On June 19, Team Sundance and Northwest Rafting Company launched their most ambitious commercial trip to date â€“ an expedition into the Kalmiopsis Wilderness to float the Wild and Scenic Chetco River.Â Our team of 7 hiked 30 miles in 3 days, each carrying a total of about 70 pounds of food and equipment into the heart of the Kalmiopsis. Over the next 4 days, we traveled 20 river miles through one of the most remote and rugged landscapes in Oregon.
The mastermind behind the project was Zach Collier â€“ owner of Northwest Rafting Company. Over the last year Zach has worked tirelessly to prepare for this epic undertaking – planning the logistics, ensuring that everyone was equipped with what they needed, and securing the one-of-a-kind commercial permit that facilitated this adventure for a few hearty souls.
Our expedition began at the Babyfoot Lake trailhead on the eastern edge of the Kalmiopsis Wilderness. This forest landscape, which was burned by the Biscuit fire over 10 years ago, was stunning. Seeing skeletons of trees, burned black and bleached white, rising out of a sea of new growth and beautiful flowers truly made the hike one of the most beautiful and amazing parts of the trip.
Our first day on the river was through the Magic Canyon of the upper Chetco â€“ 2 miles of pristine bedrock canyon with easy rapids, and some of the clearest, most beautiful water found anywhere on earth. We stopped to explore a side canyon we called “Magic Creek” and scrambled up to some awesome Grand Canyon-like waterfalls.
Day 2 on the river found us negotiating the intense two-mile section of whitewater between Slide creek and Granite Creek. Working as a team, we systematically moved from one rapid to the next amidst huge boulders and steep gradient – all the while marveling at the beauty of our surroundings. This is a section that I coined the â€œskate parkâ€ on our first expedition in 2011.Â We set-up camp a few miles below Granite Creek and enjoyed some unbelievable scenery. Adam Spencer decided to check out the unnamed creek next to us and discovered a cool waterfall a short way up.
The next day was everybodyâ€™s favorite. The flow picked up with the addition of a few large tributaries such as Box Canyon and Tincup Creek, and we cleanly ran most of the rapids.
Our last night we camped at a large tributary called Boulder Creek, not far above our takeout, where we enjoyed a gourmet Dutch oven meal. While listening to the creek and thinking about how cool it would be to go straight back and run the river all over again, we all agreed that there was almost no place in the world we would rather be. We knew we would all be back one day.
After a lazy morning at our favorite camp, we paddled out the last few miles to our takeout at Toleman Ranch. On our drive home, while happy to be dry and warm, we were also a little sad to be leaving our amazing adventure behind us. The Wild and Scenic Chetco, Magic Canyon, and the Kalmiopsis will always be one of my favorite places on earth. I canâ€™t wait to go back with a few new friends next year!