!

Whitewater Classes, Tips, and Techniques: Full Immersion Whitewater 1; Photo by Andrew Romanelli

This Portland whitewater kayaking skills instruction class is excellent for both whitewater AND sea paddlers!  Students will have a greater awareness of dynamic, moving water and the gear used in these environments.  This course made me a better paddler in ALL of my paddlesport disciplines: whitewater kayaking, sea kayaking, flatwater canoeing, and stand-up paddling.

Awareness of body position and connection with the water through your boat and paddle is one of the greatest benefits of this course!  This improved my understanding of how and why different strokes work.

Whitewater Classes, Tips, and Techniques: Full Immersion Whitewater 1; Photo by Andrew Romanelli

With 2 pool sessions and 2 days of moving water, I learned a LOT about controlling my boat that week!  And the Sunday of Full Immersion Whitewater 1 is spent running a Class II section of river!

If you are interested in paddling rivers or just want to become a better paddler, the Full Immersion Whitewater 1 class is EXCELLENT.  It has literally changed my life.  Now I have to figure out which river to paddle this week…

-Andrew Romanelli

Don't forget to look back upstream! Whitewater Classes, Tips, and Techniques: Full Immersion Whitewater 1; Photo by Andrew Romanelli

For more information about beginner kayaking classes and lessons, call Alder Creek at 503-285-0464 or visit the website at!

Staff paddle: Bull Run to Dodge Park to Oxbow Park

March 6, 2013

L to R: Dave T, Paul, Slover, Malcolm, and Steve; Photo: Andrew Romanelli

As there are only three days a year that the shop isn’t open, it is a rare opportunity to paddle with my coworkers. It’s even rarer to see the boss man, Dave Slover, kayaking whitewater these days! Apparently having a family, owning a business, and being active in the community doesn’t allow for much river recreation with the boys. Suzi Elle, Andrew Brown, and Rod Richards graciously stayed behind to work so the rest of us could go and play!

Playing in the rain; Photo: Andrew Romanelli

In typical PNW fashion, the day was gray and wet, but who gives a hoot when you’re splashing down the Sandy? We made a full day of fun beginning with Bull Run, stopping briefly for snacks at Dodge park where Bull Run flows into the Sandy River, and continuing downstream to Oxbow Park. Bull Run was running around 800cfs and rising while the Sandy River was running approximately 3000cfs and rising. There were tons of eddies to catch, waves to surf, and rocks to boof! There may have even been a couple sessions of “boof that boat” aka “surprise!”

"Sharing" a wave; Photo: Andrew Romanelli

A fun day on the river, Team Alder Creek was represented by Dave Slover, Paul Kuthe, Steve Pilch, Malcolm Kelly, David Trageser, and myself. We were plenty tired after so much playing, and substantial eating was in direct order. At Tad’s Chicken N’ Dumpling, the crew grew with the additions of Suzi Elle, Andrew Brown, and Amy Cornett. Though Tad’s is along the way to/from put-ins, I had never stopped in to see what it’s about. It’s much nicer than I had anticipated with warm lighting, floor-to-ceiling wood, and a nice view of the Sandy River. We couldn’t resist the temptation of Tad’s namesake dish, and much chicken and many dumplings were speechlessly consumed. The portions were generously fit for hungry kayakers, and most of us cleared our plates…

Dinner at Tad's! Photo: Shaky-handed server

Opportunities to relax with the Team don’t come up very often. So, it’s always a pleasure to get together outside of work. Thank you, Dave and Suzi, for arranging a great day and for being awesome bosses.

-Andrew Romanelli

Tad's Chic Dump. Scrumptious. Photo: Andrew Romanelli


I asked the team what their favorite part of the day was, and this is what they told me:

I think the best part of the day for me was the company.  The laughs and team spirit and Slover’s face when we pulled out the beer. 🙂
The highlight for me was watching out for [the team] and ending up high out of the water on my face, then getting sucked back in to the river upside down with my paddle in one hand trapped under the boat, then eventually rolling up and realizing everyone was watching.
The beer was good, the food was fab, but the vibe was what made the day…
-Malcolm Kelly

Bull Run is my favorite section of river to date since I’ve been paddling in the NW. That day was exceptional! Picking off eddies, boofing rocks, and watching Malcolm high brace with his face on a rock.
I think I’m still recovering from that dinner at chic turd…I mean dump. My cholesterol may drop enough by next year to repeat that trip. Best combo that day for sure. Great people, good paddling, and awesome food.
-Steve Pilch

I can sum up my favorite moment in one word: y-shaped-mossy-slide-boof-rock.  And PBR.  That is all.
-David Trageser

Favorite part of the day?  I stayed upright the whole time.  The Jackson Karma was a great boat for me!
-Dave Slover

The best part of the staff paddle was seeing with my own eyes what an enthusiastic and skilled bunch of paddlers we have working here at the shop this season. We always have knowledgeable staff, but this season we have the staff STOKED on their own paddling progressions and the buzz is contagious! Sitting around the table chowing down a pile of home cooked dumplings was the icing on the cake.
-Paul Kuthe

ACA Instructor Development Workshop for River Kayaking

Feb 28-Mar 4, 2013

Alder Creek hosted this ACA IDW for River Kayaking; Photo: Andrew Romanelli

Recently, Malcolm Kelly, Steve Pilch, and myself participated in an American Canoe Association IDW to certify as whitewater instructors. There were seven candidates in all, and the course was lead by Instructor Trainer Ben Morton while assisted by Paul Kuthe and Heather Herbeck. Thanks to our excellent instructors, I learned far more than I had anticipated, bettering myself as a paddler and instructor. Ben, Paul, and Heather ran a focused yet fun course!

