Complete the Chetco River located in Siskiyou National Forest and the Kalmiopsis Wilderness area in Oregon in a weekend. (Feb 28 – Mar 2)
John Wilburn – Grant Pass
Beta, Hiking information, river levels, takeouts
There are two ways that previous people have hiked in.
1) Chetco Pass route
2) Babyfoot Lake/Mt Bailey Trail
This is where I probably had the most difficulty finding accurate and reliable information.
The Chetco Pass route was the shortest and with time being an issue was the most appealing but I found out that they have a POC gate that they keep closed to help with Port Orford Cedar Root Disease. If you start at the gate and hike the road and then drop down it is the same distance as the Babyfoot but it means climbing over a pass. The advantage is you get to hike the first part on the road which seemed appealing since we would be hiking the first miles in the dark. Even though more grueling it would thus eliminate the possibility of getting loss in the dark.
After finding a way to use gps on my iphone. The plans changed to the Babyfoot lake trail and I think for the better. The Babyfoot lake trail also puts you 3 miles up higher and allows you to paddle what they call the “Magic Canyon”.
To get to the Babyfoot Lake trail head, you take 199 toward Crescent City and right outside of Selma you turn onto $8 Mountain Road. Follow this road to the top of the mountain and then take the left fork. There is a parking lot there with a pit toilet. Very easy to find and everything is well marked.
We were not sure if 4×4 would be needed or a vehicle with ground clearance, etc. but this is a gravel road, you could take a Mercedes up. I also was warned that it would be completely snowed in
Distance – 9 miles
We arrived at the trail head on Friday after work and began hiking at 7pm. We hiked till 11:30 pm and crashed. The temperature was cool and perfect for hiking. That night it started to drizzle/rain. We just pulled out the tarps and rolled up in them like tacos till morning. By morning the rain had stopped, we ate breakfast and started hiking around 8am. We reached the put-in at about noon on Saturday.
Hiking with a kayak is difficult. A kayak alone ways 50 lbs then put about 25 lbs gear in it and you are at 75 lbs, not only that but it is large and awkward. These miles are also on trails with loose rocks, limbs and downed trees.
The put-in looked low and scrappy. It soon picked up volume. The upper section is tight and technical.
We were able to boat scout and run everything thus moving quicker than I thought we would. We put on about 1pm and paddled till dark and was only about 2 miles from Tolman Ranch having covered about 20 miles.
It rained all night and our shuttle was not going to pick us up till 5pm so it would be lots of waiting around in the rain so we decided to get an early start and push on thus getting the lower Chetco which has Candy Cane rapid and Cone Head, two solid class Vs.
We were able to get a text out at the second bridge to our driver with the change of plans to meet us at the start park. We arrived there at 3pm and was back to Grants Pass after picking up our put-in vehicle by 7pm.
We had a consistent 1800 on the Chetco gauge near Brookings. This is adequate water but if I were to do it again. I think idea would be 3000 and dropping on the Gauge thus cleaning up a lot of mank in the early sections.
Our initial plans were to take out at the first bridge crossing the Chetco. Some reports said bring a rope to get your gear up. Don’t be fooled there is an easy trail after the bridge on river right. We ended up taking out at Alfred Leob state park. Ideal takeout would be the South Fork Chetco confluence on River Left. Thus getting the two Class Vs and cutting out the flat water.
It was neat to see and feel how this river starts out as a mountain stream and then gains volume and turn into a river. The vegetation also drastically changes from dry and airy to moss covered and coastal. The rapids are well spaced and I never lost boredom with flat water until below the Sourth Fork junction. The lower rapids had lots of big rocks and different lines and were quite fun.
After 9 miles hiking with a kayak and 40 river miles, I could not wait for a hot shower with a cold beer!