North Fork of Cottonwood Creek (Upper)
|Stretch:||Sunny Hill Rd to Platina Road|
|Flows:||300-1,000? . Current Dreamflows (downriver est) gauge|
|Gradient:||94 fpm (sections up to 135)|
|Put-in:||Sunny Hill Rd|
|Shuttle:||7 miles, 20 minutes 1 way|
|Season:||Winter Spring from rain or snowmelt|
|Featured in Video Seventeen.|
I had always seen the write up of this run on cacreeks, but had never thought it sounded like enough fun to actually venture out and run. Then a year ago a group of friends headed out there and had a blast, which prompted another group to head out and they too had a blast. So flash forward a year and the creek was running, so with it high on my list I organized a trip to head up to Anderson to run it.
I have very mixed emotions about this run. Perhaps it is that we had the low end of acceptable water. Perhaps none of the prior write ups got the point across just how tedious the calm sections were. And I am sure it didn’t help that the rest of the weekend fell apart due to people flaking on meeting up with us. Be it as it may, I thought the rapids that were clean (there weren’t many at 300 cfs) were fun, however I also thought that the clean rapids could use more water to speed them up a little and make the holes a little less of a joke, I also thought that the calm sections devalued my boat by $100 due to the abuse it took, so I walked away from this run thinking that it had the possibility to be a great run if we had about double the water… but as it were, I would not go back without guarantee of that water.
A quick word about the good drops. They tended to be ledges, ranging from 4 to 20 feet. The 20 foot falls is as brainless of a falls as you can get, and was great fun. Some of them tended to be really tight so elbow guards are a necessity for this run… seriously, bring them. The negative is that by the end of the day, you have two portages on your mind and 5 miles of junky class II to III on your mind.
One of the biggest positives of this run is the geology. I wouldn’t think that within the last 4 miles of the run you would experience no less then 4 completely different styles of rock. (Geologist forgive this, but I don’t know any of the names) You go from conglomerate to sheets (facing upstream which is weird), to red rock, to sandstone type stuff, to different rock style of sheets… it is all very cool and is the one thing that helps keep your mind occupied with something other than the abuse your boat it taking for the final few miles.
Now with all that said, I know it is coming off very negative, and I really think that reflects on the low water and the weekend falling apart in general. I really do believe that with more water this run would become better, however not a classic.
Thanks to Taylor Cavin and Diane Gaydos with sharing their photos from the day with me.
The Google Earth file has a rapid by rapid map of this run. Google Earth Page.
- Crack (IV). The first rapid of note is about a quarter into the run. It can be scouted on the left. It is a crack slot which ramps out and accepts a side channel from the left creating an interesting hydraulic.
- Slide Boof (IV). A multi-level drop ramps while twisting and turning before briefly lulling before going off of a four foot drop. At higher flows I would be aware of the final ledge. Scout or portage on the right.
Bigger Boof (IV). The river enters a narrow gorge and goes over a few smaller pinch drops. There is a eddy before a horizon line. Either scout on the right above it or get out in the eddy. It is a six (or so) foot drop which can be sticky with higher water. At our flow it might stop you, but you didn’t have to worry about getting worked.
Boof Pin (IV+). You come around the corner and the river takes a very obvious step dive. This rapid is touch to scout, but possible on the right. We ran down the right side. there is a boof rock near the center island. Behind it is a rock, but going with the current results in dropping onto a pin rock. Boofling the edge with left angle is required.
Crack (V). Just below the last rapid comes this ugly looking drop. The consequences are relatively low, but so are the chances of finding a clean line. At out low flows rocks were blocking the left, and a weird hole was on the right. I know other groups of run the left, Taylor out day ran the right.
Wall Shot (IV). Just below the crack, the river drops over a four foot drop, easy despite the fact that it sends you into the left wall fairly hard.
