Wednesday, April 25, 2012

The North Shore Rains April 16th-April 21st

The north shore was fueled with 2" of rain by a strong storm on April 15th. The entire North Shore from Duluth up to Grand Portage received enough rain to make the rivers flow for the entire week. Boaters rallied to the, Lester, Sucker, French, and a Split Rock solo run by Pete Noren on Monday April 16th.

On Tuesday April 17th, crews hit up the East fork of the Beaver, Silver, Sucker, and a three man crew ticked off a memorable run on forbidden fruit.

Nate Heydt on the East Fork of Beaver River 1st drop

Nate Heydt on East Fork of Beaver River 2nd drop

On Wednesday April 18th,  The two man crew of Techno and Japs took advantage of the rains and ventured into the Devils Track River. This was the first time in anybody had run the DT in 2012. What they found were many of trees down and many portages. There were about 5 trees in hazardous locations. Portage down the middle has a tree in the base of the falls on river left center. It is avoidable on the standard line, but if you get typewritered across the base of the falls you are in trouble. They also found that it is best to gauge the water level from the put in. Since the new culvert was installed at the take out, and the river flow has widened significantly there, it is very difficult to get a good grasp on flows from the take out.

On Friday April 19th, many boaters took a half day off and rallied to the Cascade River. Levels were at -7 inches. Some of the North Shore regulars like, Joerg, Alt, Decker, Heydt, Holton, Scheidel, Japs, and Noren were there. Along with new North Shore boater Tony Vavrica. They ran two laps. There is a new tree at the bottom of Hidden Falls. It's 30 feet downstream of the hole right in the out wash flow. All of the crew portaged it except on boater accidentally slipped out of his eddy and was forced to run it. He flipped in the hole at the bottom of Hidden and stayed upside down under the tree. It was a scary moment but all was good. There is a tree down below Long John on river left that is easily avoidable by running down the middle. There are two trees down in the river right line in Cheese Grader Rapid. The river left line works fine. And one last tree down across the entire river as you exit the canyon after Cheese Grader rapid.

On Saturday April 21st, twelve boaters put on the Brule River at enjoyed the last of the good rain fed water flows

Below are pictures of 30 foot "BTL" waterfall on the Forbidden Fruit river. From top to bottom are boaters Ryan Zimny, Justin Japs, and Joel Decker. This was a memorable first personal descent for all three of them. It took them 3 hours to run with a few portages.

North Shore Mini-Adventure March 31st-April 1st

McConville, Schidel, Decker, and T2 at the entrance of Black Canyon of the Cross River

Everyone knew the water levels on the North Shore were low so what else to do. In the spirit of adventure, Japs, Decker, Schidel, T2, Pexa, and McConville all rendezvous at the mysterious Black Canyon on the Cross River near Schroeder, Minnesota. Nobody had any set plans for the weekend but to have a good time, camp at paradise beach, and check out new rivers, canyons, and potential new waterfalls to run. Everyone agreed to check out the Black Canyon. The Black Canyon stands for near death experiences and a frightening kayak tales in Minnesota North Shore Kayaking history.

Back in the 1980's Paul Douglas used to fire up Class V regularly. He had a near death experience in that canyon. He lost his paddling group and found himself trying to figure out where the portage around Black Canyon was. By the time he realized where he was, he accidentally paddled into its depths. He stayed in his boat over the first 2 drops which is a 8ft ledge and a deathly 40ft cascading waterfall. His worse injury was a popped ear drum from swimming over a waterfall and going really deep. Next he swam 4 drops. A runnable clean 20 foot drop, a quick 6foot ledge, right into a gnarly 20 foot reconnect waterfall with a 6foot exit slot, and finally a clean runnable 12-14 footer to exit Black Canyon. After seeing this drop in person it's amazing Paul Douglas lived.  The rest of the story can be found in the guide book Northwoods Whitewater by Jim Rada.

These are the first two drops Paul ran in his boat. The second drop a lot steeper than video shows and very gnarly
After two days of Class VI scouting missions with ropes and climbing gear, a plan was made. Fire up some waterfalls! They all wanted to at least put on a river that weekend and run some drops. So on Sunday April Fools Day 2012 they hiked their boats down to the river below the canyon then hiked into the canyon at river level as far as they could go upstream. It was tough roping boats over class 3 rapids while standing in the river. It took a lot of climbing and serious team work to get upstream.  On one occasion Justin had to quick release his waist throw bag because a boat flipped over while he was pulling boats. The boat filled up with water and was pulling him downstream. Everything turned out OK, only a scull cap was lost from the boat.
When they hiked as far upstream as they could, they were looking at a perfectly looking runnable waterfall which no one has ever run to their knowledge. The crew talked amongst themselves as to who would run it first. Japs got the nod from the crew and fired it up. He had a decent line and found it deep in the pool below. Decker, Schidel, and McConville all fired it up after with good lines. Video Footage will be up at soon.
This is the drop the crew ran after hiking boats upstream

