Rowing OP rivers..Beginner

Discussion in 'Steelhead' started by Kyle Escamilla, Jan 24, 2014.

  1. So in a few weeks from now I will be spending my weekends in the forks area and fish until the end of the season. The question is should I bring my Aire Super Puma? Should I stay away from the Sol Duc and Calawah. I am nowhere near a expert rower. I have only rowed the the upper Grande Ronde, Sky,Green, and lower and upper portion of the Wenatchee in lower water. Growing up my dad was a white water kayak instructor so I got into white water when I was little. Also lots of rafting trips all over just not rowing. I have done swift water rescue classes and have kayaked many rivers in Washington and other near by states. Although kayaking is different then being in a raft I did learn to read water. Do I have opportunities to pull over before gnarly sections on the the Sol Duc and Calawah? OR... Should I wait until I go down with a guide?
  2. Rowing is a very subjective it's hard to say. General guidelines below...

    Most of the Hoh will be fine for you...the only remotely sketchy portions (ignoring any unknown logjams) are the Boulder Garden and Oxbow Rapids in the Minnie's to Oxbow float. That said, you'll probably be in a conga line of boats on any stretch right now since in low/clear conditions most people instinctively head to the Hoh.

    The Calawah is one to be done only when you know the correct lines and certainly should not be tangled with at the current flows.

    The Bogachiel from 101 down will be bony in portions but doable at current flows in a raft.

    Not sure what current Sol Duc flows are, but if it's mirroring other watersheds out there it will be doable, but challenging at lower flows. Not recommended to do a first run, sight unseen at low levels. Do a little research and you'll find information about the "dead-ends" on each stretch...there are a few in the upper/middle portions that could pose serious problems should you find your way into one...generally they are pretty obvious on the river, but you never know.

    The topic of rowing the Peninsula has been covered extensively on this forum and others though, so I'd suggest you poke around.

    I think part of really learning to appreciate and understand those rivers is "doing it yourself", so go out there and put in your time...figure out how the flows impact your rowing capabilities and the fishing.
  3. Just as when anticipating a rowing trip on any other whitewater river, that you have not rowed before, do your homework and scouting, and if at all possible- first go with someone who has experience on those waters. Most of our Olympic Peninsula rivers have challenging sections at various flows. The Calawah River in particular has claimed many boats, and has been the cause of most of the serious rescues and emergencies on the water. The lower Calawah, from the highway 101 ramp downriver, especially just above the confluence with the Bogachiele River, has some of the worst average dangers, at Class 5 and higher. And the Sol Duc can be tricky, especially the upper river. But any one of these rivers could kill you, especially in the winter. And sometimes people take lower flows and flatter water for granted. Typically we have frequent storms and higher flow rates, and subsequent drops in flows in the winter time. And each storm event can dislodge and move some serious trees and snags, and even redistribute large areas of gravel and other sediment, boulders etc. So the rivers here can change, sometimes dramatically. Having a whitewater background is definitely an advantage.
  4. I have hardly ever read anybody write about these rivers on this site in 3 years. My experience was 15 years ago! So couldn't help except to say "I've never seen so many boulders on any river like there were on the sol duc" and all you have to do is take a drive up the Calawah and see how the rapids just spread with no "V'S" and drop. Those kind are in no way fun to mess with!

    I did all three floats on the sol duc below the hatchery first boat down for 5 day's in a 16 ft alum. willy's when it was low and it is still the hardest (but greatest) thing I have ever done with the oars and I can tell you from experience it wasn't easy! It took everything I knew from some 25 years of floating steelhead rivers to do it.

  5. I wouldn't do the SD or Calawah until after running them a few times with someone who makes their livings on those rivers. When I was finally comfortable floating the C, I took a trip or two with friends in our toons. 2 of the first 3 times I did the lower C my companion boat flipped, and both considered themselves good on the oars. People do the Sol Duc every day but they know the proper lines to run. All it takes is a missed oar stroke at the top end of a boulder garden and you won't be making the little slot farther down that needs to be navigated.

    It's all about picking your way thru boulder gardens while setting up for some sort of chute you need to get thru. A bad line or missed oar stroke can lead to a bad ending.

    As with all things, it depends entirely on your ability to row. Is it 2nd nature or do you have to think about what you're doing with the oars? A couple of my friends have to process what they are doing with the oars. That works on the Sky, not the OP.
    David Dalan likes this.
  6. Thanks for the input guys. I will wait until I can go with a guide or someone who know the rivers.

  7. Its second nature. It seems to me the biggest thing is knowing how to read water and placement. Which I am confident with from my white water kayaking experience. BUT I dont want to be one of those guys who talks a big game then goes and has to get rescued. I will wait till I find someone who is experiencedwith those two rivers.
  8. All of the rivers can all be super challenging depends on flows. Some rivers are better at low flows than others and some are better at high flows than others.

    I've floated them all many times and in general my thoughts:

    The upper Hoh above 101 has some tricky areas...just below a Spruce Creek is a really narrow/rocky area that is challenging and some skinny water/trees down between Morgans and Oxbow. Below Oxbow is much better for new rowers.

    The Bogie above 101 has some skinny water that can be a challenge...below 101 is much better for new rowers.

    The upper Sol Duc is definitely a challenge..lots of rocks and a few drops. The float from Rayonier to the confluence is the easiest most of the time...but it still has it challenges...some skinny shoots, going under the Mora road bridge can be tricky, and the the take out can be a workout.

    I would not attempt to float then Calawah until I was ultra confident in my rowing ability and ultra familiar with my boat.
  9. At the Puyallup Show this past week, I must have had 50 guys ask me "what class water will your boats take?" I usually just smile and respond with something about how it all depends on their rowing experience. Usually when they ask that, they probably should not be tackling anything worse than a class 2.
  10. BDD,

    Yeah, if you have to ask, then Class II is their limit, max.


Share This Page