Jan 29, 2016

Packrafting at Smith Rock on the Crooked River

We've been wanting to packraft the Crooked River through the popular climbing area, Smith Rock, for some time. While the water is flat and calm as it passes the dramatic cliffs in the state park, right above it is continuous class IV with some short flat areas and only a few access points into the canyon.  Below Smith Rock are some meaty Class IV/V sections when water flows are in the 2,000+ CFS range (only runs for a few days per year at that flow). Something Kirk has boated countless times before, but it's unlikely I'll find myself in those sections any time soon, unless we take our full size raft and R2 it.

However we always wondered if it would be doable at a much lower flow...perhaps the rocky rapids would become serene pool drops? When we saw water levels hovering around the 400 CFS range we decided to check it out.  Most times of the year it is 50-80 CFS or lower.

We parked above the park, loaded our packs with boats and such, and after reaching the river, started heading upstream to find out how far we could get before putting our boats in the water.

We reached the north gorge where the basalt walls started to close in around a jumble of rocks choking the river channel.

Picking our way, we finally determined the water was too low to make it through the river rocks and sieves up higher in the gorge, so we put in just above here and ran the last few rapids of the lower gorge. It looks like high water is the better way to boat this section, but then it becomes continuous Class IV.

So we put on the river for our serene float.

And the sun came out too.

After about 4 miles on the river we rounded the back side of Smith Rock and I spied the famous "Monkey Face" rock formation, which looks much more like a monkey from the water than from on land!

We took off the river after an unrunnable rapid below Smith Rock State Park, yep, there was a big 2x4 board in the middle of the first drop in a rapid called Number 1 (class V), it could be moved but getting to it to move it could be hazardous (if the water comes up it should flush out, and or be covered by water).  Below here you are committed to boating down another 12 miles of class IV/V with no exit from the gorge until Crocked River Ranch where there is a old skid road / trail that gets you up the 400 or so feet out of the canyon.  At this flow you would probably find the same sieved out rock piles with not much passage for a packraft.  There is another committing 18 mile class III-IV run below that but it has a spring on it (Opal Springs) that adds quite a bit of water, so that could be a future trip.  So at this point we packed up our boats, and walked up and over the cliffs back to the car.

Not a bad day in the desert!

Nov 11, 2015

A Short Paddle on the Upper Middle Deschutes

Sometimes its easy to forget about sections of river that are right under your nose. In this case sections of the Deschutes River that run right through the middle of Bend.

Just above and below town there are some beefy Class IV-V sections that I may never boat, but just below the "Riverhouse Run" near Tumalo state park is a primarily flatwater section...but it's so close we decided to give it a try. Even if it's primarily flat, we knew it would still be a pretty float.

We called up our friend Brian who's been wanting to go out, and picked out a short 5-mile section of river.

We parked at Tumalo State Park and hiked upriver to a spot that was good to launch.

And yes, it was mellow, but we did come upon a few splashy Class II rapids that helped break up the flat water.

Next we want to do the next section that runs to the outskirts of Redmond...and beyond. Kirk has paddled almost the whole length of the Deschutes River, and that is one of the remaining sections left.

Not a bad way to explore your backyard!

Oct 19, 2015

First Look at the Six Moon Designs Flex Pack

New on the market recently is the Six Moon Designs Flex pack. Designed with water sports in mind, this could be a great addition to packrafting gear options.

I haven't had a chance to take it on a nice long hike/float yet, but loaded it up for a short paddle on the Willamette River in Portland this weekend.

I was able to fit boat, PFD, throw bag, smaller dry bag, and raincoat all in the large waterproof bag. Extra straps are included to help configure multiple combinations of strapping paddles, PDFs, ect. to the outside of the pack, and I think this pack holds great potential for winter ski touring trips as well.


The heavier weights of a packrafting load (especially on overnights or multiple day trips) have made for uncomfortable trips in the previous packs I have used, but the bomber hip belt and back panel already look to make those trips more comfortable.

I've been working with Six Moon Designs (SMD) over the last year as their media manager, and used SMD's Fusion 50 on the CDT this year. The Flex uses the same suspension system as on the Fusion 50 (I often carried 6-7 liters of water and 5-7 days of food...probably around a 40-45lb load at times), and was very comfortable.

We are looking forward to putting this pack to the test!

Oct 15, 2015

Packrafting the Yellowstone River

We had two weeks to play with after Kirk picked me up at the Canadian border when I finished the CDT. We spent most of the first week in Glacier, and after the forecast looked rainy for the rest of the week, decided to head down to the Bozeman area and paddle some of the Yellowstone River.

The Yellowstone River, while closed to paddling within the National Park, (important legislation is on the docket to open up the river!) is open to boaters after the north-flowing river passes Gardiner, MT.

Friends Tom and Laurie have boated many sections of the Yellowstone and they assured us there would be enough water to packraft a large section (about 1,500cfs at Livingston), so a bright and warm Sunday afternoon found us on the shores of the river in town, packing up our boats for a 5 day, 60ish mile float.

Much of the river contains Class I and II riffles, but the short section of the river in Gardiner has some bigger rapids at high water, and the Yankee Jim Canyon, about 14 miles above town, has some notable rapids. Because we were paddling in the fall at lower water levels, the normally large rapids were quite manageable. We did scout one rapid from the road and river-side as the large hole could easily flip a packraft.

The week was mellow and quite tranquil.

Scouting Yankee Jim Canyon from the road (photo by Tom Jungst)

Lets do this! (photo by Tom Jungst)

Laurie & Tom, the most excellent hosts

Heading down the Yellowstone through Gardiner. (Photo by Tom Jungst)

Devils Slide


Break time on the rocks

Beach camping

Is all that gonna fit in my boat?


Lovely floating

We just took it all in

On the last day it got a bit rainy

But it sure was beautiful