About a week after, one of the crew members ran into a former KCI boater by the name of Jim Morrison. He is 67 years old and living near Grand Marais, MN. Jim had tales of paddling every drop in the Black Canyon of the Cross River in 2003 with Two Harbors boater Greg Williams. That was a really impressive feat. What's even more impressive is that Jim was 58 years old paddling that very serious of a canyon at any water level. Jim and Greg used to paddle alone all the time and didn't paddle with people outside their group. He also mentioned that he and Greg got first descents on the 3rd and 4th drops on the main section Beaver River back in the mid 90's. (The drop with the giant sieve rock and the manky drop with pyramid rock at the end)

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Early Season Midwest: March 18th -March 25th

Midwest river flows have been a shocker so far this season. Flows came a month early than normal. It threw off a lot of boaters plans of and made boaters flock to runnable whitewater this past week.

Decker Auto Boof on Manabezo Falls

The north shore river didn't have much of a chance to run. With minimal snow levels and 70 degree weather the snow melted fast.  Last fall we had drought conditions on the North Shore so when winter came, the ice built up on the bottom of the river beds. The snow melted fast and we were left with ice to deal with.

Camp set up at Porcupine State Park over looking Lake Superior, U.P. Michigan

The Lester River in Duluth, Minnesota was a great example of this. Zimny, Heydt, Decker, and Japs paddled the Lester on March 18th. Flows were low but runnable. It was a pretty odd paddling experience though. In the flatwater sections, the entire river bed had a foot of ice pinned to the bottom. The guys were paddling on water above a giant sheet of ice. All the drops were clear of ice, but different rapids had different water levels from the massive sheets of ice pinned to the bottom in spots. You had to run the river like it was your first time. Scouting everything with high caution in the constantly changing river conditions.

Sisley boofing Manabezo Falls

On Monday March 19th, a second group lead by put on the Lester in low water and paddled the last of the water in the Lester.

Things were drastically different on the South Shore of Lake Superior in the U.P. Michigan. The L'anse, Michigan area had excellent whitewater the entire week of March 18th-March 25th. The falls river flowed for a few days, the Silver flowed for a week, and the Sturgeon never came down to boatable levels during that week. Bletch, Crimmins, Japs, Smits, and Sisley enjoyed three days of paddling the Upper and Lower Silver. The first day the level was around 8.6ft. The river dropped about a foot a day after that. There is a new take out for the lower silver thanks to a local. It's a great new take out because it saves you miles and miles of flatwater and you still get the best of the lower silver. Off Dynamite Hill Road go North on Piney, when you see the large Y which is actually a 4 way intersection. Take that right. It turns into a tight one lane road. 4x4 is required all the way to the river. Follow that as far as your vehicle will allow. There is a steep downhill with a deep stream crossing so a scout might be needed. Be prepared for your vehicle to get scratched up.

 Steve Bletch and Steve Smits finding firewood after Paddling the Falls River

Ryan Zimny and Jason Stingl portaging

On the weekend of March 24th-25th the Presque Isle was the river to be at. Boater flocked from all over the Midwest and PNW to get some water.

Upper Peninsula Michigan
Photo: Jonathon Sisley

On Friday Bletch, Sisley, and Japs ran the entire 15 mile section. They pretty much floated/slow paddled the whole way. We put in at 10am and finished at 5pm. The level was 7.25ft which was awesome padding in the class 3 and 4 boogy water in between the large rapids. The long 1/4 mile rapid battleship was a favorite rapid of the day. Just read and run around big holes. They took a 1/2 hour lunch at Stiger Bridge then scouted Nokomis and Triple Drop extensively. Nokomis and Triple Drop looked very stout from shore and intimidating. But flushy at the same time at 7.25ft. They all had decent lines all day with no swims or any major beat downs. After the trip, Bletch said  "That run of the full Presque Isle was a personal highlight of my paddling career."

On Saturday, 3 groups paddled 3 sections of the Presque Isle.

Decker, Zimny, Schidel, Bletch, McConville, Sisley, Hooper, Holton did two laps on the lower.

Everson, Monski, and Charles did the full 15 mile section.

