We are proud to be home from the first commercial trip down the Chetco River in over a decade. Before the Biscuit Fire in 2002 Allen Wilson ran trips down the Chetco, and this spring NWRC was issued a permit to follow in his footsteps.
Our trip started at the Babyfoot Lake Traihead on the eastern edge of the Kalmiopsis Wilderness. We were all thankful that the Siskiyou Mountain Club had spent the past few years clearing this section of downed trees that had fallen after the Biscuit Fire.
The hike went well and we were all in awe of the contrast of the burnt trees, lush foliage, and spectacular diversity of wildflowers. There was a slight drizzle and cloudy skies, which made hiking pleasant, although we missed some of the big views of the South Kalmiopsis. We stopped for lunch at the section of green trees about 3 miles in. Then we took a break at the beginning of the big downhill just after the Bailey Cabin site.
We camped our first night at the confluence with Carter Creek, where we put in the next morning. The water was low, so it took most of the day to get from Carter Creek to Slide Creek having to drag our boats over some of the rapids.
We stopped for an awesome hike up a side creek on river left that I’m going to call Magic Creek. That night we camped at the Slide Creek camp.
The next day was long. We started with the two-mile upper gorge between Slide Creek and Granite Creek. The first rapid had a rock in the middle and most everyone wrapped their boats, which was a foreboding sign. The next rapid was intimidating since it had a long entrance and a big drop at the bottom, but we all had great lines.
In this upper gorge we probably ran half the rapids and either lined or portaged the other half. Teamwork was critical, and we got into a great rhythm and worked well together. Even though we didn’t run all of the rapids, everyone had a great attitude and we had a great time.
We had lunch at Granite Creek and celebrated a beautiful morning in the wilderness before paddling to Taggarts Bar.
Below there, the gradient eased up and we made good time downstream. We stopped for about an hour at Box Canyon Creek while a few of us took a nap and a few of us had a great hike up the creek.
A mile or so after Box Canyon Creek, we arrived at a nice camp on the left just above Chetco Bar around 5-ish. We lost sunlight soon after because the canyon walls were so steep. There was a creek 100 feet downstream that we’re calling Spencer Creek, since Adam Spencer explored it and found a cool 20 foot waterfall. We also watched a bear come down the creek and head downstream away from us.
The third day on the water was probably everyone’s favorite. The geology changed to be more like the Rogue, Illinois, and Smith River with cool metamorphic rocks and distinct rapids that we were able to run because the river flow was higher. We got into a great rhythm as we made our way downriver. We stopped for lunch at Tin Cup Creek where J.R., Ryan, and Spencer hiked up a ways and reported it being awesome.
The 2 miles below Tin Cup Creek had some great rapids and some beautiful geology. It was getting late so we were a little rushed but this was my favorite part of the river.
On our last night we camped at Boulder Creek which is probably the best camp on the river. It had a big beach, great views of the river, and great hiking options. I took a nice hike up Boulder Creek, which I hope to come back and kayak someday.
The next morning we woke up to a little rain and had a lazy morning. We put in around 11 AM and had a few great rapids to negotiate in the final few miles before our take out at Tollman Ranch. It was great to introduce a few new people to this amazing place and share another great experience on the Chetco!