“–the Best whitewater in Washington!?”
June 25-28, 2012
It was a bit of a surreal experience driving north with the understanding that the next day we would be hiking into Tshletshy Creek again, less than a year since the previous trip. Brett Barton was fired up to the Tshletshy again this year and we made plans well in advance to make it happen. Scott Baker met up with us late Thursday night and we started hiking the next morning. At a leisurely pace we made our way up the trail and enjoyed the nice weather. We had one more paddler that was going to join us sometime on saturday so our plan was to make it to the water and wait.. As it turns out, the hike into Tshletshy doesn’t change and whatever trail conditions you choose will determine your pace.
The next morning just before we started our long day of hiking Scott Matthews had appeared on the trail just below us, already 5 hours into his hike that day. Our group was now complete and we set off to reach the snow and make it over the low saddle down into the Tshletshy drainage.
The next morning we dropped almost straight down the hill from camp and ended up above a gorge that held 3 waterfalls which none of us had seen before. Scott Matthews had been here before, in 1989 when Tshletshy was only 12 portages… We eventually found what we hoped was a suitable put-in and headed down the creek only to have our nice flowing creek end in a wall to wall log jam. Some scrambling up and over put us back in the water and heading toward the 1st Canyon.
Tshletshy Creek is a good test of endurance. Everyday you go at it all day long and everyday you get more and more tired of carrying/pulling all of that weight, that you have to have with you, around the logistics of Tshletshy.
Our water level on this trip had been very similar to last years flow up to this point, but once we were down in the 5ft and longest gorge it filled in a little more. I had been able to remember quite a few land marks throughout the bottom gorge, but there are so many rapids in there and quite a few surprise ones… We paddled out into the Queets river near dusk to beatiful view of the Queets valley. When we set shuttle 4 days prior we had to park just down stream of Matheny Creek due to a road closer there whitch added about 7 more miles onto our paddle out. We had one more camp as the sun set on us just a few miles from the take-out and we were out early the next morning. Once again, it had taken us 4 days, 4 nights and a couple hours to finish the trip.
Flows for this run:
July 3-6, 2011
I have been looking at that description in the ‘Paddlers Guide to the Olympic Peninsula’ for 10 years now, wondering and dreaming if it really was what I had been imagining. I tried to go a couple times this spring, but since summer arrived much later than expected this year I thought my window for getting in there this year was gone. Finally, Brett Barton sent a message that said, “Tshletshy next weekend?” After looking over the logistics again and understanding that we were still going to have to deal with 6 feet of snow at the top of the pass, we made plans. Our plan – Hike in on Monday, boat on Tuesday, out on Wednesday, sounded good at the time.
I tried hard to convince a couple paddlers to go, but in the end it was just Brett and I. The Tshletshy is a major undertaking. Once in the N.F. Quinault valley you have to hike up and over the pass by Bear Creek gaining about 3,000ft in elevation, then drop into the headwaters. We met up on Sunday and decided to start hiking. After about 4 miles and gaining about 1,400 feet in elevation we set up camp.
The next day we hiked up to the snow line, which started @ 2,800 feet, many hours later we hit the top of the pass at 3,608ft. And started the descent into the Tshletshy.
It took a long time to get down and we eventually ran out of daylight and had to camp in a bare tree well surrounded by snow. The next morning we leisurely rolled out of camp while we listened to the elk calls from the hills above us.
We had lost the trail the day before in the snow and were going off our maps and GPS to get us down to the put in. The trail down into the Tshletshy had been long abandoned making progress to the river a little harder.
At the put in we had what looked like a low flow, but later in the trip it all evened out.. We paddled down to the first gorge with high hopes and found wood in the inner gorge blocking 4 of the 6 drops. We portaged on the right, crossed the gorge and finished the portage on the left. After the second gorge there were many signs of massive flooding in the valley. Many of the tributaries had blown out and sent old growth trees down the creek placing them in mid flow at the wider sections of the creek.
After a few portages over downed trees we set up camp early and rested for our next big day.
Day 4 – We reached the third gorge called “The Tshlasm” within 20 min. out of camp. Here the creek dropped deeper and deeper into a gorge over a series of large waterfalls. We portaged on the right, continuing to look into the gorge, as we passed by a few drops that looked intriguing.
At this point I was beginning to wonder were the Best Whitewater in Washington was.. After a couple more log portages, there it was. Miles of read and run, class IV & V drops in an untouched pristine gorge. We saw many signs of wildlife, even paddling by a bear cub down in the deeper part of the gorge.
We reached the confluence with the Queets River at about dark and set up our last camp on a comfortable gravel bar. The next morning we woke up to light rain and decided to paddle out early.
All of the paddling reports that Brett and I had heard of were from 8-10 years ago. Either people had never heard of it or wanted to go check it out.. We went in knowing that there was a big wind storm in 2007 that downed many trees and littered many of the creeks in that area. As well as a couple floods in the past 10 years. We had our fair share of portages in the flat rocky sections, over and under some of the largest trees I’ve seen in a drainage. In the end it was an amazing trip, which does hold some of the best whitewater in Washington, worth every bit of effort that went into it. The scenery is mind numbing and the overall experience is unforgettable! I would highly recommend a map and GPS for this trip, it helped us from walking to far in the wrong direction with a loaded boat a few times, since much of the upper trail was covered in snow.