Sep 4, 2014

Paddle Camping on Smith Reservoir

Kirk had paddled on Smith Reservoir (McKenzie River drainage) as a kid growing up in the Oregon valley, and had always wanted to return. A paddle-in-only camp lay at the far end of the lake, and upstream? Packrafting potential.

We left summer in Bend to come to a drizzly-to-downpour kind of day on the rainy side of the mountains. It was ok though, Kirk remembered the dry tops...I however, didn't bring any rain gear. I was caught up in the summer dream.

The reservoir is two miles long, which for a packraft seems like a long time. We talked of sails and other kinds of boats that travel more effeciently on lakes, but all in all it was a wonderful float and our arms got a workout!

There are acutally 17 campspots at the end of the lake, many up off the banks of the water since Smith Creek seasonally unleashes a torrent of water into the reservoir. We found a cozy spot, set up camp and got ready to explore the creek.

Now we couldn't find much info on Smith Creek, and water levels were much too low to boat anything on this trip, but scoping it out for the future was the main plan.

We crossed the river in our boats, stashed them in some trees and began picking our way up the mossy boulders.

It started to rain while we were exploring, and the drizzle turned into quite a downpour. Walking on wet mossy rocks is an entirely different sport than hopping along on dry riverbed rocks. Think ankle breakers.

We didn't make it too far when we had to dunk out of the rain, my windshirt just wasn't cutting it.

But at least we had a good view

This creek can PUMP! Look at all those trees. The size of the rocks and size of the wood in the drainage lead us to believe this is a waterway to hit around the 600, 1,000 cfs range. Anything bigger would be quite a challenge.

We were waiting out the rain a good hour when we both came to the realization that rain on this side of the mountains can last all day. So, we headed back to camp knowing we had a dry tent to duck into.

I found walking in the water was more stable, and we slowly inched our way back.

The rest of the day passed, lots more rain, lots of napping, reading and just being. The evening dried out a bit and we were able to enjoy a campfire until night drove us into our sleeping bags.

We will be back, oh yes, we will be back. Probably hitting this in June or July could put us at the right water flows to boat some of Smith Creek, we'll have to let you know how that goes in the future!