Monday, October 20, 2008

Clackamas River: The Killer Fang Section

Looking into Prelude

With summer coming to an end and the winter rains yet to come, I found myself eager for a little adventure. I had never done the Killer Fang section of the Clackamas and it kept calling me as it's the only section I haven't done. I made a call to Marcus and we agreed to give it a shot. While I was on my way to the river, Marcus gave me a call saying he was really sick and wasn't up for boating. Nuts. So, I decided to go ahead and give the run a shot solo. It didn't take too long before I was able to hitch a ride up to the put in from some great people from Bark. If you aren't aware of their organization, I recommend you take a look. They do some great work protecting the wild places we all like to visit. I quickly put on my gear and slid into the river at the confluence of the Clackamas and Collawash Rivers. The river is very scenic and very mellow. The first mile or two was basically flat water. I soaked up the scenery and the solitude that this most remote section of the Clackamas afforded me. Slowly the rapids started to appear, but nothing Killer. Mostly just nice class II and III drops. Eventually, about 2/3 of the way into the trip the canyon starts to close in and I came up on the first significant rapid that I needed to scout, Prelude. The rapid exits through a couple different slots and feeds into the pool above Killer Fang. I did a quick check for wood and made sure I could see the eddy to get out above Killer Fang before hopping back into my boat. Prelude proved to be a nice rapid with plenty of space to exit the river above Killer Fang.

Killer Fang Rapid

Killer Fang is an ugly rapid. That said, there is a thin line that could be run, but a mistake would put you in a huge sieve where most of the river is going. IF you make the cut left, you would still have to deal with an undercut cliff wall before exiting into the pool below. It was an easy descision for me going solo and in a playboat, so I shouldered and did the somewhat difficult portage. (Lots of climbing and lowering the boat)

The outflow of Killer Fang

Looking back at Killer Fang.

The lead-in to The Sieve.

The next rapid below Killer Fang is a rapid known as the Sieve. I hopped out and scouted right first and then ferried back left to get another look. The Sieve is a solid class IV rapid with significant consequences for a mistake. After looking it over, I opted to portage the initial drop leaving a mandatory ferry back to river right. (The Sieve can be portaged it's entire length on the left.)

The entrance to the Sieve. I portaged just below the log.

This is where I put back in to ferry across. Still class IV, but manageable.

The rest of the run was fun with one class three that stood out. I had a nice mellow level of about 1,000 cfs at Three Lynx. It was nice to finally see the run, but I think it will be awhile before I go back. If you haven't seen it, I wouldn't let the Killer Fang name hold you back. It is just one rapid after all. Do be careful to check all of the narrow slots for wood before committing, otherwise it's a nice class II-III float.

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