Smith River (Oregon Hole Gorge)
|Stretch:||Oregon Hole Gorge|
|Flows:||800-6,000 or beyond with guts. Current Dreamflows (est) gauge|
|Put-in:||Mary Adams Bridge|
|Take-out:||South Fork Road|
|Shuttle:||6 miles, 10 minutes 1 way|
|Season:||Winter Spring Fall (Natural)|
|Written:||© 2006 & 2008 & 2009|
|Featured in Video Eight and Eighteen.|
Diane’s and mine second trip up to the Smith finally let us see some whitewater. Our first trip up there over winter break resulted in us only looking at a Oregon Hole Gorge with some 60,000 cfs flowing through it. This time, over Spring Break we found ourselves yet again driving up to the Smith as the rain began and the water begin to rise. Out of fear of not getting on it at all if we waited another day, we road scouted the Gorge at 5,500 cfs and decided it was good to go. As I am running my shuttle/hitch I see another rapid below the gorge that looks like a stomper, take note of the location and scout possibilities. As far as the shuttle is concerned, the second car picked me up, a little old lady to my surprise. Her explanation to me was, “You look like too big of a dork to be trouble.” Gee whiz, thanks. Once on the river, the little wave trains above the gorge appeared to be a big bigger than we thought and the adrenaline began for the impending doom. Once in the gorge, we could tell it was good to go, only we were having problems getting the motivation to give it the go. Then an otter walks up, looks at us, and jumps into the worst part of the river, ferried across is it like nothing, and then goes into it again… we took the otter’s challenge and promptly put in.
I am going to skip over the first two miles, as, if you can't boat scout this don’t be on the run. At high water they are just big holes and big eddy lines.
We recently went back and ran this gorge as part of our Triple Crown. The flow was ~2,350 cfs and I thought it was great. Any photos with boaters are from that day...
Since the Triple crown I have gone back again and an interesting thing happened, the day after we ran the South Fork Gorge with the least water I had run it with (1,500 cfs) and found that Oregon Hole was harder than it is with 500 more while South Fork Gorge got a lot easier with the 500 less. To the point where Oregon Hole was harder than the South fork Gorge. Just something to I found interesting.
Thanks to Mike Ward and Diane Gaydos for contributing photos.
- The actual Gorge starts:
Entrance (IV- to IV+). The entrance is a straight forward rapid with a massive hole waiting at the bottom. Enter center and hit (or miss) the left side of the hole. To the left of the hole is a strong eddy line that could mess you up if caught in. At 1,800 this is a tougher rapid with a left move cutting back right avoiding rocks and holes.
Second Step (IV+). The line is easy to see, the moves are pretty easy to make, the consequences are huge. We ran center, moving right around the large wave which was backed up by two holes, which were backed up by a huge boil and eddy line. However, we couldn’t go too far right around this stuff as the right side of the current was blocked at the top by two holes, and at the bottom by a eddy cove in mid drop. Furthermore, 25 feet downriver on the right, the whole current drops into a ledge hole with a bad eddy boil behind it on the wall. We wanted to avoid this left. Then the rapid is over and you have 50 feet to catch your breath.
At lower flows this rapid is less severe looking but hard to style. Enter left to right to avoid the hole on the left in the middle, then straighten up for a diagonal wave that wants to push you into a tombstone rock or pinch channel on the left. The curler packs a punch and can easily typewriter you. Luckily it isnt the end of the world if it does as you just flush through the pinch.
Exit (IV). Two holes with a undercut in between. Hit each hole on the left side as each are kind of manky on the inside of each. Avoid going too far left on the first one as much of the flow goes into an undercut that would flush, but most likely flip you. This one is harder with 1,800 cfs than it is with 5,500 cfs.
Oregon Hole (IV to IV+). I hesitate giving this rapid this rating, we portaged it, but it looked very doable. The problem was flipping in the top hole, or even just stumbling in it would cause you to get beat down in a huge way. A river wide ledge drop, only passable on the center left, is backed up by a 90 degree turn which shoves you into a ledge drop which is backed up by a pointy fuck you rock, didn’t look like it was worth ruining the run by running it.
since my first time down I have returned with fractions of the 5,500 cfs that caused us to portage, at lower flows this one only gets easier.
The Paddle out...
Take out: From Crescent City take 101 north for 5 miles and then take 199 towards Gasquet (east). Follow for about 7 miles until you see the confluence of the Main Stem and the South Fork. Just up the road there is a turn out at the South Fork Road Bridge. Park here, a path leads up from the river just after the bridge on the 199 side of the river.
Put in: Continue up 199 for about 6 miles. Just after Hardscrabble Creek is Mary Adam’s Bridge. Put in on the near side of the bridge on the right.
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