Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Van Duzen River -- Forks to Dinsmore

This was a huge day for us involved in the Six Rivers Source to Sea Expedition, as we would be completing our final leg of the Van Duzen, and checking off the first of the six rivers on our agenda!  Our plan was to paddle the 25 miles from the confluence of the East and West Forks of the Van Duzen River near Hettenshaw valley, due north through a canyon and into the valley before passing Dinsmore and taking out at the Highway 36 bridge where our mission began.  

Photo: Wes Schrecongost

Water levels were dropping out slightly from the previous storm and it was supposed to get cold and snow so we feared things were going to be low.  Before heading out in the morning I checked the Mad River Gauge above Ruth Reservior, which was flowing at a reasonable level of 600 cfs and instantly felt great about our day's plan.  Then the crew arrived and we loaded up in a manner like we were getting used to paddling or something.  The drive to Dinsmore was also surprisingly fast and a reminder that it really is close to home.  This is a really great section of river that hardly gets paddled but with the easy access, low elevation, and fun rapids it makes for an excellent cold-wintertime option.  I owe Silent Ed full credit for turning me onto this run, here's to Local Paddlers everywhere for the reliable information they contain!

It was a foggy, damp morning following the cold night and a hard rain was forecast for later that afternoon, perfect paddling weather but not so great for pictures.  Add a little condensation inside the lens and next thing you know, the pics are all blurry.  I'm mostyly disappointed because it is a beautiful stretch of river that needs to be represented justly.  Our first view of the Van Duzen from Highway 36 was promising and combined with the rain to create a positive vibe.  We followed the river up the valley,  before turning onto Van Duzen River road.  This area has a unique variety of tree species from cedars and firs to ghost pines and oaks, and we figured there must be some sort of microclimate causing the diversity.  Looking upstream at Mad River Rock on a nice day.

I have been to the Upper Van Duzen once before, paddling a much shorter stretch between the bridges along the shuttle road and was excited to return.  We drove past the second bridge and soon the road left the river and climbed through the misty forest towards Hettenshaw Vally.  The Van Duzen is unique in that its two forks are very different from each other.  The East Fork Duzen drains Hettenshaw Valley which is surrounded by relatively low-lying hills and is essentially a plateau.  The West Fork comes down from the Lassic Mountains and is much more of a mountain stream.  Here is a view of (L to R) Red Lassic, Black Lassic and Mount Lassic

We passed through Hettenshaw valley and quickly spotted Forest Road 2S17 taking off to the right where we left pavement for the first time.  Immediately we began driving through patchy snow which was fortunately soft and wet from the moist storm.  One mile later the road dropped down towards the confluence, ending at the West Fork where we put-in.  It was a beautiful spot and the trees were covered with lichen, ideal for bigfoot sightings.  "I ain't scared of no Bigfoot"

View of the West Fork at our Put-In

Photo: Wes Schrecongost
The West Fork was running a clear blue color and we enjoyed its 150 cfs through several small rapids before arriving to the East Fork confluence.  The Boys swirling around at the confluence with the East Fork

This doubled our flow and the river continued along through a beautiful small canyon section downstream.  The gradient was steep enough to keep us busy through here as the tiny river makes many twists and turns and Paul had a big green booger hanging out of his nose all day long like a second grader.  We eventually reached our first log portage, this log is totally jammed and doesn't look to be going anywhere soon.

After the addition of several large creeks it finally started to feel like we were paddling on a river.  One more logjam required another easy portage and soon we found ourselves at the V.D. road bridge where I'd put in before.  The water levels were slightly higher on this trip and it translated into a very fun continuous style with more push.  Shortly downstream from the bridge, the first rapid left us grinning.
Here is the first rapid from my previous trip, it had substantially more water the second time around.

Before long the swift current had carried us to the second rapid where the river also jogs slightly left.

This one is recognizable by a steep cliff on the right bank and comes shortly downstream of the first drop.

Will Setting Safety
Due to the higher flows, this drop had a nasty pocket on the right wall that should be avoided.  There is an easy scout on the left.  Downstream, the river keeps up its pace for several miles until arriving at the lower bridge.  If all you wanted was to run the best rapids, the bridge to bridge section is best.  However,  adding miles to either end of this run makes for excellent scenery and more of a full-day affair.  When the canyon opens and the road finally returns to the river there is easy access and good camping, as you are primarily on National Forest Land from here upstream.

We reached the Upper Van Duzen Valley and paddled quickly through its braided channels and occasional willow jungles.

Although this section was in a valley it generally had good gradient and before we knew it, we were right back, full circle where our mission started one month before, the put-in for the Bloody Run.  CHECK!  one river down, five to go...

No comments:

Post a Comment