Saturday, May 8, 2010

Lower Goose Creek

So, we actually paddled this run back in February, though we did have a great day on the water.  This was probably my fourth trip down Lower Goose Creek, over about a 10 year span.  On my first trip we were able to drive 2 miles down the road to a washed out stream-crossing, and on each successive trip the creek access has doubled, and now tripled in hiking distance to the creek (due to decomissioning of the put-in road).  This year, we had to hike the full 3 miles (downhill, on a road) from the turn-off at Saddle Road.  Despite this less-than perfect access, I still fully recommend Lower Goose, as it is a beautiful creek with great rapids.  Speed-blur: Melissa DeMarie corkscrewing the Honker.

Upon arrival at the creek back in 2001, water was ripping through willows on both banks looking very high, though this turned out to be a great level (12,000 cfs @ Jed Smith).  This year, the level was slightly lower (10,000) though still a great flow.  After a couple miles of steady class III, with fun playspots, you arrive at the first sweet drop, the Gander (Class IV).  This is scouted easily on the right bank, and is basically two consecutive hole-punches over ledge drops.  Miguel charging.

Class III water continues to the next horizon line at the Honker, which is somewhat obscured by large boulders.  This is the largest rapid of the run (Class V), and continues for a couple hundred yards. The easiest portage is probably down the left, which requires eddying out early.  This year I found a great scout angle on the right where you can get an excellent view of the top drop, a boof into a sticky hole, right next to a large undercut.  This would not be a fun place to get worked, though I haven't seen anybody get stuck here.  Miguel sticks his line.

The rapid continues through a boulder garden, before passing an eddy and plunging over the final bouldery exit we ran on the right.  Martin Belden and Miguel showing how its done.

Below here the creek lets up for a couple of miles, with a class III-IV character.  The canyon is incredibly beautiful, and because this run flows north-south it can often be sunny in the middle of winter.
The Ugly Duckling is the final rapid (Class IV), with another slightly obscured horizon line.  The current charges at a big boulder before continuing to drop over a sliding runout.  John Warner sticks the line.

A couple more corners brings you to the confluence with the South Smith, and a wicked fun eddyfence where the currents converge.  At higher flows, there are several fun play-waves and holes between here and Steven's Bridge, the take-out 1 mile downstream on the right.  There is a good eddy and trail on the downstream right side of the bridge.

To reach Steven's Bridge, drive 10 miles up South Fork Road from HWY 199.  There is good parking across the bridge (river right).  To get to the "trailhead", drive upstream, turning right at the Gasquet-Orleans road in one mile.  Two miles up this hill you will reach an obvious "saddle" on the right side, with several random roads and lots of shotgun shells in the large flat area.  The road you want to put-in is in the back, on the left, and proceeds downhill 3 miles to the creek.     Good flows are 6,000 to 14,000 at Jed, though I prefer 8,000+.  Have fun.

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