Instructor Trainer Ben Morton; Photo: John Whittenberger

If you find an opportunity to receive any instruction from Ben, Paul, or Heather, you shouldn’t pass it up. Ben Morton is enthusiastic, friendly, and has excellent group skills, teaching to everyone’s individual needs. I think each candidate received not only the instruction they needed but also a clear progression to continue learning and elevate our performance. Though I work with Paul Kuthe at Alder Creek, our schedules don’t allow much opportunity to receive instruction from him. It was great to experience Paul’s teaching from the position of a student! If you live in the Portland area, I strongly encourage you to pursue coaching from Paul. Check out some programs through Alder Creek and local paddling clubs! This weekend was also my first time meeting Heather Herbeck. Full of smiles and encouragement, I found Heather’s teaching style to be very informative and supportive. Based out of the Columbia Gorge, keep your ears peeled for instructional opportunities from Heather “All Smiles” Herbeck!

Instructors Heather Herbeck and Paul Kuthe; Photo: John Whittenberger

I cannot express just how much value I got out of this course, and I highly recommend this course for anyone looking to improve their river skills, especially if you aspire to lead or instruct friends, clubs, or clients!  This four and a half day course was spent mostly on the water.  Day 1 was spent covering Level 1 flatwater skills, followed by an evening pool session.  Day 2 introduced class I/II moving water on the Clackamas River.  Day 3 was spent on a class II/III stretch of the Washougal River, and the final day wrapped up Level 4 curriculum on Bull Run.  I was exhausted by the final day!  Between four, full days of paddling and working in the evenings, I had to turn lunchtime into some naptime!  Thankfully, the weather was incredible through the entire course.

Soakin up the sun! Photo: John Whittenberger

As a paddler, this course greatly improved my self awareness, cleaning up my lazy strokes and self-taught bad habits. Video assessment is not only humbling, it helped me make a connection between what I perceive myself as doing and what I’m actually doing!

Rescue practice on the Washougal River; Photo: Andrew Romanelli

As an instructor and guide, this course involved a great deal of discussion about learning styles and teaching methods. These discussions helped me assess my own learning style and understand other learning styles. Group management and rescues were other invaluable modules during the training and certification course.

Day 1; Photo: John Whittenberger

Day 2; Photo: John Whittenberger

Day 3; Photo: John Whittenberger

Day 4; Photo: John Whittenberger

This course was highly beneficial as a skill assessment and training program, and it leaves you with a clear progression for skill refinement and advancement!  Working from Level 1 to Level 4, you get a clear understanding of a paddler’s foundations on flatwater that encourage success in more dynamic environments.  Rather than having to certify in each level individually, as with the BCU, the ACA allows you to certify along the leveled progression where your abilities stand.  Afterwards, Instructor Candidates get to discuss what comes next as both an instructor and a paddler.

Beautiful weather and scenery! Photo: Andrew Romanelli

I whole-heartedly encourage paddlers so seek instruction from Ben Morton, Paul Kuthe, and Heather Herbeck, and keep your ears open for assessment and training courses from the ACA!

A huge thanks to my bosses and coworkers for helping make this opportunity possible for me!  See you on the water.

-Andrew Romanelli

ACA IDW Instructors and Candidates; Photo: Andrew Romanelli

Washougal River MP 4.5 to Hathaway Park

Washougal River MP 4.5 to Hathaway Park 2/2/13 ~1,500 cfs:

The Washougal River has always been one of my favorite rainy season runs in the Portland area, thanks to its proximity to the city, roadside access, beautiful scenery and abundant rapids with great character.  This last trip was my first run down the lower section, and as with most sections of river, at the end I was left wondering what took me so long to discover this gem of a run.  After setting our shuttle at Hathaway Park (located very close to the heart of Washougal), we ventured 4.5ish miles up Washougal River Rd to a pull off and unload our boats.

This section of river begins with a nice, easy class II warm up, where boaters can practice peel outs, ferrying, and get loose for the fun that lies downstream.  The first mile or so of this run is dotted with plenty of short, fun class II rapids that provide an ideal training ground for eddy hopping exercises, and everything is separated by ample stretches of relatively flat water so boaters have time to collect themselves in between rapids.  The biggest rapid on this particular run is a fun class II+/III (depending on the water level, for us I’d say it was II+) and comes about a mile or so into the trip.  You can easily scout this rapid from either bank, or from a large eddy on river right at the top of the rapid.  This drop is a splashy, fun S-turn that we powered through with a healthy amount of downstream momentum, going with the flow of the river.  Below this rapid are numerous class II+ ledge drops and boulder gardens, dotted with some fun play spots that are great for more skill development and refinement.

Every rapid on this run has numerous lines and can be boat scouted.  The take out at Hathaway Park is on river left.  Enjoy this rainy season run while you still can!

-Dave Trageser