Junk (IV+). Just below the last drop comes this uber junky rapid. It actually isn’t that hard, but it is junky. The two in our group who wanted to give her had to wade out to the center island, get in their boats while on a rock, slide off of it and run the hole at the bottom. The walk is easy on the right (you can just continue the walk from the crack if so desired, it is all of 100 feet more and you skip over 2 junky not all that fun rapids). Be aware, just after this rapid is the very serious rapid, get out on right before running anything more to at the very least scout.
Shon’s Crack (V+ to U). So Shon ran this a year or two ago, but at our flows I don’t see how. It was a bad looking drop which dropped onto rocks. At more water it may be more of a possibility. The walk is on the right along the cliffs. We eventually had to rope the boats down the last bit due to the precariousness of the mountain side. Also, this rapid is at mile 1.81.
Fifty Feet downriver introduces Jeruselem Creek and ~75% more water.
Easy Double (III+). Next, literally just after the confluence, there is an easy double drop run down the center.
Speed Trap (IV to IV+). The next bigger drop comes at the end of a few easy ledges. You can last minute it on the right, or eddy scout it at the lip on the left or easy scout from upstream on the right where the walk would be too. The drop is a ramp into a ledge drop with a hole at the bottom. In between the ramp and ledge is a recirculating eddy/speed-trap on the left. At our flow we blew by the speed trap and launched over the hole. At higher flows I can see the hole becoming really big. One of the best rapids on the run though in my mind.
Somewhere between the portage and the Cleanest Waterfall Ever were two other drops which were fun, one was a crack run on the right. The other was a boof off the right wall to avoid slamming into a midstream bolder.
- Cleanest Waterfall Ever? (IV). About two tenths of a mile after the portage is the reason for doing the run. This ridiculously clean 15-18 foot waterfall can be run on the left or right. The right side is class V, the left is a rolling lip and easy class IV.
- Log Rapid (IV). A narrow ramp drops off of a steeper slid and sends you towards a log. In very confined spaces you can go right around the log and then under it again. The rock here is super rough and can scrap a finger clean, as Davy found out.
PORTAGE (U). I don’t usually give a unrunnable rating to something, but this deserves it, it is unrunnable and I can’t imagine that changing at any flow. Be aware when you have run the log rapid, the river turns left splits, combines again, goes about 100 yards and then there is this. I got out along the ditch which is dug along the right bank. We seal launched in about 10 feet along the right shore down the fairly obvious little valley just downstream of the falls. Mile 3.25.
The next 3 miles are boring as anything I could have imagined. Boat abuse class II.
- The river starts to give channalized rapids for the first time. From here out the river is a bit more interesting. The rapids start class II+ and fairly clean but get bigger and junkier as time goes on. There are a few class III+ and IV rapids in this stretch. The stretch lasts until mile 7.25 when the last larger rapid finally appears. It is a multi tier drop of low angle slides. The rock under water is sharp and will take a toll on your boat at low flows. On other drop to mention upstream was not too far above the last drop and was a ledge hole that even at our low flow had enough water to be sticky, I can only imagine that higher it gets worse.
The last mile is again fairly abusive to the boats.
Take out: The Take out is easy, find your way to the town of Ono (just mapquest it). Continue west past it on Platina Rd for about a minute or two. When you cross over a river on a larger bridge, you are there. The landowner can be a pain apparently, so tread lightly. There is 200 foot easement on either side of the freeway to get off the water.
Put in: Go back to the East side of the bridge, continue about 100 yards. Turn left on Rainbow Lake Road. Follow for a few miles. At a fork and “Not a Through Street” sign, go left on Sunny Hill Rd. This road continues and eventually turns to dirt. At the bottom of a hill you come to three gates and a bridge, park here. One of the land owners at the take out came by and was very friendly. He asked that if boaters come up in the future to leave a note on their car that they are boaters. He said he gets a lot of weirdoes up there and is constantly searching for weirdoes on his property. He seemed like a good enough guy that he wouldn’t be breaking into your car if that note was there… just being protective of his property…for whatever reason he may have…
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