A tunnel of green
a scrapy summer run on the Devils Lake Fork of the Wilson

It's been a rainy spring.   The skies delivered a biblical deluge the night of June 1st,  and the next morning every coastal river was bankful and brown.   I put out the call promising 'plenty of push and unrivaled verdant scenery'  and by friday morning we had a few takers for a run down the Devils Lake Fork.    I love Jordan Creek when it's raging, so I figured that Devils,  with a gradient of 70 feet per mile would be good to go as well.    

After a quick stop for breakfast...

...I headed out on Hwy 6 with high hopes.   

I met up with Kevin, Jeremy, and Mike at the take out where we engaged in some pre-run warm up exercises trying to dismantle my breakdown from last weeks misadventures.

We decided to head up past milepost 29 to run the class 4+ gorge section.  The gorge can usually be scouted from the road, but all those pesky leaves reduced our visibilty to glimpses.

So we hiked down for a closer look.   This was my first inclination that levels might not be as sweet as I'd hoped.   I looked and the rapids, then at Mike, and said "Um,  it looks pretty mellow."   The scout was a good idea though, there was a bit of wood and this rapid is long and pretty non-stop.

We drove to a bridge a few miles upstream and hiked down to the water.

The flow was looking runnable, but pretty measly.  Mike straps on the rock bashing gear.

Even with flows a bit scratchy,  running any coastal river in the summer is a rare event,  and the chlorophyl saturated landscape did not dissapoint.

I will now divide our trip into 3 parts.  The Wood.  The Good.  and The Interminable Class 2 Runout.

There might have been one worthwhile drop in the first mile or two,  but basically it was a debris choked sluice that got old pretty fast.

The meager flow (2500 on the wilson gauge)  didn't help things.

At a higher flow you'd want to be very cautious here.  There's quite a bit of dangerous wood in the water.

But wait, what's that up ahead,  could it be?  an actual rapid?

Right before the gorge section,  the wood thins out and the action picks up.

The Good stuff.   Jeremy weaves his way down the Big One.   This half mile gorge would be a seriously good read and run Class 4+ with a bit more water.  At this flow it was more of a super technical class 4.    

It was still a good time though.

In fact Kevin might have been having too much fun,  hooting and hollering on every drop,  I started to feel like a whitewater snob with my 'bah-humbug I wish there was more water' attitude.  We could all take a cue from Kevins enthusiasm.

Mike is another paddler with an infectious positive vibe.  I can't see his mouth but in all my photos he seems to be smiling!

The last drop in the gorge.  

Below the gorge there is a mile or two of very nice continuous class 3 boulder gardens with a few steeper drops.   Even though it was a little boney this time down,  I could definitely see the potential and the next time the wilson hits 3000+  I'll be on it in a heartbeat.    The hole shown above was good to go but might get a bit spanky at higher flows,  we all ran it, but there is an easier route to the left of the boulder.

The significant rapid in this section is Class 3+ Elk Creek Rapid.    The left side of this drop has one of those soft fuzzy low-head looking holes, backed up by a wall.   Looks like a great place to spend a little quality time away from burdens of fresh air.   

It looks like a pretty easy delayed-boof at this flow though,  so I shout some beta to Mike and he fires up the right side of the left side.

We all follow suit on the right side of the left side.   Kev pencils in and flips but pops up instantly with a lightning quick roll,  nice.    There are 3 doors here.  The left side of the rapid, which is the hardest,  the extreme left being a bad plan for those fond of oxygen.    The middle door had rocks and stuff in it so it looked bad at this flow.  It might clean up at a higher flow,  it might develop a hole,  not sure.    The right side (not visible)  is a simple non-retentive class 3 for those not feeling lucky.

Jeremy carries back up to have a crack at it.

No worries!

Shortly after Elk Creek drop,  the river mellows considerably,  entering The Interminable Class 2 Runout stage.    

This requires some creative camera work to keep the viewer interested.   If you just get close enough,  class 2 can look pretty darn exciting.

Or you can mix it up by not using your paddle!

I have to admit that this rock cairn was pretty neat!   Cairns on a river always feel magical.  

The very last drop before the take out bridge is pretty fun,  but not fun enough in my opinion to justify the 3 miles of class 2 it takes to get there.

It does however provide an excellent take-out eddy.   (hey, I'm trying to be positive!)

The end of the line on the Devils Lake Fork.    Even with flows draining out faster than I'd hoped, it was a real privledge to get on a coastal run with warm weather and leaves on the trees.    The Devils Fork is absolutely a worthy run with a bit of modification.    I think we went about 7 or 8 miles that day.  Next time I run it I plan to find a spot on the highway close to the river a mile or two above the normal takout, hike down and tie a ribbon so I know where to stop.    Then I'll drive to about a half mile above the gorge and hike/stumble/slide  down the slope to the river and by doing so,  skip the lame stuff.    If you start above the gorge, the good section of this run is on par with the best sections on Jordan Creek,  or June Creek on the Clackamas.   When Jordan is at a moderate flow this section should be optimal,  a perfect opportunity for a double header.

Until next winter...

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A couple bonus photos: