Monday, March 6, 2006

SF Clackamas Exploratory Hike

I had recently read about the first decent of the SF Clackamas and was immediately intrigued. Stories of old growth trees, no trail, and big falls had me hooked. So, I called my brother Todd and Dan and with a little talking, they were on board.

We got going before sunrise and set the shuttle. (We were only going to hike through one way as it sounded like a tough, long hike) It was around 8:00AM by the time we got on trail to drop into the upper canyon. The trail ended at the river and the adventure began.

Dan pondering the massive trees at the bottom of the trail on the way in

We started making our way down river, enjoying the canyon scenery and thinking that this was a lot of wood for a kayaker to deal with. The hike was slow going without a trail and we crossed the river several times before we reached the first 30' falls.

Todd at one of the many river crossings

The first 30' falls from above

I had gotten some beta from the first decent team about the portage lines around the falls which proved valuable for us and speed up our progress down river.
The same falls from below

We continued on down the river through this incredible untouched canyon before coming to the next 30' falls. This was a hard one to get a could look at as it was tucked in a tight canyon and our portage route took us a long ways from it. Finally, as the light was beginning to fade some, we came to a horizon line that must be the big falls, aka the end of the world. There is no portage line around this falls that drops 100'+. However, there was a water project initiated in this canyon in 1913 to supply drinking water for Oregon City. This project had punched a tunnel into the canyon wall that would allow us passage to below the falls.

Looking downstream at the horizon line of the falls. You can see the tunnel entrance on the left.

Todd wondering if we really are going in THERE?

Dan in the entrance of the tunnel

Dan and Todd decending through the 100'+ tunnel. Bring your headlamp for this one.

The tunnel had, at one time, a wood plank walkway, but this has fallen apart over the years. Watch your step. The water line is still in the tunnel and some small cave formations have begun taking shape. Upon exiting the first, long tunnel we ran into a very sketchy looking bridge. None of us wanted to test it out, so we skirted around on the left.

Todd and Dan looking back into the tunnel

The 100'+ falls that we just walked around.

The author at the base of the 100'+ falls (Taken on a later trip)

Below the tunnel, we encountered the remnants of a roadbed. This made for easier going and faster travel. Short on time, we were unable to check out the last 50' falls on the SF or the double 30' and 40' falls on Memaloose Creek. Those would wait for a later trip. We made it out of the forest and to my truck just before dark, tired and glad to be done.

The 50' falls that we didn't get to on our trip. It has been ran. (Taken on a later trip)

To exit the canyon without having to cross the Clackamas River, we went back up Memaloose Creek.

The confluence of Memaloose Creek and the SF Clackamas with the old bridge crossing

There are two falls of significance on this creek. The upper roughly 20'-30' falls is very difficult to see and I've never been able to see more than the horizon line. The bottom 40' can be seen with much less difficulty.

Looking down at the horizon line of the upper 30' falls

On a later trip, Dan and I explored the upper reaches of Memaloose creek. It was clogged with wood and there were only a couple of small 8' to 12' falls.

Dan and Todd on the last hill coming out of the canyon

What a trip. While it's not one I would do often, it's one I will be back to.

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