Go with the flow
the Sandy Gorge at 2300 cfs on
the Marmot Gauge
Last thursday I tried to put together a Breitenbush trip with no
takers, as a consolation prize I decided to throw on the Sandy
Gorge at a pretty healthy flow. With the Marmot gauge at
2300, and the gauge below Bull Run reading 3700, this was
about twice the flow I'd run it at before. The following is
a little beta on Revenue, skip it if you don't care.
Rolling up to Revenue Bridge, I wandered down
for a closer scout. The first thing to notice here is that
the log that extends a 1/4 of the way into the rapid on river left
(right side of the photo) is invisible just under the foam. If I
hadn't looked closely I would have been tempted by this
line. The other thing is a nasty looking little suckhole
that develops 1/3 of the way down the rapid, on the river right hand
side, hard against the wall, again something that I wouldn't have
seen if I hadn't scouted closely. I normally run that line
so I'm glad I saw it. The center of the rapid, as
usual is filled with pin spot boulders, you can probably just
bomb right through at this flow, but I don't know for sure. I run
the center at low water, which is pretty technical, but the water is
Bryon showed up to do the run with me. "I really
wanted to go run the Little White, but I couldn't get anyone to go with
me." he said, to which I issued my standard response "You
people are mental."
The run starts out with continuous splashy class 2-3 for about a mile.
...and then we hit the logjam, which I usually sneak on the right and
drive hard left to avoid the log extending into the current. At
this flow there was a lot of water pushing over there, the move looked
makable, but it seemed sort of stupid to both of us chance getting
stuffed under the log. For a killer rapid, maybe, but not this
Then it was back for more fast class 3, the drops in this first
part are pretty evenly spaced and keep the action interesting.
One of the main reasons to do this run is the scenery.
In the middle of the first part, we hit an especially rowdy pushy class
3+ rapid, good hole bashing practice. I love this
rapid at all flows.
A typical drop on the upper part of this run.
Bryon drops in for some creekboat surfing.
After this massive overhang keep your eyes open, the first class
4, Boulder, is just around the corner.
The canyon suddenly narrows and there are big boulders and a dramatic
waterfall. We eddied out on the left. Normally you
can run a little chute on the extreme left to get out to scout on the
boulders, and either scout the rapid using a sneak slot to get back
into the flow, or walk it. At this flow this line was more
of a sieve, so instead we scouted from a midstream eddy and ran
it semi-blind. The move here is the same as normal, run
down the middle left and drive left away from the severely undercut big
boulder in the middle, then either eddy out on the left, or
just keep blasting to the left of the next boulder and brace hard on
the pillow to swoop around with the flow. You want to
avoid this rock at lower flows, I know a girl who spent an
uncomfortable amount of time plastered to it underwater.
We eddied out and climbed onto the rocks to take some pictures.
Looking upstream. Boulder is a very cool place.
The last remains of a shredded aluminum driftboat, crushed into the
I say goodbye to Bryon and peel out.
I get ready to boof the hole next to the plastering rock, then
drive hard right. The flow here really wants to push you
into the wall/cave on the right, so if you end up over
there, remember, lean into it hard to keep from
flipping. (I hate being worked up against walls.)
Bryon gets ready beneath the amazing waterfall at Boulder.
Bryon getting pushed toward the cave. We had discussed a
possible hard ferry from right to left to finish on the right side
line. From below I could see what looked like a single rock
in the middle of the river was actually a sieve of two rocks and there
was some handsignal confusion trying to communicate this.
The right side line at Boulder goes these days, but the danger is
the proximity it places you to that sieve. Of course the
drive away from the severly undercut middle boulder is just as hard (or
easy) so it's really a choose your own adventure.
We take a breath and then head downstream.
The next rapid is Rasp Rock, where the current splits around a
midstream rock. The rock was barely visible at this flow,
run hard right with momentum to avoid a dangerous backed up hole.
Next up is Drain. Here Bryon enters left and drives hard
right to avoid the first two deadly sieve slots. You
can expect to ride up on the pillow, try not to look behind
you, just keep driving, stay loose, and don't flip. If you
have any apprehension that you might not make this move,
Bryon nearly gets pushed into the last, less dangerous sieve
slot. When I showed my roommate this photo she exclaimed "Oh my
god, what is that guy doing?!"
I started middle but and still nearly went though that same slot,
I hit the rock and thought for sure I was going through.
You could start farther right on this rapid but the danger is getting
tripped on rock or in holes, which is why most people choose to go for
After Drain, the canyon opens up with some chill class 2.
We chose to run right on Revenue.
If you run right you need to make this very tight eddy turn behind the
rock. About 4 feet to Bryons right, is a small ledge, and
downstream from that, visible, is a pourover, and adjacent to
that is the suckhole against the wall I didn't like. After
the eddy turn Bryon drove hard into the current to get into the middle
of the rapid...
This sets you up for a nice middle left line to punch a wave hole and
miss the stopper (but not keeper) hole at the bottom.
Behind me you can see the uncovered pourover ledge on river
right. I made the eddy turn but didn't drive hard enough
and ended up running right of that rock and plugged a hole and narrowly
missed getting trashed, I had one of those moments where you are
just grinding leaning forward and not making progress, that hole
wanted me back bad!
The second to last wave hole, big, fun, and harmless.
The takeout under the bridge and the end of another day of wasting
appaling amounts gasoline in the pursuit of thrill and
The Sandy Gorge at this flow isn't the Little White, but for the
humble class 4 boater it provides plenty of action and a few harder
moves with scary consequences. I was a little gripped
on the run but now that I know what to expect I think I'd be a little
more relaxed. I think this a good class 4 training run
lower flows, but at this flow you want to have your skills
solid. Relax, stay loose, and paddle hard. You don't want
to flip above boulder or drain. It's a pretty place,
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