Lake Creek Update - June 16, 2007
Fires associated with the Pistol Creek fire of 2000 charred the Lake Creek watershed. Since then two microburst storms have caused mud and trees to slide down Lake Creek and block the river. The most recent occurred last summer and caused the blockage at Pistol Creek Rapid that was removed by the Forest Service. During that time, we had a trip on the water that had to end early and you can read more about that trip here. Earlier this spring, higher water moved some logs around in the new Lake Creek Rapid which has made it more difficult, especially for sweep boats.
This is the account of our last trip that passed through the Lake Creek Rapid. We launched on the Middle Fork on June 16 and arrived above Lake Creek on the morning of June 17th with a sweep boat, oar boat, paddle boat, and three kayaks. We'd been here two weeks before so we had a good idea of what the rapid looked like. Since then, the river had dropped almost a foot and some logs seemed to have moved around.
The long rapid below Lake Creek consists of three main parts. The entrance is fairly tight and there is a large vertical tree on the left side that water is piling up against. Next are three smaller vertical trees in the middle of the current. The rapid ends as the river heads straight for the rootball of a fallen tree. It looks like there are three large trees there and they are more or less parallel with the current. Running into these trees would be dangerous. You can however make a hard move to the right into a small eddy to avoid the trees. Below here, the current swifty leads into Pistol Creek Rapid.
Our first reaction after looking at the rapid is that it was easier and safer than when we'd run it on May 30th for our Salmon Supreme trip. The water wasn't moving as fast or as strong into the trees at the bottom. We decided it was safe to run and we asked our guests to walk around the rapid as there was no benefit of extra people in the rapid above the dangerous logs. Plus, the rapid isn't all that much fun anyway.
Ian went first. Two weeks ago, his oar boat hit the logs at the bottom and he was a little freaked out from that incident. He went left of the three trees in the middle of the rapid and reported that it was shallow. This time he took a stronger reverse ferry angle at the bottom and crossed the eddy line on the bottom right perfectly. Then Dave went in the paddle assist boat with two guides as paddlers. They made it down effortlessly.
This was followed by three kayakers running the rapid. We were a bit nervous about kayaks running this rapid since a flipped kayak could easily be swept into the rootball or the logs at the bottom. After talking with these guys in camp, we realized that they were solid kayakers from stories of the many Class V runs that they've done. They had no problems and, in fact, easily caught the right side eddy at the bottom of the rapid.
Finally, I ran the sweep boat down with Shay. We entered the top and came precipitiously close to the tree in the entrance. Then I pulled hard on the sweeps and rode the slack water down the right side of the current. This allowed us to easily run right of the three trees. Then I dropped the sweeps as we went through the hole. After the hole I had plenty of time to recover and pull the sweep boat and put the nose in the eddy and the bottom next to the trees. As soon as the stern hit the eddy, the boat was pulled strongly to the right. It wanted to spin and I let it so that we ran backwards down the right side.
Later that night I walked up to Helfrich camp and talked to Christian, one of the most experienced and competent sweep boat drivers on the Middle Fork. He said that he ran left of the three trees, and was able to run the bottom part without spinning around backwards.
Note: This information is accurate as of June 17, 2007. The entire rapid is dynamic and things could change day to day. Please scout and use your own judgment.