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Lyre River Caos

Class: IV-V      GMap
Off PA J-3000 to Lyre River Campground
Trip Date: 2/18/2010
Written on: 2/23/2010
Written by:

After spending the day drift boat fishing on the Sol Duc with the pioneer of many OP rivers, and picking his brain about the Lyre River, I decided to solo the Lyre River on Thursday February 18, 2010. The beta I recieved about the river made me comfortable with taking it on solo.
I used the river left road, which is gated and locked, and started hiking my boat in. The road starts out with a pretty mellow incline in the first mile or so, then turns fairly steep.
After another half mile, I came to a fork in the road and had to make a choice where to go. The main road, which I was on, veared off to the right away from the river, and a less traveled spur road veared off to the left. I took this less traveled road to the end and it brought me to a large opening where the power lines are coming through. There was T in the road and I took a left and hiked towards the river. I came upon the Lyre River ATV trail which I found out goes right along the river left side of the river. It was pretty sweet access to the river and you can see a couple rapids while hiking up. I will later describe these rapids I saw from the ATV as they were clean enough to run.
I continued up the ATV trail until I came to a "Trail Closed" sign. Another fork in the path. The trail next to the river is closed and under construction and the "open" trail veared away from the river. Another choice had to be made. I hiked down the closed trail over a few trees and a few wooden trail bridges.
I didn't know exactly where to put on and I ended up putting on just above the main canyon section of the run near three giant spruce. (I put on one rapid above the big waterfall coming into the the lyre from a small side creek) And below the sieve rock garden rapid which was described to me. I guess the entire river goes under boulders and you portage over them. I never saw that feature and I'm glad I didn't hike any further upstream because all hell broke loose pretty much immediately after I put on.
I put on a straight section of river and it was beautiful with the sun shinning through the canyon. Downstream the river started dropping off and I could tell there was a drop of some kind coming up fast. I took my time catching every small eddy down to a eddy on river left above the rapid and scouted. This rapid consists of a bunch of small ledges that gets steeper and steeper and the entire river becomes white in the last 25 yards. The river turns hard left at the bottom of the rapid. There is a big boulder on river left at the bottom that you cannot see around but a nice eddy on river right. This huge boulder marks the entrance to the steep section of the canyon. I cruised down and caught the river right eddy.
The next set of drops were were immediately around that big boulder and I was commited to the canyon. There was a big tree down lengthwise in the river which cut the width of the river in half (10feet) The first drop was a small sticky pourover with a branch three feet over head.  I ran this and had to duck under and do a boof with a low angle on the paddle into the eddy on the right. I got out and scouted the next succession of drops. 
The next few features were; a 6 foot ledge with a knarly recirculating hole on river left,  into a shallow high speed zig zag section with no eddies, with the entire river constricting to a five feet wide powerful hole at the bottom between a large boulder and the canyon wall. And an big eddy behind it the boulder on river right. The hole at the bottom made me pretty nervous because it was pretty far down stream to see what's next and the hole looked horrendous. I couldn't see if any wood was in it and was commited with no exits. 
I boofed the 6 foot ledge hole center right and paddled left around the back of nasty hole into the main current and flew down the zig zag and subed out under the hole at the bottom into the eddy on river right. The river mellow out after this for breather. I was pretty exhausted and the adrenaline was running high.
Next was a 50 yard class three boulder garden and the river left canyon wall became steep and I worked my way down on river right and caught the only eddy on river right. I was now walled in with trees in the eddy. I boat scouted around corner and all I saw was a big log jam on river left that extended all the way across the the river. The logs were angled into the river from the left becoming submerged on river right. I got out of my boat to check it out more. A 10 foot waterfall formed from wood and water was rushing over it with a small tree in the landing.   I looked downstream and there was a big hole with a steep foam pile that looked nasty followed by another hole behind it and another blind corner at the bottom. It looked somewhat doable but decided not to run it alone. 
I realized then that I was pretty screwed where I was. I could not portage on the right because of over hanging cliffs and could not work my way upstream. I needed to get on river left to portage. There were no eddies on river left above the drop. All the water went into sieved out trees and realized I had to do something drastic to get out.  I sat there for awhile thinking about how to get out of this situation. I only had two options. My first idea was  jumping onto the half submerged logs(lip of waterfall) and straddling the logs and clawing my way to a dry logs. My second idea was to seal launch off the river right sloping logs into the river and try to boof over the big hole. But the small tree was in the landing zone for a possible pin and I didn't want to risk getting stuck in the nasty hole. And not knowing what is down stream.
I opted for the first idea and was prepared to leave my boat in there and hike out of the canyon. I jumped into the river and made it across the submerged logs with no problem. I clawed my way onto dry logs. Once on river left I hiked down and looked closely at that nasty steep hole. I confirmed that I made a good choice of not running it.  I did not want to leave my boat in that canyon and came up with a plan. I was going jump and claw my way back to river right for my boat, attached my throw rope to the bow loop, jump back across to river left with rope attached to my body and boat, and yank my boat really fast across keeping it dry. It worked out good. 
Next up, I could see a nice long straight section of mellow class III and thought "I am finally out of hell!" Unfortunately this was not the case. The river turned hard right and turned into a manky slide with no eddies. I hugged the river left bank and grabbed every rock and tree branch to slow me down. I finally came to a stop on top of a tree sieve and jump out fast. Downstream there was steep drop with a small tree on river right somewhat in the runnable line. I could see the line but as soon as you run the drop the main flow goes up and over a 8 foot tree submerged all the way across the river. So the rapid consisted of a 10 foot slide then the whitewater goes up and over the log. A roller coaster type ride. It was just too sketchy looking with a slight risk of not getting enough speed to go over the log. It looked fun and with another person with I would of run it. And yet another portage.
there was another rapid with a light colored barkless tree going across the river that lead to another portage. This rapid could of been above or below the roller coaster drop. It was a fairly easy portage I remember.
The canyon started to open up and became less steep and it was nice to finally be making some ground. There was at least one more rapid I knew was coming because I scouted it from the hike in. Off the ATV trail was a fisherman's hiking trail down to this rapid.
It consisted of the entire river flowing into a log jam on river right and the water is diverted to river left along a steep bank with trees protruding from the river left bank. To run this rapid, you stay far left over the submerged log, boof over the left edge of the river wide hole, work your way to center right to avoid tree at chest height, and into the eddy on river right. This rapid was fun. Well this happend to be the last rapid of the canyon!
The rest of the way down to the put in is class II-III with tree dodging action with one more log jam portage. I parked the car at the bridge because there is a monsterous log jam in the campground.   
My overall impression of the Lyre River is that it's not worth going in there. There is so much wood in there. If you stop by the Lyre River Campground and take a look at the log jam in the campground, you will get an idea of the tree situation. Imagine that many trees in the canyon which is only 15-30 feet wide. Most of the portaging was extremely difficult. I must of used the energy to run a marathon with those portages. The trees were slick and I portaged under many big trees and through many rock caves. The wood looks to be there for good. 
Justin Japs

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