Thursday, December 16, 2004

Copper Creek

Looking back up at the first three pitches of Final Five Canyon.

On Thursday, December 16 Steve and David and I ran Copper Creek, a small tributary of the EF Lewis. We estimate we had flows of maybe 300 cfs. The EF Lewis gauge showed 950 cfs dropping slowly. Photos are in two galleries: Gallery 1 and Gallery 2.

Copper Creek starts out with a boney class III riverbed. Shortly below the bridge near the putin, the river plunges over a triple drop collectively known as Certain Death, class V+. This drop had one of the worst undercuts I've ever seen. We hiked down a gated road for five minutes and putin at a nice pool below Certain Death.

Certain Death Video
Certain Death Scout

Certain Death from below. Note the nasty undercut on river right.

The first mile and a half for Copper Creek has numerous shallow rapids. The little bit of wood present was well out of the way, and we were all amazed at our luck at finding the run with water on a sunny December day. As you approach the first big rapid, variously known as The Big Falls or Triple Delight, the river begins to show a little life with small ledge drops. At these flows, none of the holes were burly, but that didn't stop Steve from swimming one, just to cool off from the unseasonably warm weather.

Steve in one of the early rapids.

One of the bigger ledges early in the trip.

Steve in one of the early rapids.

The 28 drop forms the first significant horizon line. Here, Copper Creeks over three ledges. First a two-footer, then a twisting 8-foot drop into a pool above the 18 foot falls. With a rope set at the base of 8-footer, you'll have a good position to keep anyone from swimming the main falls.

Triple Delight Video

The first two drops of Triple Delight.

The final 18' drop of Triple Delight.

Below Triple Delight, Copper Creeks continues with some fun class III/IV small drops. Two of these drops stand out. The first is a sliding ledge drop. The book says run right-to-left, which is definately a line available to you. We opted for a neat, narrow chute on river right. The second drop is a flume-style rapid, with a series of drops in a tight bedrock slot. This had a nice little limbo log mid-chute, for style points. There were several other fun, clean ledges from two to four feet in this section.

Sliding Ledge Video

The sliding ledge drop. Run river left-to-right, or hug the right bank.

Another nice ledge drop on Copper Creek.

Flume Drop Video

The flume drop.

David shows off his tailstand skills.

Eventually, you'll round a corner and be at the top of Final Five Canyon. This is an excellent rapid, by any standard I've ever heard of. Definitely the highlight of a Copper Creek run. Final Five Canyon consists of five distinct drops. First a sliding ledge, with a nice boof flake center-right. This leads into a 7-foot punchbowl falls with very little runout before a sliding drop into a headwall. This drop has a decent runout and 50 yards of pool before a two-tiered falls, a six-footer into an 8-footer to round of the five drops. This magnificent collection of drops is set in a 30 foot gorge, with a very manageable portage trail on river right that provides a place to set a rope if needed.

Final Five Canyon Video

The first pitch of Final Five Canyon.

The second drop, a punchbowl falls.

The third pitch of Final Five Canyon, a sliding drop into a headwall.

The final two pitches of Final Five Canyon.

Below Final Five Canyon, Copper Creek quickly joins the East Fork Lewis, which has several lively class III/IV boulder gardens and small ledges. After a mile or so on the EF Lewis, you'll come to Horseshoe Falls, a very clean drop the book claims is 22 feet. You can scout on the left, and opt for the left side, which offers a narrow, twisting chute, or the main drop, which has an incredible autoboof -- just go straight and keep your balance!

Steve about to swim on the EF Lewis.

Horseshoe Falls Video

Horseshoe Falls on the EF Lewis.

Below Horseshoe Falls, the EF Lewis offers class II/III boogie water down to a final small ledge at the takeout.

Steve runs the final ledge at the takeout.

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