Elk River (Middle)
|Stretch:||Leap of Faith to Rafting Star|
|Difficulty:||Class IV to IV+ (V)|
|Flows:||30 to 100 cumecs. Check out the Water Office gauge|
|Gradient:||126 fpm average|
|Put-in:||Either above or below Leap of Faith waterfall|
|Take-out:||Rafting access near mill yard|
|Shuttle:||3.5 km, all dirt, some less ok, less than 10 minutes one way.|
|Season:||Dam Release. Year round… seriously. But it will be COLD in winter|
|Featured in A Wet State #142|
Jobless Summer 2019 Roadtrip - Day 36:
Waking up, I had to move the car in the morning before we shared breakfast with our friends. To my surprise when I got the car, our bike locks had been cut and the bikes were nowhere to be seen. At least the kayaks were still there. We had brought our computers and cameras inside the previous night because that is truly the only irreplaceable thing that was in the car. So, instead of a leisure morning we spent it dealing with the police and being in sour moods.
Next up, it just happens that Diane’s childhood friend who had been living in Israel for the past 8 years (give or take) flew into Calgary the previous night with her family, as Calgary was to be their new home. We headed their way to catch up for a few hours before Diane’s flight.
Diane’s flight was at 2:30, I dropped her off around 1 with plans to head south towards the border to meet up with a contact from Facebook, Benjamin Ghertner, for the Middle Elk. Due to all of the jangle in the morning, along with a back track for gas before a no services stretch of road, I ended up being 30 minutes late. Man I hate being late. Thanks to Benjamin for being patient with me on that.
We decided to scout the falls from the downstream vantage point, and since the trip was winding down for me, I thought that running the falls would be a good way to end the trip. So we set shuttle and headed towards the falls. To run the falls you have to seal launch into the river, from the river level (ish) scout, the only way to portage is to go back to the car and down and around the falls, so you are basically committed at that point. Seal launching in seals the deal as there is no escape after that. At this level the lead in for the falls was not inconsequential as it wanted to push you to the right which is much less than ideal. I hit my line but instantly lost my paddle… and for the fourth time failed to handroll at the base of a falls without my paddle and swam into the big eddy. Oh well.
Downstream of the falls you are welcomed with fantastic rapids in a tall box canyon. The biggest rapid is the first and sets the tone for the run. This run is run at a huge range of flows, I have seen huge water pics as well as super low water. It can be class IV to IV- at the latter, but at the solidly medium flow we had I felt that it was IV to IV+ in total. Some fluffy rapids, but also not huge on consequence (not that I saw anyways). Soon the walls peal back and you have more fun rapids, though much more user friendly. Then you get to take out. The run is short, but it is a ultra classic for sure. The biggest detraction of it is the hike out I would say. It gains several hundred feet steeply up stairs. It only takes maybe 15 minutes but it is a painful 15 minutes. But, even with that, I would go back in a heartbeat. It was one of my favorite rivers of the trip for sure.
For reference we had 31.5 cumecs. The Upper has been run that high once or twice, but typically people wait for 25ish I believe. For the falls, it doesn’t get run much above 36 and can be run pretty low. For the Middle run, this was a solid medium I would say, even though I know it can be run much higher.
That night, I camped by myself at the take-out for the run, on the cliffs edge, overlooking the beginning of the Lower Canyon.
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Next: Jobless Summer 2019 Roadtrip - Day 37-42: Big Sioux (Sioux Falls)
- Leap of Faith (V). If you decide to put in above the falls, you will seal launch in 15-20 feet into an eddy on the right and ferry over to a staging eddy on the left. At non-low flows, the falls has a boily lead in that needs to be negotiated with care, and a curler coming off the left wall that needs to be driven through in order to get on the slide on the left and hit the free fall just to the right of where the lower curler forms at the lip. The right side has a massive hole at high flows and is a bit of a pocket. At low flows, people do boof the right side as well.
Boogie (III to IV-). Below the big collection pool at the base of the falls, folks who put in below the falls will slide in and get 100 yards of warm up via boogie that we ran down the left but had lines on both sides. Just mind the holes.
- Rocket Eddy (IV to IV+). The boogie above leads directly in this first and biggest rapid of the canyon. The channel is on the left at the top, enter it and begin driving right across the boiling eddy in the middle to get to the right side of the river. Straighten out and drive into the reactionary off of the right shore which is a good sized, but flushy, hole. This will likely shoot you back to the left towards the wall, which is sorta undercut but will flush you out.
Boogie (III to IV-). Some nice boogie in a beautiful setting awaits for the next few tents of a mile. It maybe consists of three rapids.
- Corner Pocket (IV- to IV). A shear right wall and a constricted passage marks this rapid with a nice staging eddy on the left above it. Grind the right side of the rock, sliding down the backside to avoid the hole against the right wall and the rock in the channel to land on if you slide off early. It isn’t a hard move though. Immediately below, get far left to avoid a large nearly river wide hole. Run down the wall to avoid the meat.
- Open Boulder Gardens (III to IV). The canyon wall on the right begins to step back and you get some nice boulder gardens. They were all read and run with multiple lines and some fun boofs over holes for those looking to make is splashier.
Take-out: From the town of Elko, BC, take BC-93S for 3.5 km. Turn left onto a dirt road, follow this for 1.4 km before turning right off of it, follow this for 1.3 km. This part climbs steeply and requires a little bit of clearance, but nothing crazy. It will then hit the canyon rim. Stay left and find the rafting access stairs. That is the walk up.
Put-in: Luckily the mill site’s folks are cool with kayakers (*cough* don’t ruin that for us) so we are able to basically drive through their site. Go back out the way you came and then turn right to continue on the original dirt road you turned off the highway on. This quickly enters the mill site. Drive slowly. On the far side of the mill, just as you see open land next to you, look for a large turn out. Park here. Now you have two options for how to hike in. 1) To go above Leap of Faith, walk across the field and hit the dirt road that does a switch back down towards the water. There is a trail that cuts the switch back that we took. We then took another flagged trail which dropped down to the rim of the final inner canyon. We scouted Leap of Faith, and then downclimbed to a ledge 20 feet off of the river and seal launched in. 2) Courtesy of Benjamin Ghertner, To get to the access below Leap of Faith… you’ll start from the same parking lot we used to run leap of faith. Head through the field right of the short barbed wire fence until you get to the big chain link fence. Head right until you get to the end of the chain link fence. You need to walk on a little dirt track just under the canyon rim to get around the fence. Walk back to the top of the ridge so your now inside the chain link fence. Follow the canyon until you get to the fence around the train tracks. You’ll want to clip your boat on your tow line so you can use your hands now. Scramble down the fence to get to the tracks. You’ll want to turn around back wards with your boat hanging down below you so you can climb down the tracks backwards. This will take you to the power station at the bottom of leap of faith.
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