There are a few things that can be said of winter boating, particularly in drainages along the Oregon coast: Solitude. Beauty. Muddy Roads. Frozen Cam Straps. But, the two main words that come to mind are “cold” and “wet”. The little sun that peaks over the ridge line for the meer two or three hours simply is no match for the prevelant cold and wet Oregon is so well known for.
These conditions tend to co-exist with great river flows for rafting and kayaking, which leads to us boaters sacrificing some comfort to enjoy the sport we love. Now, this trip came together because Dan’s brother, Mike, was in town and wanting to get out on the water. The Illinois came into our radar because it was around a nice level of 1000 CFS or so. We loaded up Mike’s car, which had been totalled and was missing the right seats, with my raft, frame, oars, 2 kayaks, a cooler, and our personal bags. It was a very tight fit, and the car bottomed-out as we left the parking lot.
We stopped in Selma to pick up our permit and then it was on to the river. There were a few places along the way that Dan and I had to get out of the car so that it wouldn’t bottom out. As Dan and I “portaged” the rough spots in the road, the car just barely scraped along. It was slow going to the put-in, but we got there eventually and soon enough we were on the water.
We camped the first night about 1/3 of a mile above Klondike, on a very wet and sandy beach. At the time, none of us knew that Klondike was a camp… otherwise we would have been there for sure. It got dark early so we ate fast and crawled into bed. In the morning everything was covered in ice. I remember making a quick meal and then rigging as fast as possible so that I could row to the other side of the river where the sun was just starting to hit.
After hanging out in the sun briefly, we pushed off downstream. There is only one really significant rapid between Klondike and Prelude and we made it through that easily. I had a random surf (but a long one) at some rapid I don’t know the name of. It got me pretty rattled so we took a break to east some lunch. After lunch we ran through Prelude and then the entry rapid to Green Wall. Scouted and then ran on through. Everything else was smooth sailing and we camped at the waterfall camp on the upstream portion. It was a cold night and we struggled getting a fire started. Everything we found was soaking wet and didn’t light.
The next morning was freezing cold and we tried to push off as early as possible to reach take-out. At this point I had decided that I was not going to do this trip again in December. Of course, after reaching take-out and turning the heat on the three of us decided that this trip “must be an annual event!” Turns out, I would do it again… and maybe bring a duraflame with me.
Written by Will Volpert