Once you leave the chaos of the take out heading up stream on the Salmon River West trail the forest and natural beauty of the area takes over and draws you deeper and deeper into the gorge. Since the floods during this past winter the take out rapid and gauge rock had changed dramatically. So we hiked in, guessing on the flow and hoping for the best. We hiked up and put on about 4 miles in and dropped into the top of Little Niagara and got straight down to business. The flow was in the medium range with a few pushy spots in the gorge..
Vanishing was clear of wood and we proceeded around the corner to a small ledge drop above Frustration. A big boulder had rolled downstream and changed the drop a little, actually making it easier.. Frustration always seems to live up to its name in some fashion. We found a new log that had been pushed down the center of the falls and wedged into the undercut wall and it extended back into the falls. It was clear of the main line, but it made it a little more intimidating.
Many of the rapids below Final Falls are gravel bars and boulder rapids, much of this changed during the last flood spreading out the flow and altering the main channel that used to be there. Needless to say it was a very bumpy paddle out even at this flow. Unfortunately, the one sieve portage below Final didn’t change and is still a portage.
Note: When I returned home from this trip, THIS is the first thing I saw.. So, I feel a need to express how valuable experience and group dynamics are, not to mention how dangerous waterfalls can be if you are the least bit careless. Most paddlers know (and have experienced) that an 8ft drop can do severe damage to your back and running waterfalls takes an understanding and focus that can’t be taught. Sure, paddlers have run bigger drops and it seems to happen on a regular basis, but that doesn’t make them easier for other people. It’s easy to watch kayaking videos and gain a disillusion from experienced paddlers going off waterfalls. The paddlers who are pushing these bigger and bigger drops, or who consistently paddle large waterfalls, are building off their own experience and they have the knowledge to know what to do if one of their friends gets hurt. Time is precious when things go wrong in whitewater, being a great paddler is one thing, but having the assets to help your friends when they need it can be a priceless art.