Scenes from the Breitenbush

A pod of LCCCers ran the Breitenbush on June 9th at about 450 cfs. There were enough of us that we broke into two groups–lunch eaters and those preferring to keep moving. I was sweep in the lunch-eaters group and didn’t shoot much video, but did get out for the last two major drops to shoot Kendall Springer (the trip coordinator), Kevin Lane, Denny Egner, Alex McNeily, Courtney Wilton, Russ Pascoe, and Audrey Bergsma (running the Breitenbush for the first time). There are some flips and swims on these two drops, but it should be noted that the Breitenbush has lots and lots of short, tough drops and the team did great all day. There’s nothing like the last rapid, Woo-Man Chew, to provide some boat launching action. People in the first group and not in the video: Colm Lenaghan, Laurie Crabbe, Eric Lindenauer, and someone named Brad who I didn’t catch his last name.

North Fork of the John Day: Route 52 Bridge to Dale

This is an account by Jonathan Walpole about his June 2013 descent with Kirti Walpole and Jenny Johnson of the rarely done upper section of the North Fork of the John Day. Here’s their story in Jon’s words:

This is a very rarely run stretch of river starting high in the Elkhorn Mountains, near the Anthony Lakes ski area, and dropping 2400 feet over its 41 mile course to Dale. Butch, who runs the shuttle service out of the Dale Store, said they had not dropped anyone off this year for this run, and with the water levels falling there is unlikely to be other runs after ours. In Robb Keller’s comprehensive “Paddling Oregon” guidebook he states “I have searched high and low for information about this section of river, but was unable to find anyone who had run it recently.”

The section has been run, of course, and in fact the Soggy Sneakers entry for it was written by our own Paul Norman and Alex McNeily, but apart from their relatively brief description, the available information on it is pretty much non-existent.

I was able to get some valuable information, and annotated topo maps, from Jason Shappart, who has hiked it with the intent of running it by IK. I also gleaned some useful information from Google Earth images, a nice benefit that was unavailable to earlier explorers. Nevertheless, as anyone who has scouted rapids from a significant height above the water can attest, things can look different at water level. Scouting from space has its limitations! But in this case, it can tell you some crucial information about potential portage options.

North Fork John Day River – NF 52 Bridge to Dale from Jonathan Walpole on Vimeo.

The purpose of this trip report, and accompanying video slideshow, is to add to the body of information already contributed by those early pioneers, Paul and Alex. I also wanted to provide some “mere mortal” perspective on the run, since Paul and Alex are widely regarded as some of the best paddlers around and were probably at the top of their game when they did it. We’re not like that.
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