Trip Report: N Santiam - Oct 2, 2021, 3810 cfs
North Santiam Fall Colors Trip - Black and Brown Edition
Submitted by Val Shaull
Every year “the powers that be” dump water out of Detroit Reservoir on the North Santiam River. Because of the drought, I didn’t think they would this year. They fooled me and did!
I saw the flows go up and posted on the Oregon Whitewater Association's Facebook page that I was going to go and asked if anyone wanted to go along. Surprisingly I got a few hits. Jerry Malloy was the first, followed by Ron Davis, Jared Linkhart and his wife Kimberly, and Brian Elerick and his son. I also called my friend Thomas Bennett (Not an OWA member) and invited him.
The good news is on the day we planned, Oct. 2nd, 2021, the weather was great and the water, 3810 cfs, was great too! I had planned to go from Packsaddle Park to Mill City, mainly because there isn’t too much white water past Mill City and the other take out, Fisherman’s Bend was closed.
I hadn’t done the river since before the fire and thought I could do two things - go rafting and see the damage the fire had caused a year before. Well, there was a third thing - eat pizza at Giovanni’s Mountain Pizza. Best pizza in Mill City!
Driving up Hwy 22 we started seeing fire damage near Mehama. From Mehama on we could see a lot more damage. Some trees were still alive but black around the bottom. We pulled in to Mill City and drove to the bridge. There was a crew working on the old railroad bridge and some equipment in the parking place. We pulled around the corner by Sam Drevo’s eNRG Kayaking. There is a nice new parking lot across the street from Sam’s. Brian and his son were already there. While we were waiting for the rest to show up, a lot of kayakers began arriving. I talked to the guy (sorry I forgot his name) that was in charge. He said they were going from Mill City to Mehama. Most were new to the sport.
Everyone showed up and we headed to Packsaddle. I noticed there were a lot of buildings being rebuilt in Gates, and some not rebuilt yet, maybe never? We almost missed the turning to Packsaddle because it didn’t look like the old turnoff. There was a crew of loggers there, but the park was open. The only thing that wasn’t burnt was the bathrooms.
We put in at the boat ramp. We could only launch one boat at a time because there was a tree on the upstream side blocking half the ramp. We had 5 catboats, one R-2 raft, and one Sotar IK. The river was the same but both sides had a lot of fire damage. You could see the road from the river that you couldn’t see before. There were a few trees in the water, but you could see them before you got to them and you could easily get around them. No troubles on the trip. We had two involuntary surfs - one at Spenser’s Hole and one at Mill City Falls. Both people did great. They kept their boats straight and pushed out.
Probably the hardest thing we did all day was haul our boats up the hill at the takeout at Mill City. That worked out okay as it gave us an appetite for pizza!
I got to thinking the OWA usually dose a “Fall Colors” trip on the North Santiam. I didn’t see one listed this year, so we unofficially name this trip the “Fall Colors, Black and Brown Trip” (Black and Brown for the burnt trees, lol)
Photos by Jerry Malloy and Kimberly Linkhart