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JayB
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  Quote JayB Replybullet Topic: WA Creeking Step-Ladder
    Posted: 21 May 2009 at 1:31pm
Hey All:

Back from a long time away, and curious about whether or not there's anything like a vague consensus about  a logical progression of creeks that aspiring creekers can use as stepping stones to calibrate where they're at and build up skills and experience.

I did a bit of creeking back in New England, and felt like I had the local knowledge and the network necessary to keep my skill-to-river-class ratio in a zone that I was comfortable with.
Now that I'm back in WA for good, some pals and I are excited about checking out some of the many incredible creeks in the area, but want to start out on the mellower end of the scale and work our way up.

If this has already been covered before and there's already a thread that spells all of this out, if someone could kindly provide a link to it, I'd be very grateful. Otherwise, please chime in with your thoughts and suggestions. Anything between Vancouver and Portland (and a similar distance away on the East side is in range, but suggestions in drainages that are closer to Seattle would be especially welcome.)

Many thanks.



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James
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  Quote James Replybullet Posted: 21 May 2009 at 1:48pm
Great Idea Jay,

Here is my ladder approach. I know its not perfect, and it could be done differently but this is based on difficulty, access, remoteness, and mixing in some scenic stuff to keep you lovin it!!!

1. Peshastin Creek
2. Lower Icicle Creek in the lower range
3. Fall In The Wall in the lower range
4. Cooper in the lower range
5. Little Wenatchee / China Gorge
6. Canyon Creek Stilly or Lewis in the lower range
7. Top Tye in the lower range
8. Upper Icicle Creek in the lower range
9. Skokomish
10. Robe Canyon in the lower range 4.8 - 5.4

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  Quote James Replybullet Posted: 21 May 2009 at 1:51pm
I figure once you start running the middle section on icicle and robe at various levels you would no longer need a guide list etc.. At that point your going to know what you like and don't like, what is a good idea and what is not a good idea.

Having a friend lead you down is the best piece of advice I can offer though. It makes all the difference in the world. The added knowledge of where to boof, what angle, speed and stroke side etc..
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  Quote slickhorn Replybullet Posted: 21 May 2009 at 1:53pm
Did you just suggest Robe Canyon qualifies as a creek run?

my head just 'sploded!
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  Quote slickhorn Replybullet Posted: 21 May 2009 at 2:06pm
on the lower end of the scale, with an eye to trying out creeky type runs but not dealing with any IV+ or V, there are some off-the-beaten-path options:

WF Chehalis has 4 creeky drops.  very forgiving.  could be handled by III paddlers
Teanaway offers a couple of III runs that are creeky mini canyons
Coweeman is technical & fast, and tiny III-IV
Rapid River and/or Miller river, III-IV technical continuous
NW fork Washougal III-IV canyon
EF Humptulips  class II, III, or IV creeky canyon sections. WF has a IV+ run
BC Bridge River fairly remote long day of III-IV. 
Yellowjacket Creek IV canyon
Orletta section of the White Salmon

Then you start getting into the IV-V range
Cooper, Little 'chee, Cle Elum, Canyon Creeks, Farmlands, Truss etc

I'd probably put Farmlands, Truss, McCoy and Ohanepecosh between SF Skok and Robe in James' list above

(how is a run that can hit 20,000 cfs be a creek run? seriously, enlighten me please)

then you're into your true V+ runs like Lil white, clear fork, etc.  unless y'all are calling those V these days lol

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  Quote James Replybullet Posted: 21 May 2009 at 2:21pm
Originally posted by slickhorn

(how is a run that can hit 20,000 cfs be a creek run? seriously, enlighten me please)

Ok fine, they might not be creeks but your in a creek boat, and now a days the term doin some creekin has loosened to mean your going to get the creek boat out. At least thats what it seems like. Skok and Robe are really similar, yea not creeks per sei, but ledgy with fluffy rapids and tasty boofs... no?

Originally posted by slickhorn

then you're into your true V+ runs like Lil white, clear fork, etc.  unless y'all are calling those V these days lol

I just figured those are off the ladder ... mainly because when your at the level to hit the upper stuff your no longer following a guideline ... its personal taste/desire at that point.
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  Quote slickhorn Replybullet Posted: 21 May 2009 at 2:25pm
Don't think I'll ever run Robe, so I can't speak to the similarity with Skok, but the Skok to me has creeky drops, both ledges and boulder gardens.  Seems like you have to have a pretty juicy flow in the Skok to get to the kind of push that seems to be a native feature of Robe at most run flows, at least from what I can tell from scouting and the anecdotes I hear. 

