Gauge Information (Professor Paddle updated levels from ELWHA RIVER AT MCDONALD BR NE at 11/13/2015 7:55:44 AM)
|Elwha — 1. Grand Canyon ©|
Avg Gradient 70 fpm fpm
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|Put In Latitude :
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ELWHA RIVER AT MCDONALD BR NE
||NWRFC | FC Page
||USGS - NWIS
||11/13/2015 7:00:00 AM
Minimum Recomended Level: 700 cfs Maximum Recomended Level: 1200 cfs
7/29/13 950 cfs Brett B. med-med/high
This is a class V expedition kayak run with must run IV and V rapids in remote wilderness settings, sometimes inescapable canyons. Use the utmost caution and care. Paddlers should be in excellent physical condition, this is a demanding trip especially if you only have one day to paddle out. The hike to the put in is enjoyable and a nice grade. Lillian River crossing is the stand out trib crossing and a little more than halfway to the put in. From here it's a good walk up to the put in. A backpack system is recommended. It's about 8.5 miles from the Whiskey Bend trailhead to the put-in. In places, hiking out isn't possible.
From the Whiskey Bend trailhead hike 8.5 miles until the trail bends down to the river. There are places here to set camp as well or keep going another 1/4-1/2 mile to Marys Falls camp.
Driving up to the Whiskey Bend trailhead you'll pass Upper Lake Mills trailhead which goes down to the old reservoir site, now river. Rica Canyon continues into the old lake area and the walls are still caked with sediment and cobble. As the walls peel back large cobble bars up to 50 feet tall begin appearing. Take out here as the trail back up is straight above where those huge cobble piles begin. The trail up is a short steep slog. The river corridor downstream of here is off limits. Plus 60 feet of the lower dam still needs to come out.
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More wood than a Tiger Woods in Switzerland. Stay on your toes. The worst of it is below Goblin''s Gate. Stay sharp. - Posted by: tiziak on 8/13/2013 8:28:00 AM -
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The gauge is new, but flows should correlate pretty closely. Post levels on your trip until we can arrive at a concensus. This is a remote wilderness run. Once you are in the canyon(s) you may find it very difficult to get out by any means other than kayaking downstream. Still, take a topo map. There are a few access points halfway through between the upper canyon and Rica Canyon. Since this run is in Olympic National Park you'll have to get an overnight tag for the group. Getting hurt, losing gear, or broken gear can become big big problems in here.
While this run has been completed in a 24 hour period it is recommended as a 3 day (1 hiking, 2 paddling) self-support trip. More of the same cool O.P. rock formations in true Grand fashion will leave even the most seasoned paddlers with smiles plastered on their faces. One of the best self support trips WA has to offer.
From a different perspective; I think 3 days in here is 1 too many. If you make it through the Grand Canyon, you've got very little white water to paddle. Other than Goblin's Gate, there is nothing but read and run class IV for a mile or so and then the paddle out. Get a very early start on your hike day and enjoy the camping. It's awesome. Then spend one whole day boating. My 2 cents. - Dan
In 1889 The Press Expedition attempted to cross the Olympic mountains and used the Elwha as a gateway to the interior. They originally called "Rica Canyon" Goblin Canyon after the impish faces that dot the walls at the "goblins gates" (the entrance to Rica), and they called the Grand Canyon "Convulsion Canyon" after the native story of great earthquakes that created the Elwha valley.
Run Description [Season: summer is best]
Talking to someone who's run it may be the best way to paddle this stretch of river. The Elwha will continue to draw you in long after leaving it behind. It is a most impressive set of canyons. The wildness and beauty are magnified here. Skilled paddlers will be rewarded handsomely with both scenic views and experience in a place witnessed by very few.
From the put in fun class II rapids begin in an open valley quickly giving way to class III and IV. As with any river on the Olympic Peninsula, keep an eye out for wood. Winter floods keep the wood constantly moving. The Grand Canyon proper begins with a sharp right turn with a strong eddy on the left wood can collect here in some years so please use caution at this pinch. Once through the gates paddlers are immediately rewarded with stunning canyon views, crystal clear waters, and beautiful challenging rapids.
The first big rapid you'll come to is Eskimo Pie. Scout left or right. The left scout is a bit more challenging, but offers better viewing. Run the meat down the center of the tongue, trying for loft at the lip with a big right stroke. Land on a left stroke pulling hard, paying attention to not get too close to the boily pockets along the left wall. Eskimo Pie is the crux rapid in this canyon. More IV-V rapids will continue to delight paddlers.
A few drops after Eskimo Pie paddlers will begin approaching Nightmare. You will get better views as you get closer, scouting lead in rapids upstream. Nightmare has historically had a sieve-pile of rocks on the right toward the bottom where the main flow goes. On the left a leaning log is visible in the main flow on the left. At 1000 we entered a center slot which was tucked behind a midstream boulder, dropped about 4 feet moving left, waiting for the right moment to charge, ducking the log and sneaking between it and the left wall. Not a ton of room in there, but it goes okay. Hard to be sure until you get close up on it. Nightmare is in a very cool part of the canyon.
More fun drops and sluices will tumble paddlers to the Lillian River confluence. The Lillian enters from river right through an impressive bedrock slot. Downstream await Pebbles and Bam Bam!! Numerous slots and routes exist through here as well as some sinister rocks and pin spots. Scout thoroughly. You'll be scouting anyway. After PABB is Dagger and then Landslide is the final big drop in the Grand Canyon of the Elwha.
Hopefully you brought a few extra meals because the Geyser Valley offers many great camping options in a picturesque open valley. Some spots boast sweeping flood channels with tons of dry log jams waiting to be explored. After a couple miles of swift class II-III rapids paddlers reach the entrance to Rica Canyon, the second of two in this 8.5 mile stretch.
Rica Canyon begins abruptly at Goblin Gates. Goblin Gates changes every year. This year, 7/29/13 we ran the meaty right line at 950 on the newly revised online gauge. This is the crux rapid of the run and a must run. At 950 we found a pronounced, backed-up hole on the right. The main flow charges into this slot making the hole you have to get on top of, challenging. Once on top of this pile, boof off to the left, pointing left. At the bottom of this boof the right wall is ever so slightly overhung making it challenging for paddlers who end up over there. It flushes, just hang on and don't flip!! There has been a line down the left in years past, but didn't look possible to attain to from the right alcove and looked very difficult, if possible, make it all the way left without being deflected off a subsurface rock back into the sieved out center of the rapid. Getting out one or two moves upstream may offer a better vantage of the left line. Paddlers should note, once in the small scout alcove on the right there is no way back upstream. Paddlers are committed to the right slot. After getting through this top hole/boof move paddlers can eddy left before the final ledge sequence, boofing just behind the midstream boulder. From the left side of the boulder, boof right missing possible piton rocks if you paddled off straight.
The next drop I think is Secret Chute, a giant midstream boulder with 90% of the flow going left with a giant pice of wood in there, blocking. Sneak right. From here more great class IV read and run type stuff. Still keeping an eye out for wood. The Elwha wants to suck you downstream, so keep wary. As the rapids and gradient calm down the walls will begin to peel back. Rica Canyon extends into the old reservoir site. Soon enough paddlers will s-turn their way out of the confines of Rica's last hallways into giant stands of cobble. From here exit river right and make your ay up the gravel stands to the most upstream end, not trying to scale up the bedrock walls of course. The trail is about 60 feet or so above the river. From here it's a steep short slog to the road.
As flows increase Eskimo Pie and Goblin Gates will likely get harder.
- Brett B. 7/29/13
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