around in the woods in the month of May, 2018, I happened to end up at
Forks of Butte. Not a lot of creeks have forks of the same name. If
it's called Forks of Butte, there must be some forks to the creek? A
quick look through the campground showed some beautiful swimming holes
and a tributary coming in on river right; West Branch Butte Creek.
Early May, 2018.
By this point in the year water levels were already a bit low, yet a
scouting mission revealed put-in access with a little hiking on one of
Sierra Pacific's gated roads off Highway 32. After some Google Earth
scouting it went on the far back burner, until April 2019 when pretty
much everything was too high after a huge snowpack and some rain on it.
Discussing the options of what to do, Joseph Hatcher and Luke Andraka
were game to join in some suffering; I promised them obscurity and
mank, probably a lot of portages too. For some reason I told them it
was around three miles. They agreed to the suffer mission.
Mile 1: 100fpm
Mile 2: 325fpm
Mile 3: 135fpm
Mile 4: 110fpm
Mile 5. 100fpm
4.2 miles: confluence with Butte Creek.
4.75 take out
out at Forks of Butte Campground would add in over an hour of driving and take off
a half mile of fast moving water on Butte Creek. No thanks, we opt to take
out at the Doe Mill Road crossing of Butte Creek.
doesn't take too long once we are on paved roads, and soon enough we
walk around the ubiquitous Sierra Pacific Industries gate.
mile on the road goes by quickly and soon at Nelson Ravine we scramble
about a hundred feet down to the creek. It's a bit smaller than my
optimistic memory said. Luke Andraka.
first mile is flatter than the gradient would indicate. It's rather
shocking to have no log portages as we cruise down easy gravel bars,
then the gradient falls away. Looking back upstream at the character above our first scout.
can't say this looks too good, yet after a quick scout the Southeast
background of Joseph and Luke is apparent, they are not even
Luke Andraka enters the first real rapid.
Joseph Hatcher in the same.
Luke Andraka enters the second half of the rapid, which is steeper than it looks, dropping another twenty feet or so total.
gradient keeps going and we scamble to find eddies as the river falls
away, steeper than anything we'd expected. A rather lengthy scout leads
to a less than clean twenty to thirty foot falls. We all take the time
to give it a good look and ponder what to do. Portaging looks to be a
bit of a pain. Luke wants to run the whole sequence, while Joseph and I
opt to portage the lead in and just run the falls.
A large tree at the lip creates a stunning setting that just doesn't
get captured in a photograph. Joseph Hatcher scrambles down to join
Luke Andraka scouting on the island.
Luke Andraka enters the stack up.
This little section has a narrow landing and Luke styles it.
The lead in lands in a small pool before the main event, and Luke heads straight into it.
place is a bit surreal for such a small creek. Seeing Luke's line go so
well, I change my mind about my line and follow his. I know it's rarely
a good choice to change lines, and despite Luke's great line, mine isn't and I take a
big, full stop piton in the first half of the falls. The nose cone of
my Prijon Pure cracks, absorbing the brunt of the impact.
Joseph Hatcher runs the falls.
A couple drops downstream and Luke needs to get out for some boat repair as well.
Joseph's line looked great, but Luke pointed out that his boat hadn't had such a great time on the waterfall.
At least it's a nice setting to spend some time patching up a kayak.