The creek boat explanation makes a weird kind of counter-intuitive sense.  I know people take creekers on the Grand Canyon to have a more comfortable boat ... but if we call that creeking, isn't the distinction kinda lost? 

Agree with the solid V and harder stuff being off the ladder. 

Great topic! 
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  Quote tradguy2 Replybullet Posted: 21 May 2009 at 2:28pm
I like the list James came up with.  I've only ran the 1st three but they are right on. 
Peshastin is quite a bit easier (or at least less intimidating) than the next two but it is a good intro to creeking.  The run starts out with continuous class III (especially at higher flows) and climaxes with a class IV-/IV before easing off.  If you feel comfortable running Peshastin in a playboat you will probably like Lower Icicle in the low end of the range.
To me, FITW is the prototypical creek run ; steep, small and intimidating.  Thankfully the run is much easier than it looks at the low end of the range.  I followed Mike Harms down my first time without scouting and am glad I did.  I won't go so far as to recommend running it blind but  I will say that if you look at it too long it will psyche you out.  While the drops do look intimidating they are relatively benign with the exception of Larry's Ledge and the left side of Fishermans.  Elbow pads are a good idea.    
... preparing for a river beating!     
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  Quote James Replybullet Posted: 21 May 2009 at 2:33pm
I don't dis-agree with ya, I'm just saying what I hear and it could be discussed further based of the features on the run. IE robe might not be a creek, but it does have lots of nice ledges, boofs and tight lines. As far as that goes, then one could argue that Icicle is indeed no creek either but more of a river.




What would you say to that photo?
Creekin, River Running, or Big Water ?



Great Topic For Sure!!!!



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  Quote JoesKayak Replybullet Posted: 21 May 2009 at 2:53pm
Great thread. In general I like your suggestions, James. And Brian has some really good input too. I will especially concur with Brian on the WF Chehalis river... This is probably the best into to creeking run I've been on. It is pool-drop and has all the features you want to learn on for creeking: ledges & boulder gardens in a small, easy to scout or portage creek. The only downside is it needs a good deal of rain to bring up and I think the road may have issues from the last big flood down there... the one that closed I-5, remember?

Also: another that belongs on the lower 1/2 of the list IMO is EF Lewis falls run. Technically a "river" but it's on the upper stretches where its a smaller streams than many of the "creeks" on the list. Icicle creek should really be called Icicle River and on some maps it is. Anyway, EFL has some classic ledgy rapids and a couple of the cleanest waterfalls around... Plus it's pool-drop.


Now, I have one question that I've been wondering about lately: I hear people on this board saying they are going to run "upper Icicle"... which would mean this run. However, it seems sometimes they mean they upper half of the middle run. Is that the case? It's a bit confusing.
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  Quote BRoss Replybullet Posted: 21 May 2009 at 2:54pm
cool topic. I would put EF Lewis and Lower Wind through shipherd's falls at the easier end of the spectrum. Both are good training for bigger vertical drops.
"That boated a lot better than it looked." "It always does until it doesn't."
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  Quote BRoss Replybullet Posted: 21 May 2009 at 2:57pm
ahem, meant the lower wind at summer flows!
"That boated a lot better than it looked." "It always does until it doesn't."
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  Quote James Replybullet Posted: 21 May 2009 at 2:58pm
Here ya go Joe.

Icicle Creek
1 - Rock Island Campground to Ida Creek (Upper Upper)
II-III+(V)
Icicle Creek
2 - Ida Creek to Eight Mile Creek (Upper)      (4)
IV-V(V+)
Icicle Creek
3 - Ricochet Section (Middle)        (7)
V-V+
Icicle Creek
4 - Snow Creek trailhead to Leavenworth Hatchery (Lower)        (4)
IV+


I would say most folks that run the Upper run the Middle too, maybe portaging around various rapids. However they are most certainly two distinct types of whitewater. The middle has much more pronounced gradient and ledges where the upper is more continous rapidy fun!
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  Quote JoesKayak Replybullet Posted: 21 May 2009 at 3:01pm
James I just realized there's more "rivers" than "creeks" in your list.


