Fork Wilson River exploratory
"the Prison Camp run"
A huge rainstorm followed by a bright sunny fall day, a blessing
by anyones standards.
I put out a post and called a few friends to try and rally a run on the
Devils Lake Fork Wilson or Jordan Creek. Luke called me
back and pitched the South Fork Wilson to me.
"I don't think anyone has run it, I know weird right, I scouted it and
it's mostly class 2 with a class 4 drop."
As we wound our way up the road to the put in, the real story began to
"Well, I didn't exactly scout it, I just looked at some of it from the
We stopped to scout the double drop, notice the similarity
between the moss and Lukes hair? Run enough Pacific
Northwest water and you too will turn into a moss-ta-farian!
On a more serious note we pulled this seven inch log out of the middle
chute, it would have been very easy to miss at river
level. You don't want to take something like this in
the face or chest, always, even if you know a run, scout unless
you are certain. This is why.
We parked in a nice little spot and got ready to roll.
I packed the Jefe with appropriate safety equipment.
We sealed our skirts and peeled out, following some class 2
around a corner, which turned into class 3, and then I snagged a
tiny eddy before the whole thing dropped off the face of the
earth. I signaled to Luke that we needed to scout this and
reluctantly he climbed out of his boat and we peered down into a very
runnable class 4 boulder garden. Hiking down around the
corner, and pulling wood out of the rapid as we went, the rapid
continued and increased to a class 5 and around yet another corner with
yet more wood, dropped back to a class 4. THIS WHOLE
THING WOULD BE ONE RAPID AT OPTIMAL FLOWS so commiting to the class 3
lead in would mean running the entire 1/2 mile rapid. As
far as we can tell, nobody has run this so Luke named the drops.
The class 4 section at the beginning of 'felony canyon'.
Class 5 'zero gravity'
Class 5 'knuckle buster'
The class 3-4 outflow below 'knuckle buster'.
Luke sporting an enormous woody at the sight of such a killer un-run
We weren't sure we were going to get this log out, but we managed
to fish it out with some effort and made 'zero gravity'
runnable. Below is a sequence of Luke running the entire
rapid, we were a little low on flow so he was able to grab an eddy here
and there but just barely while I ran forward and set safety. At
the right flow it's gonna be just one fat long continuous class
This log situation might need to be fixed for an optimal flow run.
This isn't what happens when you are six inches off-line on 'knuckle
buster', sucked into the crack and face planted into the
I ran the lead-in and caught the micro eddy above 'zero gravity'
for a highly unpleasant portage, and the joined Luke for the
class 4 at the bottom.
The next few miles were a lot of class 2 rapids with a lot of class 3+
wood dodging, including one absolutely hillarious logjam that
Luke tried to run and was sucked under in slow motion. I
could tell by the configuration that he was gonna be fine so I laughed
uncontrollably while Luke fought it to the end and finally succumbed to
a log induced swim!
There was a lot of this and a lot of worse than this lurking around
fast corners. The rapids are simple, but I think you should feel
super solid on class 3 to run this stuff. I'm picturing a
beginner coming around one of those corners fast and seeing this and
leaning upstream and who knows what could happen. We walked
3 or 4 times.
Next up was the double drop, this is the lead in rapid to
it. I hit it first and it blasted me through at warp speed
so I named it 'the accellerator'. This is fun
straight-down-the-middle class 4 with a fat pool at the
end. Below is Luke coming in hot! Notice how he
blows right through the pillow in the second photo!
Seal launching back down into the pool.
After the 'accelerator' you're treated to more and more wood, and
some brushy narrow canyons. Still, it's more fun than running the
EFL for the zillionth time (in my humble opinion).
A horizon line like this can only mean one thing...
It may look different at higher water, so don't even think about
running this, lands on rocks and has rebar spikes sticking out
all across the front.
After passing the Prison Camp on the left, the wood backs off and the
rapids kick up to a pleasant class 2-3. A lot like the
mellower sections of Jordan Creek. There are a few decent
play spots and the last mile is pretty decent.
The lower section.
...and one last log to hop over.
Luke Spencer, professional PBR model. Thanks for finding a
new run Luke, who'd have thought there was anything left?
This is a schizophrenic run. It doesn't have the sustained class
3 of either of it's neighbors, Jordan Creek or the Devils Lake
Fork, although it certainly has the wood of upper Devils in the
middle section. Nor does it have enough class 5 to become a
commonly run hard run. That said, felony gorge is a very
cool, steep, twisty, sustained hard rapid and it would be a great
destination for large-balled guys (and girls?) on a pouring rain sunday
when you are already in the area. (bring a saw and some
rope) and like everything on the coast, it's very pretty.
This was a great find for an exploratory run, you could do
a LOT worse, and it's cool that there are still things to
Flows: We hit this at 4000 and falling slowly on the
Wilson gauge and it was a bit low. I think optimal flows
here are probably the same as optimal on Jordan or Devils.
Somewhere between 4000 and rising slowly and 5000 and falling
slowly. It might go at 3000 in a rainstorm or at 6000 when
it's dropping out fast.
Access: Coming from Portland along Hwy 6 take your first left
across the bridge immediately after Elk Creek Road. Drive about
a mile along the river and stay left and don't go to the prison
camp. Drive a couple more miles and you'll want to take a right
and cross back over the river. (There are feed-in roads that I'm
not including here, these lefts and rights are for
forks). Go about another mile and right at a huge freakin'
clearcut you'll see roads heading down on your left. Take one
down to a nice little parking spot and routefind to the river (and
maybe scout the gorge before unloading your boat.).
Have fun and don't get wrapped around a log.
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