Aug 26, 2010

Lower Muddy Fork

The Cowlitz drainage has been held in high regard by kayakers for decades. Cowlitz headwaters roll off of Mt Rainier, which has so many excellent places our forefathers made it a National Park!! It is the fifth National Park in our nation's history. Wolf Bauer, a great man who was a catalyst and pioneer behind whitewater paddling in Washington state, fought for over a decade to keep the Cowlitz free flowing. 
Ultimately, the dam builders won, but kayakers still enjoy many miles of whitewater on many different rivers flowing off of Mt Rainier.

The Muddy Fork of the Cowlitz is not a river that was overlooked when early whitewater 
pioneers like Bill Bowey, Ron Blanchette, Jeff Bennett and others started exploring these tiny streams. As years passed and more runs were discovered, the Muddy Fork remained 
somewhat obscure. For the adventurous boater the Muddy Fork does not disappoint!! 
The rapids aren't overly difficult, the scenery is absolutely A+, and the "unknown" lurks 
around every corner. We scouted a lot, took a bunch of great photos, and overall had a lovely 

Totten and I met Jon in Packwood Sat morning. We hadn't done this run, but were meeting 
Scott Matthews, who has paddled it plenty. Cool. I love getting into places that have been 
explored before. Tyler Bradt nailed it when he said, "Going first is scary!!" Sometimes going 
second or third is scary, too, but I agree with Tyler.

We got gear and boats loaded and headed up to the put in. To get to the put in is a little "out 
and around" business, but not bad. After driving as far as we could (a mile?) the boats were 
loaded and the hiking began.
Worth the hike?

Heading to the Muddy Fork.

Hiking in the woods.

Hiking in the woods with your boat is a little slow at first.We all found our rhythm and made pretty good time through pretty trees and some fun woodsy critters. We stopped about halfway for a little break. By the time we got to the put in I was a sweating heaving mess. Finding a rhythm on the hike in is key to a pleasant time while you're strapped to your boat. I wound up running in long spurts while dragging my boat and turned my "hike" into some interval training. Fun stuff. 

Finally, after reaching this "one" gully, Scott said, "this might be it." We took another break before wandering further. Chris's nephew, Billy walked in with us. He doesn't kayak, but lives in the area and just loves the tight spots we get in to. Billy was out in front pretty much the whole way. (He didn't have a boat, either ;) Billy was pretty psyched once we all got down to the river. So were we!!!

               If you don't see this, you ain't at the put in.               Large woody debris on the Muddy Fork

The put in!!

We took a little while to finish getting dressed and get on the water. It was overcast, not too hot. We lingered at the put in, I think, just because it was so beautiful, none of us wanted to leave. But we knew there would be more to come and so off we went.

First rapid of the day.

        I liked the oily smudge in this one.

Chris Totten gettin' his kit ready.

First portage. 

Finishing up the first portage.

Soon enough we were making our way down. The rapids were more of a class  IV ish nature, not overly difficult with plenty of blind turns to keep it interesting. The canyon just kept giving more as we got in deeper. It's a surreal experience to know the ONLY way out is downstream. 

       More cool canyon. The Muddy Fork doesn't stop!!

Getting close to the take out.

The Great Right Bend.

Totten scouts for the Muddy Fork Gorge Beast.

More Gorge-ousness!!

A+ for scenery.

Some artistic photography at the take out.

Muddy Fork Update: Oct 2010

There was a high water event which moved some logs from the jam at the put in for this run, down through the canyon. There have been several high water events since then as well. Scout some, when you can. This is what a group found in Oct.

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