1. Peshastin Creek
2. Lower Icicle Creek in the lower range
3. Fall In The Wall- SF Snoqualmie River
4. Cooper River in the lower range
5. Little Wenatchee River / China Gorge- Cle Elum River
6. Canyon Creek Stilly or Lewis in the lower range
7. Top Tye River in the lower range
8. Upper Icicle Creek in the lower range
9. SF Skokomish River
10. Robe Canyon- SF Stillaguamish River in the lower range 4.8 - 5.4


Could it be that rivers are better creeks than creeks?

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  Quote slickhorn Replybullet Posted: 21 May 2009 at 3:02pm
Just to throw an arbitrary number out: in my mind, 1000cfs is one spot where creek vs river maybe meets. 

What is the Tsangpo?  100 fpm and full of ledges, 100' waterfall etc .... definitely run in creekboats.  Doesn't seem like a creek to me ... Stikine also run in creekboats, same deal.

Icicle, to me, is a river.  I agree with Joe there. It's steep, and Ricochet is run at low flows and is uber technical, so it feels "creeky" I suppose.

Maybe a more useful distinction is "Creek" vs "River" which is a function I would think of gradient and volume.  Then a separate distinction for "Creeking" vs "river-running" which is a function of the nature of the moves.  Vertical bedrock, I think, most would agree is creeking.  But what about running Boulder Drop at 1000?  It's not big water.  Ledges and boofs all over.  Run in creekers and playboats.  Where does that fall?

I think this is like arguing river ratings ... it's a loose descriptor, and if you wanna know more, go see it for yourself. 

I'd also throw out Copper Creek as a great intro creeking run.  2 big drops, both easily portaged, otherwise a III+ run with 1 ledge. 
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  Quote JoesKayak Replybullet Posted: 21 May 2009 at 3:06pm
OK that helps. I thought maybe people were referring to the upper half of the (old) middle section, like from Ida Creek to Bridge camp.

I haven't run the whole upper section before... just from Ida creek down to just above roadside attraction. So I guess that was the upper's upper half.


I like Bennett's description of Ricochet and the bonus rapids in his book, he says "what you're still reading this? Well, yeah there is some more stuff downstream... you suuure you want to know about that..."
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  Quote James Replybullet Posted: 21 May 2009 at 3:22pm
Just updated the upper icicle description 
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  Quote JoesKayak Replybullet Posted: 21 May 2009 at 3:31pm
Nice... I just realized the rapid in my avatar is called "RV". I didn't know that rapid had a name.
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  Quote huckin harms Replybullet Posted: 21 May 2009 at 4:00pm
Top Tye is not a river, nor Cooper, or Lil Chee.  If you want to argue it... then in name only, eh.

Edited by huckin harms - 21 May 2009 at 4:00pm
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  Quote jP Replybullet Posted: 21 May 2009 at 5:13pm
Wow. An actual, engaging topic about KAYAKING. I am so relieved. So many valid points- and I can disagre and agree with different opinions without having to crawl on all fours in the mud. Awesome.
 
My 2 cents:
First- I agree with the bulk of Slickhorns points. Creeking has loosened to generally mean anything run in a creekboat, and listening to me rant about the Diablo, 'yall know how I feel about creek boats on FLAT rivers. The distinction has to do with three things, IMO.
 
Gradient, Volume (cfs that boaters paddle the run), and, just as importantly, CAPACITY (cfs discharged at various rates due to peak events and seasons.)
 The Sky is a river, no matter if you paddle a creekboat or a raft. I consider it not 'flatwater' (because it does have lots of whitewater) but I call it "Flatriver" paddling because the gradient is below 70fpm or so.
 
But back to creeking and your question:
 
There are two basic categories of Creeks (or rivers).
Sustained gradient and Pool Drop. These distinctions are important for you to consider when factoring what's appropriate for you. Knowing these two character distinctions will help you interpret the only concrete info you can generally glean about runs you have not done. Namely, Gradient (expressed in feet per mile) and volume (cfs or feet).
 
This is all probably painfully obvious, but, a 100fpm creek that has sustained gradient is vastly different from a 100fpm pool drop creek. Sustained gradient creeks really take you for a ride, if you aren't careful and comfortable with the "Gun and Run" or "Hey Diddle Diddle" approach. While pool drop runs are generally more digestible in chunks, as they facilliate eddying out and resting, boat scouting from micro eddies, ect.
 
