Veteran's Day 2019, ~1800 cfs
2019 Veteran's Day Rogue River Float
Trip Report written by David Pauli, Photos by Jo Wright
There was some question just weeks before the annual trip of whether it was happening or not. Thanks to Kevin Buck, a seasoned trip leader, stepping up to lead people quickly signed up to go.
The trip began as usual with most boaters arriving at Galice Resort Friday night November 8th in the evening. The hot tub was set to a perfect temperature and I took full advantage of it. As boaters trickled in and dropped their gear off in their rooms there was the typical lively conversations and laughs as old friend’s re-connected and new connections were made. After a good night’s sleep we enjoyed a hot meal at Galice before heading down to Graves Creek to rig up for the launch.
The water level was around 1,800 C.F.S. (This level was confirmed by Bruce Ripley based on his scientific scale of gaging water levels by how far up his legs the water was while standing in the fish ladder dragging boats through). It was on the low side but still a fun level. It’s been a few weeks so I don’t recall the exact number of boats and boaters. My best guess would be 25-30 cat boats, rafts, hard shell kayaks, and one IK. The head count was pushing 40.
After a brief safety talk we launched. Just two miles downriver we encountered Rainie Falls. This rapid ranges from Class 3+ to Class V depending on which line you choose to take. We had one cat boat rowed by Dan Greed, Chris Massey in a round boat, and a couple of kayaks that opted for the main falls (Class V). Neither of the rafts flipped but Dan Green got bucked out of his saddle and managed to stay aboard. Chris Massey and his passenger both got ejected and took a short swim. One kayaker got flipped and wet exited.
In the past, I have always taken the fish ladder. But this trip, I was determined to take the middle chute (IV). The middle chute is relatively short, narrow, steep, and exciting. Kevin Buck led the way through the middle chute followed by Steve Herring. Having not ever run the middle chute before, I chose to tuck in close and follow Steve. As he entered, he made the sharp left hand turn, shipped his oars and disappeared down the chute. For a split second he was out of my view and when he came back into view he was in the water and his boat capsized. My first thought was “Why am I following this guy? What just happened? What am I getting myself into?”
Having already entered the current there was no changing course. As it turned out, my passenger and I made the sharp left hand turn, entered the chute, and re-entered the main current without incident. Steve was already downstream executing a textbook self-rescue.
Most boaters opted for the Fish Ladder. With people strategically placed along the route they were able to help keep boated, bumping their way through.
There was a lot of bumping and pulling and dragging but everyone made it through with just one casualty…a foot long rip in a boat. Fortunately it was an Aire Tributary so the field repair went relatively quick by field repair standards. Zipping open access to the bladder, it was patched up with tear-aide, and the outer shell required being stitched up with a field repair sewing kit. It looked a bit like Frankenstein, but it held air and made the rest of the trip without incident.
After burning a little more time than usual, we all high-tailed it down to Horseshoe Bend Camp to get camp set, enjoy some snacks, and get dinner going.
I had volunteered for the first night dinner and had many jump in and help out. Surf and turf, baked potatoes, and salad were on the menu followed by strawberry shortcake. I was happy that my first attempt was met with rave reviews.
The weather was perfect so no tarps were needed. In fact, no one could recall the last time, if ever, where the weather was so good that not a single tarp was erected the entire trip. We did however have two raging campfires to chase off the evening chill.
Sunday morning after a hot breakfast we broke camp, loaded the boats, and hit the river. All boaters regrouped just above Mule Creek Canyon for a quick lunch and a safety talk on how we would be tackling Mule Creek Canon and Blossom Bar. After the orientation, the kayakers headed out first so they could get strategically set in various spots throughout Blossom Bar should any of the rafts or cats need assistance.
After the kayakers, the rest of the boats headed down towards Mule Creek in groups of five. Mule Creek was exciting and went without incident other than picking up one of the kayakers that had ended up out of his boat and was beached on a gravel bar waiting patiently to hitch a ride on an inflatable.
At Blossom bar Chris Massey took a strategic position high on the rocks on river right so he could signal boaters to go when the way was clear. All boaters made it through with no pins, flips, or wraps. There was one swimmer, but he was quickly scooped up by a fellow boater.
With daylight burning we opted for camping directly across from Half Moon Bar Lodge rather than going further down river to the Tacoma site. There were no complaints with the new plan and together we all quickly set camp while there was still light. Fires were it, hors d’oeuvres were served, supper was prepared, and the evening was brought in with lively conversation, lots of laughs, river stories, and the strengthening of friendships that we river people hold so dear.
Our final day began with a quick bite, breaking camp, hitting the river, and floating out to the boat ramp at Fosters Bar. With a long drive ahead for most, assistance is given to one another to get boats loaded so folks can hit the road.
If I were rating trips, this one would definitely rate at or at least near the top judging by my own personal judging standard of having good water, good weather, and good people. All three were better than good, they were great!
P.S. If you want to see a compilation video of some of the Rainie Falls action (and carnage) check it out here https://youtu.be/-aTH2TyLcew