Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Flow Study v. 2: Canyon Creek

One day a week, I've been hard at it with these flow-studies, doing my part as an amateur hydrologist. So far, the time I've put in has been pro bono, but I've got a feeling that a fellowship or grant-money of some kind is not far off. In the meanwhile, I will continue with my independent research as best I can despite the lack of institutional support.

"I can't run the sh$t every day, but I can always dream." Alex Wolfgram on the dreamflows.com rapid.

(file photo courtesy Sparkle Motion)

I agree with Chris Tulley (pictured above) and his assessment of Canyon Creek that he posted on the on-line forum boof.com, ("boof" can refer to a vertical drop along a river, the forceful stroke one takes at the lip of such a drop, the brief free-fall one experiences after paddling over it, or the sound the boat makes upon landing). I have paraphrased Chris' comments.

1) Thanks AW and Bob Center for making this possible. It is fantastic to have the opportunity to get on new adventures like Canyon Creek. It is very scenic, great camping and warm lakes to swim in.
2) The run is not quality. Lots of sharp, shallow rocks = lots of gouges in your boat. Yes, folks this is mank... Majority of rapids have lines but they are marginal.
3) More flow would help this run but not make it great. Putting enough flow to cover up some/most of the rocks (~150-200 cfs) would remove some of the boat abuse but would likely make the run very continuous and intimidating, requiring long scouts and big hairy ballz.
4) If you go, bring a beater boat and a fire it up attitude. I'd suggest that you be V+ type and not afraid to take hits, definitely don't forget your elbow pads. Generally you should be the type of person who would rather take an experimental line thru a V-V+ rapid than portage.

To this I can add that Dave Steindorf of American Whitewater reports that not much more than the 120 cfs we had this past week can even be let out of the small penstock of the dam that forms French "lake." Every bit would help, so I say crank that thing counter-clockwise until it won't go anymore (and will say as much when I officially submit the findings of my exhaustive research to the flow study).

That's what I love about twenty-footers... I get older, and they stay the same height. Photo: Alex Wolfgram.

"Step out the front door like a ghost into the fog where no one notices the contrast of white on white..." Were the Counting Crows inspired by Peter Malkin and his Pearl Jefe? Fresh from a week at Burning Man, the Russian somehow manages to run the creek without paranoia or hallucinations getting the better of him.

Corey Tucker gets in the spirit of the party.
Canyon Creek is what professional kayaker Zak Shaw would call a "young catchment." That is a polite way of saying that the stream-bed is as sharp as a chess phenom on ginseng supplements. It is so high up in the watershed that it hasn't seen the flows over time that would smooth out the rough edges. A couple more ice-ages and it should be a classic!

Paddler: Taylor Cavin, Photo: Peter Malkin.
Human history hasn't done the creek much better than the geologic timescale. The Nevada County Irrigation District has the thing locked down like cell block "D" after a food riot. You will have not one but four reservoir paddles to reflect on this if you paddle the whole stretch from French "lake" to Bowman "lake." My favorite rapids were right above and below Faucherie "lake," so there must be some sick scuba-diving to be done in that one.

A gutter of the earth.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

upLATE: 1st Annual S Merced Boat Clean-Up Jamboree!

1st Annual South Merced Boat Clean-Up Jamboree! from Taylor Cavin on Vimeo.Ok, Ok, so this is redundant and late coverage of this event. Be that as it may, this is video, wheras a few months ago on kineticinstasis.blogspot.com there were photos. It somehow got lost in the shuffle of peak-runoff sh$t-running...anyways, umm... here it is, as pitiful and sycophantic as a belated thank-you card. Green boat, K. Smith, Orange boat D. Maurier. The camera glitched for my run of the boo-boo, so that is shown as a still-image-stitch...you'll see...

Monday, September 1, 2008

The For-De-Shay Creek

I believe that the stream was named by Quebecois fur traders exploring the region by canoe and therefore would take a French pronunciation of the spelling "Fordyce." After a parching August (with even the Oasis of Cherry Creek down to 50% flow for part of the month), it was great to have those f-ing dams do us at least a lick of good right at the end. With 400 12-inch, by 12 inch, by 12 inch cubes of water going from Fordyce Reservoir down Fordyce creek, every second, this flow study provided ample opportunity to study the flow as one floated over, through, and with it. With the crap-ton of dam release classics such as the Gauley, Green, and Youghigheny on the East Coast, there is no reason that California, which by comparison is dammed to tarnation, can't have an awesome Fall draw-down season as well. It seems the key for getting releases such as this one is the effort of motivated individuals in the paddling community who stay involved throughout the lengthy dam relicensing process.
Perhaps fired-up by the jeepers doing their rowdy stream-crossings, exhaust pipes a-bubblin, our group of five went ahead and fired up this rapid. Lizzy puts a little English on it.

Consistent Chris Korbulic hits the 7-10 split. This rapid looked a lot less picturesque from river level, with the big rectangle slab on river right kicking up a fan that could cool a Pharaoh.

Jared Johnson punches his boof-stroke like karate chop through brick. This rapid was the only one I walked back up for, a super smooth granite waterfall with many lines to be had.

Afternoon huckfest as two groups glob together and a whole bunch of people drop the Split Falls, bam-bam-bam-bam-bam. This is me melting it like the Wicked Witch of the West (photo: David Maurier).
Death-style shot: This was one of many standing trunks of trees drowned by Spaulding Reservoir and exposed by the low water level. Fishing line snagged up this Crawdad leaving his exoskeleton to bleach in the sun.

Floating there, with the stratified sand rings around the reservoir, the sight of the Yuba dumping in through a sculpted gorge, and my friends paddling off to the boat-ramp, I reflected on something. The Fordyce was the first California River I paddled over two years ago; I had not paddled it since. I remembered how I'd been impressed, by the exposed granite peppered with pines, by the attention getting rapids (portages for me), the meandering flats through tall forest. Most of all I remember putting on kind-of late, taking out in the dark, and feeling very spent from the scale of kayaking in the Sierra. That first glimpse was a fair indicator of the potential to be found in these mountains. I find myself amazed again and again at what we have here.

Special note: also on the creek this same day were Mike Fentress and Walt Garms who first descended Fordyce 25 years ago. To have that kind of a tenure on class V whitewater is bad-ass as far as I'm concerned.