Trip report written by Will Volpert. The flow for this trip was fairly low: 1900 CFS, which is around 4.2 feet on the gauge.
This trip was the result of a spawning of “great ideas” we came up with on a very late Thursday night. Living in Ashland, being a boater, and not having been down the Cal-Salmon is kind of like being being an American and not being fat – it is pretty darn rare. Somehow I’d been here for three years and had yet to see the “Slammin’ Salmon,” well, up until yesterday.
We left Ashland around 8:30 and didn’t get on the water until 12:30ish. Dan Thurber, who’d been down twice before, was in his kayak and I was in a 12′ raft borrowed from the SOU Outdoor Program. The run started really mellow. Bloomer’s at this flow presented little challenge for kayak or raft. At Airplane Turn we got out of our boats to take a quick look. Dan went down the main drop (the airplane turn), I snuck right in the raft. Not much of a problem there either. Our next stop was at Cascade where we each went left. At this flow it would be a real nasty swim. Lots of rocks. Dan had a great line. I was off a little in the raft and dropped into a hole I would’ve preferred to stay out of. With plenty of speed, got through just fine though.
At Last Chance we got out of our boats again to check out the run. With Freight Train just around the bend, it’s probably a place you’d rather experience in your boat. At the bottom we eddied out to scout Freight Train, which is considered the most difficult rapid on the run. At this flow it consisted of a long entry and two moves. Move right and then left. How many times have you heard that? I moved right but didn’t get the move back left and ended up sneaking through along the far right bank. Much to Jamie’s disappointment, he didn’t get any carnage shots. Dan had another stellar run and we continued downstream.
At Butler Flat Dan switched into his play boat, we ate some dead turkey and bagels, and pushed off. From here to take-out we just boat scouted and pushed for speed. It’s a long day if you plan on doing this run at low water and are driving there and back. Everything below Butler was mainly class II/III with one class IVish rapid: The Gaping Maw. Lots of boulder dodging at this flow. Dick’s Ledge (I think that’s what it’s called, but who knows?) presented a fun drop. Below that it was time to break out the beers and meet Jamie at the take-out. Another great day on the river.
This was a great flow to see the river for the first time. Most of the stuff was read and run with the exception of Freight Train and Last Chance. Certainly the clearest water I’ve ever seen. The rapids reminded me of a mixture between the Scott and the Lower Gorge on the South Fork of the Smith, although it didn’t feel as steep as either or as continuous as the Scott. The upper stretch seemed like mainly class III with a few class IV drops. Freight Train was certainly the biggest rapid on the run but at this flow maybe not class V. I’m looking forward to my next time down there: Higher water and bigger smiles!
Ashland photographer Jamie Lusch had decided to join us for the trip south to snap shots and he met up with us at Achilles Heal. Got some great photos of our runs through. Here are a few: