Saturday, December 12, 2009

The North Anna River 12-11-09

Falls Line Rapids

This river is one I have been wanting to check out for a while. I had been looking at the USGS Streamflow Data for the past few months , checking every week, no change,un-runnable. It is a dam release stream so it can rise and fall really dramatically in a matter of minutes.
This is the upstream gage @ the dam

So after jacking up to also 5,000 cfs the river had dropped back 1,200 upstream/1,800 cfs downstream.
It seemed like an ideal time to go check it out (knowing that i had only seen pictures of the biggest rapid @54cfs). We got a crew of Jon, Chris, and myself, we headed out @ 8:30 am after 1 broken down truck and a hearty breakfast. It was still below freezing as we got to the put-in at Route 1 South of Carmel Church, but the river was flowing. We loaded up again to do the quick shuttle to 601 put-in on Hewlett Rd ( nice little wave here @ this level.). We paid our dues and put in with the sun shining and the frost still glistening in the trees.

The first part of the run there was sections of Class I and II rapids mixed with some flat water. There were a few fun waves and holes , but nothing huge. There is alot of choice of lines and the river braids several times to give you some different options. The flat water here really just gave you a chance to relax and take in the scenery between whitewater sections. We saw a bald eagle, 2 bucks in the woods hanging out, and later we saw one swimming across the river in front of us (being chased by two hunting dogs)!

The upper had fun sections but as we got 4 or 5 miles into the trip we started to hit some nice long sections of whitewater. In this section (river left) there was a fun really fast class III , one of my favorite drops that sucked you down about 4 ft then shot you back up and out and to river right quick. Wish I had gotten pics of that one. After those next few rapids and a little flatwater we quickly came up on Falls Line Rapid.

Upper Section of Falls Line Rapids

Falls Line Rapid is no joke at these levels! The far right looked good , very big continuous whitewater with a but bunch of nasty looking holes. The middle line was a sloping rapid into a ledge drop about 3' or so then into a quick pool and then into the last section of big waves and nice big drop at the end. We chose to hit the far left line which was a nice entry rapid and then eddy up and drop down a big rockslide /chute.
Falls Line Rapid- River Left -Rocklide/Chute Drops 6'

Chris was the first to drop in and run the line, made it clean and signaled for us to come through. Jon eddied up and dropped in , all good.

Jon W. setting up and dropping in.

I followed last , clean through the first section and then eddied up to get ready to drop in. As I took a hard stroke to ferry into the drop I felt myself getting pushed hard toward the right of the drop and the overhanging log. I took another hard stroke on the right and straightened out and shot out the bottom.

Matt Mens setting up and dropping in.

I hung out there in the pool at the bottom for a minute and regrouped. While I was sitting there i realized the pool was filled with rainbow trout ( i think). I mean full , I could have reached in and grabbed arms fulls of fish.

We all portaged across the island to hit the last drops of the main rapid and then continued on. Cruising down past the cliffs with huge icicles hanging off of them and tons of mountain laurel and ferns made the last section really nice. We took out at 12:45 after 3 hours on the river and a 9.5 mile trip. It made for a great winter day and personal first descent for all of us. I would like to make it back again when the levels are good , try out some of the other options we missed hitting. Thanks again Jon W. and Chris S.( we'll get some pics of you next time).

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

England Run Falls 12-09-09

England Run Falls

Today was my third time down this section of England Run creek. We picked up about 2” to 3” locally and I knew the creek would be up to a runnable level again. The creek is roughly 1.5 mile of Class II to Class VI ? I haven’t been able to find anyone that has run this one yet. I have the feeling my first trip down was a first descent on this beautiful micro-creek.

The Beaver Dam Drop

I put in just below the Beaver Dam Drop after scouting the first 100 yards of the run. I have run the dam but it is best portaged due to the amount of wood in the pool behind it. Scouting is a must of the size of the creek there are little to no eddies in the upper section and there are always new strainers. I had been cleaning the trash out of the creek and removed some strainers the day before , so most of the run was clean and good to go.

The end of the first section of rapids.

The first section is all class II rock garden with some fun clean lines and small drops. After the first rapids and little wave train it flattens and straightens out as you come up on First Falls.
First Falls
First Falls is partially man-made dam that drops into a nice rockslide into a tight chute and into another rockslide. The total drop here is 15' over about 30' . This rapid can be treacherous at any level, there are chunks of concrete broken from the dam and a metal pipe hidden under just a few inches of water( out of the main flow but i wouldnt want to flip in here).
I was stoked to see the flow through here and was quick to hit it and move on to the lower gorge. But not before running the last smaller rapids that run up to the big drop ERF.The last set before the big falls.
The last rapids before ERF are fun but catching the eddy above the falls can be challenge at these levels.

In this video you can see how close the horizon line is to the last rapid! I would hate to miss that last eddy,it would be nasty. I was thankful to have run this far without barely scraping a rock , and as i eddied up all i could think about or hear was the roar of falls into the gorge below. I hiked to check out the first two tiers of ERF, flowing heavy but still manky nasty looking lines into the 20 footer finale.

After portaging the main falls I took a minute to reflect and enjoy the scenery. My heart was pumping looking at the continuous whitewater below me. It took a few tries but i ferried across the whitewater whirlpool below the falls and got ready to drop into the second biggest runnable drops.The rapids and drops above the falls are fun but this section is really the meat of the run.

The next drop after ERF is three foot drop of rocky mess that was barely runnable even at this flow, but i was able to run that into my favorite drop of the run "Rockslide ". "Rockslide "from above.
This one is fun even at low levels with a nice deep clean pool below it and an easy portage on river left. This one i ran a few times and set up the camera for some footage.

On the before last run of Rockslide , I scouted the next drop " No Way Out". It was cleaner and more open than ever so i ran Rockslide one last time and dropped straight into" No Way Out".
This one is a tight chute that zigs right and then left then right again before dropping you into the pool below. Again such a clean run through
barely touching a rock even in the tightest chute on the creek.

"No Way Out Rapid "
After running "No Way Out" , I did a quick scout on the next section, which was clean except for a creek wide strainer ( i have been trying to cut out and remove for weeks now). Double waterfall feeder streams

Back in the creek after the quick portage, I hit the next section about 50 yrds of rock garden/chutes.

After another quick scout in the area that gets the worst strainers,I was back in my boat for the last section of drops. After dodging a vine that would have choked me right out of my boat. I hit the last significant drop "Bottom Hole". I hung out there for a minute pulling up and playing in the small hole.

I could see from "bottom hole" that there was only a small section of rapids left below me.Looking back up before the last section.
Down around the last turn before the Rappahanock River.

Every other time i have run this section there is about another 30 yards worth of rapids, but because the river was pushing up it flattened it all out. I was stoked on another clean descent of this little gem hidden in our backyard. Pulled out and hiked back to the car-exhausted I went home and got ready for work. Looking in on the hike out.

Hopefully we get some more rain this winter because i don't want to wait till spring to hit it again!