Trip Report: Lower Salmon River - Aug 2018 - flow unknown

River. Tribe. Self.

Submitted by Dan Hudson

To say we had a ‘large’ group on this trip is an understatement.  I don’t quite believe ‘large’ is the most appropriate term to describe the trip membership. I think, in retrospect, the best way to describe the trip participants would be a “Tribe”!

A tribe exists to support the group as a whole.  No one single member is more important than the next.  Trip Leader Scott Ogren said it from day 1;  The priority order is; River, Tribe, Self.  The river dictates what we have to deal with, the tribe comes next in any consideration, and individual or self-desires becomes the least important consideration. Above all else, this was a family trip and all considerations were given to making the trip memorable for the youngest generation on the river.Lower Salmon Sep 2018.jpg

We were forewarned by Michele at All River’s Shuttles we would be facing fierce competition for  our preferred camps.  Michele advised there were as many as 7 groups launching at Hammer Creek on the same day, and several were also launching at Pine Bar.  She did her best in selling the family nature of the OWA and negotiated our favorite stops for the club with the other groups.  We launched in a great exodus from Hammer Creek with rafts adorned with colorful umbrellas, shade tops, and Shanna Hudson pulling a gigantic White Swan.   Along the river,  comments were shouted to the group from passing rafters in awe of Shanna’s White Swan floatie.

We picked up a couple late launchers at Pine  Bar, and continued downriver under bright blue skies and very warm temperatures.  Camp was made at American Bar, which accommodated the group well, and was a great set up to make a short travel day on day 2 to White House Bar.  A Burrito Dinner was superbly prepared and presented to hungry kids and adults alike, and a birthday cake presented to Carson Ogren, who was celebrating his 15th birthday.

The real adventure began on Day 2, with an early departure from American Bar and quick acquisition of Lower White House Bar, one of the favorite camps along the LMS.   There were several groups vying for this favorite camp, and the OWA simply made it happen with great planning, teamwork, and an early launch from American Bar.  The volleyball net was quickly assembled and erected in the shallows and the signature OWA double dining canopy was anchored in and readied to provide much needed shade.

Costume night festivities ensued with Sherry Ripley orchestrating “Pirates and Mermaids”.  There were plenty of mermaids, including one complete with a shiny tail.  The standard layover time featured lots of rapids swimming, water volleyball, and festivities which including dancing and music into the twilight hours.

Day 4 saw us transiting through Snowhole after a quick scout.  20 rafts and 3 kayaks negotiated the class IV drop with greet gusto and no flips.  IK’ers Kylee and Haley Albers followed by Kye Wyrsch all ran impressive lines through the drop.  The river was running about a foot higher than usual for this trip, and the line at Snowhole was much more forgiving at this level.

Eagle Creek was a welcome sight, and better – empty.  The long sandbar and shallow bank is a favorite, especially this day when daytime temperatures were running over 100 degrees.  Epic blaster squirt gun fights erupted between kids and adults alike.  On the layover day the teenage generation made several trips across river and established their own daytime minicamp on river left.  Tom Lofton and Dan Hudson made a swim cross river with blasters concealed below water line and ambushed the teens.  Though the kids were expecting something, they were thoroughly doused and ran for cover in the brush. 

Shade became a priority at Eagle Creek during the layover.  Tarps were assembled over the river shallows, with chairs and cots crowded into every shady nook and cranny of the shade cover.

Transit day 6 saw plenty of sun, and the arrival of some wind.  Cliff diving highlighted the travel day with many taking plunges from the varying heights of the columnar rock formations upstream from Blue Canyon.  The destination for the day was planned to be an unnamed sandbar camp on the LMS near MP 1 on river left.  As the first rafts arrived and established a beachhead presence, a group of jet boats arrived upriver from the Snake River.  They had obviously been planning on camping at the same select location bit the lead rafts saved the day and established the OWA presence. 

The trip out to the Snake saw Eye of the Needle causing one kayaker flip – Joey Hudson took a plunge in her Aire Spud.  She surfaced with her paddle raised overhead laughing her baptism away.  As we headed down the Snake from the confluence, we were surrounded by a multitude of rafters and jet boats. 

We eddied out near Geneva Bar and assembled the rafts into 4 rows of rafts by 5 rafts across.  Brian Albers drove the assembled massive flotilla away from the eddy with his little 9.9 kicker.  All was smooth sailing until the higher than normal flows concealed the shallow water of the left channel at Cougar Bar rapids.  A rock strike on the propeller not only killed the motor, it stripped the motor off the raft and ejected it behind the last row of the formation.  The Flotilla broke apart and spread out through the class II rapid.  Dan Hudson and Brian Albers made a shallow water wade upstream and were able to locate and recover the motor. 

The now easy motor-out option for the group ended with the dousing of Alber’s motor.   As we began to row out, the upstream wind speed increased and rowing became difficult, at best.  The lighter and smaller Catarafts were actually being blown upstream during the heavier wind gusts.  Eventually, we all made it safely out to Heller Bar, albeit with some strained backs and blistered hands. 

River, Tribe, Self.