Clear Creek is one of my
favorite runs of all time. Clear Creek has epic wilderness scenery,
beautiful scoured gorges and once the road is near, it's out of view
other than one bridge high above the final gorge. Water quality is of
the highest standard as well, as Clear Creek drains the Siskiyou
Wilderness. Clear Creek is generally a spring run due to snow melt, and
flows from Feb-June in most years. This run doesn't see as much use as
it should, probably due to a vague IV+ mention in "Best Whitewater of
California", and the mile hike in. The hike in itself isn't bad at all,
in most years the trail is well maintained and has a very mellow
gradient that can be completed in 20 minutes or so. Some years the
trail is in worse condition due to a rough winter. As of 2008 it's in
great condition with no trees across the tail, and all wash-outs
The hike is done, Jon Vengley gears up for a great day.
The run itself is mostly
solid class IV rapids with a big water feel, although it does have two
solid class V rapids that are often portaged, and one mandatory portage
near the end, followed by one more V.
Here is Jon in the second
large rapid. The log he is ducking in this one moved on downstream
somewhere later in the spring. We met up with two Arcata boaters about
halfway down the run, and they said they both got "good surfs" in a
large hole on the river left side of this rapid. Meeting up was a
strange occurance, Jon and I seemed to be the first on Clear Creek this
year and they just happened to be on the same day.
Jon Vengley in the first set of rapids.
Jon Vengley boofing to avoid the "good surf" on the left side.
After "good surf" this rapid is up next. The right channel is the ideal
route, but a lateral hole likes to surf paddlers to the chunky left
Jon making the left to right move in the right channel.
Dan Thurber about to punch a big soft hole at the bottom of the right
We continued to boogie through a few more rapids spaced out nicely,
enjoying gorgeous scenery.
Dan Thurber floating through a recovery pool.
After a few fun rapids is
the first V that some choose to portage. It's a pretty simple rapid,
most of the flow in the entrance pushes into an undercut outcropping on
the right, then proceeds downstream into three chutes, with the center
and right doors going. With the higher flows it's well covered and we
ran it moving right the whole way down, and I managed to botch any good
after it we scouted this
nice big hole, and Jon tried a new hole punching method.
Quite soon after this we got out and scouted the second V that is
normally portaged. This one has a big pushy entrance with a large hole
at the bottom, followed by swift moving water to a boof move to a
"line" through a sieve.
Ben from Cali
Ben making the boof look easy in the middle move.
My slow camera failed to capture Ben finishing the drop, so here is Jon
finishing the "line" through the sieve. The line is a little random,
Ben had the cleanest line and hit a underwater rock with his boat, yet
Jon and I both had sloppy lines in the bottom boof and didn't hit
anything, go figure. This rapid doesn't really have a clean exit, thus
no "line" just try to stay upright and straight, and away from the
I am running the top of the drop in this
I eddied out on the right for several minutes trying to find my
from the second class V the gorge really starts to get fun with read
and run IV-IV+ rapids encased in a wonderful canyon.
Dan Thurber hitting a nice cross-current boof.
At lower flows you can scout, at high flows it's read and run, a total
blast with lots of big, soft hydraulics and strong currents.
Dan Thurber enjoying yet another Clear Creek classic.
The run stays good with low flows, it just turns into technical class
IV creeking. This drop can be seen from the shuttle bridge, and is a
nice hole at higher flows.
Canyon scenery with the shuttle bridge.
After the bridge passes far
overhead and you enjoy both the walled in rapids and the great scenery,
keep your eyes open for a waterfall on the left.
The waterfall on the left is actually part of a triple set in its own
canyon that is stunning, and also marks that the mandatory portage is
coming up very soon. Just downstream of the waterfall make sure you
catch the eddy on the right above the obvious horizon line. If you have
a three or more in your group space out, there is not a lot of eddy
room in this spot at all. Its best to go one at a time and catch the
upper eddy, although there is a boat sized eddy about five feet further
down. This portage involves a 8' or so seal launch. This is the
portage, I have heard of people missing the eddy and swimming through
it. I wouldn't want to, make sure you catch the eddy fairly high up.