Lake Creek Blowout on the Middle Fork
First hand account of the Lake Creek blowout and Pistol Creek logjam that occured on July 26, 2006 by ECHO guide Colleen Winters.
We camped at Fire Island, the night before Lake Creek blew out and caused the total closure of the river, due to a logjam. Lightning colored the sky in the early morning, but few raindrops came down on our camp. We left Fire Island around 9:30 and started floating down the river just like any other day.
As we approached Lake creek, a few of us noticed the lack of current and that the high water line was just barely out of the water. We knew then that Lake creek had dammed up the river at some point during the early morning. We soon caught up to our Sweep boat, along with many other float groups. They were parked on river left, just below a river bench on the river. Rumors were already coming back that logs had jammed up Pistol Creek Rapid, and that the river was not runable. After a short walk we were all staring down at the huge mess, wondering what was going to happen. We had three commercial groups and at least two privates who had already arrived and floating down the river was going to be impossible any time soon.
The Forest Service had gotten word by radio, and because they were camped right above us on the river, they had shown up by the time be got back to our boats. For us, we had to start making lunch, and setting up tents knowing we would at least have to spend the night. That evening, we heard the Forest Service might be able to bring some explosives in, and may or may not blow the logjam in the next few days. We made the decision to fly our guests out from Pistol Creek Ranch, and made the phone calls. We had a nice dinner with our guests and had everybody up around 7:00am the next day. Once everyone had their bags packed, we headed down the trail to the ranch and had one last look at the jam.
All day long the Forest Service crew pulled log after log out of the pile. The logs actually started flowing at one point, but then really got jammed up. The Forest Service than decided that in the morning they would use the explosives to get rid of the river hazard. We arose early, had our coffee and breakfast, and headed out to see the event. We weren't able to be very close to where the explosives were going to be going off, so we spent all morning trying to figure out where the best view would be from. Some headed up the hill to get a view and some headed down river where we had a pretty good shot. With the guards on the trail to stop traffic, and an explosion time that kept getting pushed back, we waited. The logjam finally exploded and we were able to get some good photos.
A few seconds after the explosion, the debris started flowing down the river, and amazingly left a good channel down the right side. The Forest Service claimed that it was ninety-five percent clear, and that they should have the river open by the next morning. A few of the forest service kayaked all the way down to Indian Creek to make sure it was run able, and then declared the river was back open that evening. Since it was so late in the day, everyone camped once more on the river bench, and celebrated a job well done.