Ingall's/Peshastin, the Rapid, Lower Ici, these are all sustained gradient creeks. IMO when you run these at very low flows you aren't really developing the skills you want for running more difficult runs of this style. What I mean is, You want these kinds of runs to be a little juicier. Why? because they generally smooth out if you add water. They become easier because you just need to stay aligned with the current. Stopping in eddies is often a waste of energy, and a good way to get tripped up. Plus these kinds of runs are hell on a boat ($1000!) if you bump scape and grind your way over their often sharp and manky riverbeds at low flows.
 
FITWah, The Cooper, Green Truss... These exemplify Pool Drop runs. Lower water usually makes them more manageable, easier to eddy out, ect. They channelize better, making them more conducive for ELF paddling. You have pools to land in below pronounced drops.
 
It's cool to make lists an all, (I do it when I'm on the couch jonesin to run everything in the Book), but I'd say it's more important to hang out on runs you know that push your skills. Get familiar with them and really work your fitness/technique. Live in Seattle? You can easily hike-scout FITWah. Not your cup of Tea yet? Then EVERY TIME you go over to the Wenatchee you should be stopping to look at it until the day comes that you run it. It's so close to Seattle that you can hit it up after work. Great boof practice. Tom's right though- ELBOW PADS are a must.
 
I think to approach it like "Ok I just ran FITWah, now I'm going to run somethin harder" is hastey and eroneous. Until you STOP ENTERING Boulder Drop ON THE FAR RIGHT like every Tom, Dick and Harriet ALWAYS DOES, you can't say B.D. is old hat. Go run laps on B.D. There are class V moves at 3000 if you're looking for them. There's also about 100 class IV lines that I almost never see anyone run.
 
Greta topic, BTW
 


Edited by wetmouse - 21 May 2009 at 5:32pm
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  Quote jP Replybullet Posted: 21 May 2009 at 5:24pm
To more directly answer you with lists:
 
 
Run Peshastin for limited IV, Add Ingall's to the beginning of your Peshastin run for   more class IV (should be running this wekend)
Pilchuck Creek (Hard to catch at good flows)
E.Frk Lewis (late winter/early spring)
FITWah (Right around the corner!)
CC Stilly (should be running lately)
Cooper (Right around the corner!)
Top Tye
 
That's just a few-mostly class III - IV, with some class V morsels thrown in, depending on waterlevel.
 
Like James said, the best is to follow someone (with the caveat: make sure they can lead you properly, and have the run confidently dialed in)


Edited by wetmouse - 21 May 2009 at 5:35pm
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  Quote Larry Replybullet Posted: 21 May 2009 at 6:31pm
I ran the Top Tye, and Truss, before any of the others on James list. Then I think I kinda fell off the ladder (maybe started too high?). Then again, I did start boating with "OH sure, You can do that" Rob. And now Robs off the ladder in the other direction.
 
Anyway, I'm not going to rank them, but don't forget about Fun, not to difficult, creeks like the Foss, Silver Creek, the Cascade. Sure, Silver is not easy to get to now, and the Cascade isn't the same since they removed the bridge. But still great runs.
 
I'm not so concerned any more about what might be the next river in the progression of things. I know the kinds of run I like and those I don't. I have no ambition of running Robe, or the Little White. But would love to get on McKoy, or the Cispus, or some others I haven't done yet.
 
I found the best thing is to paddle with as many different groups, or individuals, as possible. Everyone will have different runs they know, and different ones they like, and will be able to guide you to the best ones for you based on skill level and style preferrence. Just get out as much as possible on as many different runs as possible.
 
Sorry for the JP style post


Edited by Larry - 21 May 2009 at 6:52pm
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  Quote dave Replybullet Posted: 21 May 2009 at 6:53pm
OMG! These guys are long winded...

I am a beginer creeker and its easy.

Dont get all hung up on the Levenworth side... its great, but everyone is hung up on driving 3 hours each way every weekend... Stupid...

FITW is close and a great beginer run at med to low flows.

Cooper is close also and the next step past FITW.

Then hit the Icicle if you have the gas money and massive amounts of time it takes to go over there.

There is some stuff around Granit Falls also that is close and mixed difficulty.

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  Quote dave Replybullet Posted: 21 May 2009 at 6:58pm
Hey, but what do I know, I am just a beginner with a big mortgage to pay and no gas money...
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  Quote PowWrangler Replybullet Posted: 21 May 2009 at 8:29pm
I'd add that Robe at med to low flows isn't as difficult as people make it out to be.....Ohane and McCoy both have bigger drops than Robe.

Also, I wouldn't base too much on whether the pioneers named it a creek or a river.


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