Trip report written by Will Volpert. Flows were around 2700 CFS.
With no rain and low flows all around, I was about to give up hope on finding a new stretch of water nearby to explore. My friend Alan Jones sent an email about a trip on the North Santiam and I was intrigued. It sounded like mellow water but fun none-the-less. I’d run an upper stretch of the North Santiam with Ryan Morgan previously, so called him and asked him about the run. He mentioned something about a Niagra stretch just upstream and that we could even tie it into Alan’s run if we wanted. This sounded good; so the next morning I loaded up a boat, two paddles, a beautiful girlfriend and off we went.
We ran into Alan’s crew at the take-out as we were dropping off our shuttle rig. It was good to see Alan. I ran the Illinois with him last April and had a blast. He has great stories, is a tremendous boater, and is one of the kindest people I know. We chatted for a little bit and then headed off to our respective put-ins.
The put-in for the Niagra stretch wasn’t too bad for a raft. There was a winding trail down to the river but it was easier to just rope the boat down to the water. It’s an Avon, so you don’t have to be delicate with it like a Sotar 🙂 Just joking. I guess I’m an official Oregon boater now so may as well get used to seeing the plastic boats.
Anyway, roped the boat down and off we went! Pretty canyon, cold water, and mainly class II greeted us for the first stretch of the Niagra Run. Then we hit a rapid dubbed “The Narrows”. Ryan ran it cleanly but in the raft we decided to portage the first drop. It certainly looked doable but not optimal; and with an easy portage the decision was easy. I hate to portage but when it is easy and you’re not up for game, it’s the way to go. We paddled out the second drop and through the cool canyon just below.
Next up was Niagra, which is well-known for the narrow exit at the bottom. We had fun bouncing down the start of the rapid (not difficult at this flow) and eddied out on the left just before the exit. Watched Ryan go through and then pushed off. Pretty slow and easy so no problems there.
The last obstacle of the Niagra stretch is the dam. The reversal is heinous looking. We portaged on the right, next to the signs that say “NO TRESPASSING.” Oh well.
We then ran the stretch below Niagra which is maybe seven or eight miles in length. It was nice to be on the water. Mellow. There are maybe one, two, or three class II+ or III rapids. But, with great company that is ok. This day on the water made me realize how great it is to have friends like Ryan Morgan, Alan Jones, and my girlfriend Dana. My best boating friends seem to always expand my river horizon lines and for that there is much appreciation. To more river days and great friends!