Thursday, August 18, 2005

South Fork Salmon

The South Fork Salmon Canyon.

Ah, low water. Rivers at home are nearly all dry, and little multiday boating is to be had anywhere near Seattle. What to do? Pack up and head for the South Fork Salmon. This run is accessed east of McCall (by way of a very scenic pass) and flows nearly 50 miles before reaching the Main Salmon at Mackay Bar.

Fish and I took five days for the run, and had excellent weather -- and the river to ourselves. After the usual snafus with last minute trips, we launched around noon and enjoyed the upper canyon sections and easy class III rock gardens. We had flows of 1.8 feet.

Video: Short clips from the South Fork.

Fish in the early canyon.

Before long, we found the orange jeep on the right bank, and knew we had reached Devil's Creek. This was a straightforward boulder garden at these flows. The top of the rapid offered a left or right line before a 20-foot ferry to the right to line up for the main drop.

The author in Devil's Creek.

We made camp shortly below the drop, at a nice sandy bench on the right. The next morning, more fun III-IV boulder gardens kept us busy.

Fish boat scouting below camp 1.

SFS Canyon scenary.

Before long, we came to Surprise Drop, which did not seem to contain a surprise at these flows, just a straightforward run down the center.

Surprise Drop.

Shortly below Surprise comes Elk Creek. This was a standout rapid in my opinion -- really a great move. There's a sneak far right against the wall, or a fun move left over a nice ledge.

Elk Creek Rapid from above.

Fish makes the move left.

The author lines up for the bottom ledge.

More great SFS scenary.

Below Elk Creek, we found more great rapids. My favorite was Greyhound, in which we found a very fun move left of center over a great ledge.

Here's Fish makin' the move in Greyhound.

This is a pretty typical boulder garden.

We were now getting down into the Porphyry Creek area. We found many fun class IV rapids in this section.

Fish, near Porphory Creek.

The author in a fun boulder bar drop.

After some great class III-IV drops, the canyon really gets rugged and you just know something big is coming. Get ready for Fall Creek!

This is the wall the indicates Fall Creek. The eyebrow formation Chris Dawkins' maps mentions is circled in white.

Fall Creek is a hell of a drop. The first of three drops offered a great chute along the right wall. The second drop offers a straightforward leadin to a meaty hole. I got my first gearboat swim in on this drop.

The second tier of Fall Creek.

Here's Fish pulling a big brace out the bottom of Fall Creek.

The final drop is a long congested boulder garden. It offers a tricky move riding a pillow to the left of the midstream boulder without getting surfed far left into an undercut. Unfotunately, our camera karma caught up with us at this point and I have no photos for you. I have some video, but can't get it out of the camera at the moment, but I'll update this post once I can get that resolved.

There you have it -- a wonderful week in a fantastic canyon.