Advanced Creeking Clinic on Canyon Creek
Enjoy Dave Trageser’s recount of his Personal First Descent of Canyon Creek during an Advanced Creeking Clinic!
“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 :)”