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The rain began the night we got home from our Grand Canyon adventure, and I've been getting out every weekend day. We got on the Sandy Gorge at something just shy of 3000 cfs, and again at 1200 or so, the North Fork Washougal which usually doesn't run in October, Opal Creek at something like 900cfs, and the Tilton at a lovely 1300 cfs.


SANDY GORGE
I've run it mostly under 2000 cfs, so at the 3000 flow there were some new features. The log jam at the beginning was quite runnable at this flow, just start right and drive center for the bottom, then left of the logs in the runout. Boulder drop has a sticky hole on the right at the blind left corner. Rasp rock was fully developed into a terminal hole but quite sneakable on the right. Drainhole was intimidating but there was still little flow going into doors number one and two, and it was no harder to make the move right. The tree sticking out from the right bank in the rapid below drainhole was underwater and I forgot about it, went right on the wave train and tripped over the log, flipping abruptly and rolling up. It could have been much worse. Revenue Rapid was easier at the top where it is normally stupid rocky, but the hole bottom right was quite large. Mostly class III with a few IV's. I would run this one higher, and I would attempt it in a playboat.

NF WASHOUGAL
This was the lowest I'd run it yet, but it was still not really low. Much easier at this flow because the holes were all punchable. This is a hard-to-catch run that gets snowed in during the winter, so shoulder seasons are our only opportunity. There is no gauge on the NFW so you have to go by rainfall, snowpack and flows in the Washougal way downstream. Some folks ran Haggen Creek and found it plenty challenging. The biggest rapid is just downstream of the Haggen and NFW confluence, and it is called Tea Kettle. I had my first good run (read: right side up and not swimming) in Tea Kettle. The run is long when you go all the way down to the store, but the last rapids are entertaining and worth the miles. There was considerable new clear cutting along the shuttle. Lots of class IV here with Tea Kettle pushing IV+.

OPAL CREEK
Aka the Little North Fork of the Santiam. This one can be hard to catch, and it runs glistening opalescent and clear even when there are floods because the terrain up there hasn't been logged. It also gets snowed in during the winter. The whitewater was messier at this 900ish flow than it is at 1100 and 1200, and not really easier. Especially Thor rapid at the end was challenging at this flow, complete with boiling eddies and whirlpools instead of the big pushy wave trains that are present with more water. I believe all of us ran Big Ugly, which wasn't much different than at higher flows. Some people were doing a creeky right entrance that I hadn't seen before. Only one person in our large group ran Big Fluffy, the waterfall, and it didn't go well for him. He got pushed over to the wall on the left and into the pocket hole, flipped against the wall and rolled up, uninjured. It looked minimal for running the double drop "teacup" run at Big Fluffy and nobody went for it. The portage via seal launch went quickly considering we had a group of 14. Class IV except for Big Fluffy.

TILTON
This one's a bit farther drive up into Washington but totally worth the drive. I'm told that the ideal play flow on the Tilton is 1100cfs. I've run it at 2000 in a playboat and it is pleasant at that level too. At 1300 the main play wave was a bow surfing wave only, with no hole to speak of and no spinning opportunities. There were however oodles of other play waves and holes, some with eddy access, many at the entrances of rapids. I wore myself out playing. We had a huge group again and four of us were women. Three of us ran the boof at the one vertical drop (Ted's??) and it went well. About 1/3 of our huge group of 17 were in playboats and all did fine. I was in my creek boat because I'm too heavy for my play boat right now. Considering acquiring another playboat, should an inexpensive one become available. A canoeist friend of mine asked what I think of the Tilton and over 1000 I think it would be a very wet canoe run. I would not consider it without a good roll. There are long sections where a swimmer cannot get out of the water, and rocky sections that would destroy an escaped canoe. Class III with a roll, class V without.

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