Zimny setting up the boof on the Presque Isle River

Japs, Peter, Techno, Schidel and Stingl hiked into triple drop at 6.75ft water level. They found a new way to hike into to triple drop. They hiked their boats uphill about 3 miles and it took us 1 hour. It's hard to describe the hike but when you get to the confluence of Copper Creek and the Presque Isle you keep following the dirt road alongside the Presque Isle going east (30min) until you get to a deep ravine and a new clear cut area. Follow that ravine towards the Presque Isle and you will arrive just above Triple Drop. And 5 minutes later Midwest Vetrans Everson, Monski, and Charles arrived in the eddy above triple drop. They did the 15 mile section and the timing was impeccable. The two groups paddled a few rapids together and had a good time.

Action on Manabezo Falls on the Presque Isle River near Bessemer, Michigan

The lines were less distinct and the holes at Triple Drop and Nokomis were munchy than the day before at 7.25ft. I found that the lines were harder with less water. And the river way more bony in the class 3 and 4 boogy water.

On Sunday the Black River was the destination.  Zimny, Decker, Bletch, McConville, Sisley, Holton, Hooper, Kehn, Melissa, Jorgenson all put on the Black. The level was 550. Many boaters hucked Patowatomi and walked Gorge Falls. Johnny McConville fired up the whole river. He ran all drops with two runs down Rainbow Falls.

Jason Stingl running Gorge Falls on Black River at 550cfs
Photo: Peter Noren

Patawatomi Falls on Black River: Bessemer, Michigan USA
Photo: Peter Noren

McConville, Sisley, Hooper, Holton running Patawatomi Falls on the Black River, U.P. Michigan 

Jason Stingl solo run of Patawatomi Falls Black River, U.P. Michigan

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Minnesota's Hidden Falls, Double Drop, and Manitou Canyon Falls

Video of Chris Bear(green boat), John Kiffmeyer(blue boat), Justin Japs (orange boat) running Hidden Falls on the Cascade River - Minnesota, USA. And rare footage of Scotty Baker running Canyon Falls on the Manitou River into Lake Superior. Video Footage shot by Scott White.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Devils Track River Lines...

The rapids and lines on the Devils Track river are so often forgot year after year it seems. Mostly because people only paddle it once a year, and sometimes it doesn't flow every year.   

Devil’s Track River Lines.

The run starts off with class II boogie water. You go through 2 narrow cliff walled canyons with class III drops. Next the canyon opens up and makes a large sweeping right hand curve and a horizon line with mist spraying up. Triple Drop rapid. You can take out on river left or river right. River left is to scout both drops and pick your line. River right take out is where you portage the rapid.

More walled in meandering class II following the portage Admiral falls. The river picks up pace and there is a distinct green water hump in the middle of the river signaling serpent slide rapid. Follow the flow and enjoy the ride.

The canyon walls open up with some long straight sections and easy paddling. After one of these long straight sections the river makes a left turn. This signals the 10 foot drop. The line is right of center down the green tongue.

Then you go under the superior hiking trail bridge. There is one more 10 foot drop. Run down the center. Be prepared to get sent towards the river right wall.

The river meanders through tall canyon walls until you come to the next horizon line. Portage down the middle. Eddy service is on river left or right. PDM is best scouted on river left. The line is to run 5 feet off the river right shore. Take a strong boof stroke and point the nose a little right. Land. Then take another boof stroke if you need too.

The easier take out which is starting to become the norm, is 100 yards downstream of PDM on river left before the canyon narrows up again. Hike straight up until you hit the superior hiking trail. Hike downstream maybe ½ mile until you see the walking bridge. Do not cross this bridge. The easy route down to the river is hike down through the woods on trail right before the bridge on trail right. Hike down and go towards that creek bed. Climb down onto the creek bed and follow to river. Very slippery and sharp on creek bed. Sometimes it’s best to just walk down the creek bed in water to get the most grip if it's icy on the sides of the creek.

After the Pitchfork portage, the river canyons up and meanders quite a bit until you see a big notch in the canyon and distinct horizon line. On a sunny day, It's probably the darkest spot on the river from lack of sunlight into the narrow gorge. There is a small eddy on river right if you want to scout Ski Jump and Up Against the Wall.  Run ski jump right down the center. Bank right on the pillow. Try and get river right as much as possible for the most water under your boat. Left is ok too but scrappy. Ride into the big curler off river right wall at UAW. After Up Against the Wall, Get river left and run this drop river left into the hole at the bottom. And that's it for the big stuff. Enjoy the class II into Lake Superior.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Illgen Falls - Baptism River

Here's a short clip of Scott White running Illgen Falls on the Baptism River. Illgen Falls is a a park and huck waterfall. It's as classic a waterfall as you will find anywhere in the world. The baptism river is located on the North Shore of Lake Superior, Minnesota USA.

Here is another North Shore video made by Minnesota Boater's Cliff Langley and Joel Decker