Monday, March 5, 2012

Van Duzen River--The Bloody Run Day Two

Check it out, Explore Six Rivers Source to Sea
If you haven't read it here is the Day one description
 Here is Paul's Helmet Cam Footage of the Bloody Run

Photo: Wes Shrecongost

We slowly woke up on the second day to a cold heavy frost.  After staying in our sleeping bags to retain warmth the sunlight peeked up over the hillside and its strong rays coaxed us from our cozy confines to  get ourselves fed.  Knowing it would be another full day on the water we optimistically hoped that at some point the river character would change and open up into more runnable rapids.

Photo: Wes Shrecongost
The river level had dropped only slightly overnight and after we packed our boats and pumped drinking water we were ready to go by nine o clock. 

Downstream from camp we were treated to an easy section of water with beautiful Van Duzen scenery before more congested boulder gardens reappeared and it was back to the portaging routine.

Photo: Wes Shrecongost

The river seemed to be changing for the better, as we found good lines through more rapids than the previous day.  Our runnable rapid to portage ratio began to balance out closer to 50:50 and we enjoyed some of the best rapids of the run.

This still meant dealing with many large boulder gardens that made for exhaustive portaging, not to mention we were all shagged out from the previous day’s efforts.  Get back up to the hillside...yeehaaaawww!

Now go through that poison oak know you like it!

Photo: Paul Gamache

Finally we reached an extended calm period of water and began to get our hopes up that we had passed the meat of the run. 

Photo: Wes Shrecongost
We now refer to this as the Glimmer of Hope, because shortly downstream the river slid into yet another boulder gauntlet.  Checking our GPS we realized how many more miles lay ahead and started to push harder in hopes of keeping our trip to a 2-day.  

Photo: Paul Gamache
The canyon began to open up with beautiful scenery characterized by enormous chunks of rock.  At this point we also were starting to Bonk. 

Photo: Paul Gamache
Hmmmm...big seal launch into murky brown water of unknown depth or climb around on some giant boulders with a heavy loaded kayak for the hundredth time?

Photo: Paul Gamache
Fortunately for me and Wes, the murky brown water was deep and unobstructed.

Just downstream another fun rapid pinched before pushing into an undercut that couldn't be seen from above.  Wes probes it out.

After a couple more miles of better rapids, the gradient was gradually dropping and we started covering miles without making a portage.  There were some interesting rapids thrown into the mix too.

Wes attempting to spot his line through another boulder jumble

Photo: Paul Gamache
Finally, we passed the namesake drainage, Bloody Run.  This creek comes in from river left and marked the end of the high gradient sections.  It also appears to have remarkably high water quality considering the brown nature of many other smaller side-streams.

Photo: Paul Gamache
One more tricky portage remained downstream before the Van Duzen flattens out for the remaining miles to Bridgeville.

Photo: Paul Gamache

  We passed one massive landslide in here that looked like the entire hillside was basically flowing into the river and it turned out being the final portage of our trip!  We relaxed and paddled the flatwater through beautiful scenery the rest of the way.

Photo: Paul Gamache
Eventually we arrived at the confluence with Little Larabee Creek and Highway 36.  After some celebratory high-fives, Wes made his way up to the road where the very first vehicle driving by picked him up. 

The Bloody Run is an adventure that I hope to repeat someday.  I feel like our mission opened up a run that may become a “cult classic” along with the Grand Canyon of the Mad River, just over the hills.  Several times we found ourselves portaging on the wrong side or around sections we could have committed to had we known there were lines.  With slightly higher water levels many possible routes would open up although many of our portaging options would be limited too since they were at river-level.  I know the write-up description makes it sound like all we did was portage, however looking back at Paul’s helmet cam footage we were also able to run many quality rapids as well.  Best of all, by starting out our Six Rivers Source to Sea Mission with a banging first descent, we gathered the momentum and confidence we needed to keep the ball rolling!

Major points from the trip:
If we had more time we could’ve run more rapids

The Little Van Duzen is a better put-in than Highway 36 to avoid a massive portage near Dinsmore and include another great section of river.

Information about the previous trip got twisted by each successive storyteller, to the point where it was virtually useless.

Exhausting nature of portaging/scouting- The never-ending onslaught of mind-bending boulder gardens takes a toll on your mental awareness and ability to maintain focus.  

Miles were extremely hard for us to cover.  Every time it seemed that we were going into a more runnable stretch of river we found a difficult portage or scout instead.  At one point we were making 1/2 mile an hour.

Difficult decision-making: to portage over this boulder or around that one, to portage up to a grassy hillside or stay at river level.  The river disappears into a boulder garden where 4 of the 5 slots are sieved-out and it becomes difficult communicating lines back to the crew through this complex of rapids.

Importance of bringing overnight gear: although it made our portages much more difficult and extra effort, the gear became worth its weight in gold once it became clear that we wouldn’t be making it out in a single-day. 

Importance of having a map, or GPS to locate yourself and realize how much farther you have to go.

Importance of picking a good campsite, one with flat spots and wood to burn, at the right time of day before it gets too dark to set-up camp.

Sometimes you just have to put your head down and start charging through the poison oak, otherwise it would be impossible to accomplish this river.  However I am happy to report that three weeks later I have no signs of the P.O.!  

The importance of a good crew cannot be stressed enough, we all proceeded safely and patiently which contributed to our safe return.

Going on adventures, even those which require lots of portaging, are still always worthwhile for the sense of accomplishment and change of perception they can provide.


  1. Congrats buddy! Killer trip and 1st decent. WAY better than sitting in cubeland...

    1. Thanks Bro, we had a great time, but the Grand Canyon of the Mad was even better! Sure is a lot harder work than sitting in cubeland. When you find the time we should hit the water again. Hope ur doing really well, thanks for reading. Cheers

    2. Nice write up Dan. I just did the Bloody Run last week and looking at your photos I barely recognize the place! I had better flows, 2200 down to 1500, but still I think this run needs 3000 to cover up more of the sieves! Have fun out there! later, Ed

    3. Ed, what's up sicko? Hope you didn't solo that shit! Agreed that more water would cover up more sieves but at some point it just gets pushy, I'm sure you saw some rowdy holes. Next time, paddle the Grand Canyon of the Mad...its a better run. Take care Ed, Dan