Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Mother's Day Paddle: Estacada Lake

Mother's Day Paddle: Estacada Lake

What should you do when you can't be with your own mother and do something nice for her? You should do something nice for someone else's mother. If everyone does this then your mother will be well taken care of. On this particular Mother's Day I decided to be extra nice to my Kayak Partner. And what could be nicer than taking your Kayak Partner Kayaking?

View Mother's Day Paddle in a larger map

The club (wait, I have been told that for legal reasons the club is not actually a club. We are a meetup. We are just a random assortment of people that happen to show up at the same place at the same time for a similar function. We are NOT a club. A club implies organization and structure and contracts which may or may not imply liability in the event of accident, injury, or act of God) was meeting at the River Mill Dam non motorized boating ramp at Timber Park at the dam end of Estacada Lake on the Clakamas River (you get all of that?). The sun was sneaking out in fits and peaks and my partner and I convinced ourselves that we really didn't need dry suits, or at least that if we wanted to do some rescue practice later we could put our suits on then. So in light shirts and sun glasses, we launched ourselves out into the day.

The boat launch
Cross those orange floats and be sucked into the Vortex of Death (c)

The Clackamas River is a (seemingly) snow and ice fed little thing that is lined with communities that used to be fed by Oregon Timber and are now slowly being replaced by gentrification growing out of urban Portland. Estacada is the site of an old timber mill and a rails to trails along the river marks out the railroad that would haul the lumber out. Now there is still a dam at the site with a PG&E hydro electric facility. But it is a tiny one. A tiny one that is still no doubt stopping the salmon runs. It is also old and probably soon to be removed. The problem with these old dams is that it is too expensive to replace them because the changing laws and regulations on fish and wildlife (which the original structures have grandfather clauses for) would be too restrictive. Good or Bad? Actually, I think that once the price of gas goes up to where it really should be, putting in a hydro-elective facility that is fish friendly and good for the eco system would probably be a quite reasonable price.

Ok. So. Dammit Dammit Dammit. I wrote the above history of Estacada based on my going there once and then making the entire thing up. But it turns out that I got it wrong. Here is what wikipedia has to say about it (in my words, hit the link for theirs). The city of Portland needed electricity and the Clackamas was the best nearest river to dam for generation. PG&E started construction on a number of sites up the river, however it was very hard to get men and equipment to the sites because of the poor roads, so they first built a railroad up the river to the area. There were 4 dams built. Now, once there was this great railroad system set up and the towns had grown up to build the dams and such, that spurred the timber business to move in and cut down all of the trees. So boy did I get that backwards.

I also like the origination of the name “Estacada”. That is: no one really knows. But feel free to take your pick of the choices offered on wikipedia.

On this day, we launched out of Timber park (hey look, a disk golf course. How...... nice) and we were pretty much alone with our “random group of like minded individuals” on the water. The non-motorized craft launch is just a little dock for canoes and kayaks that sitÃ¥s right up against the dam. Don't get sucked in. We paddled upstream and quickly started running into some of the many little side creeks that waterfall their way into the Clackamas.

And so you find why they built the dam here. It is at the foot of a set of cliffs. The end of a little canyon through what I am guessing is an ancient lava flow. Perfect place to back up some water and make a good pressure head for hydro-electric generation.

There are some pretty cool old constructions up there. One looks like it was a tunnel drilled through the rock to form Faraday lake. Perhaps a diversion dam for more power generation. Can't find anything on it, may have to do some actual “go there and see” research.

The lake, being in a canyon, is long and narrow. And, also from being in a canyon and from all of the rain we have had lately, there were a lot of little (and not so little) waterfalls entering into the lake on both sides. The water was COLD COLD COLD. Really gonna need to put those dry suits on before we do any rolling practice.

We met up with the group at the first major water fall. Not a big fall, but very pretty. Some people got out to walk around and the trip leader (if a non-group had a leader, which they don't) brought mother's day cookies.

We had a ways to go up the river, So we all pointed our various types of vessels that a way.


Further up the lake the canyon sides were steep right into the water. You could paddle up to the side and see water cascading down through the blackberry and Maiden Hair ferns. The Maiden Hair really loves to grow on a wet cliff face. Over on the other (north) side of the canyon, it was dry and rocky and here we had Indian Paint Brush and what I think were some kind of harebell.

Maiden Hair and waterfall

Indian Paint Brush and .... Harebell?

Stone Crop

And it wasn't easy to take those pictures.

And now we were getting close enough to the end of the lake that the current was acting up. Swells and whirls in the water, and then finally, an out and out 4-5 knot running rapid. At least down the center. To the side of the lake you could get in a little eddy that was even moving a little bit up lake. We had some fun playing here. People would jump out into the current and ride down to the calmer water and then get in the eddy and paddle back up to the jump off spot. My partner is pretty carefree in these situations. She saw a waterfall on the other side (with one of her friends in it) and just paddled right out and SWOOSH off she went downstream and over to the other side.

 I stayed in the safe little eddy and took her picture. I am a little nervous around these eddies and this kind of bumpy water. I would like to blame it on the new round bottom boat (and that is it a little) but the truth is that I just haven't had enough experiend in bumpy water yet. Funny, being out in the ocean (or upside down in a sea cave) doesn't bother me much. But I KNOW that hidden log is out there looking to pull me under. Even so, I practiced in the flow a couple of times. Got to do it enough to get used to it. I think it would have been better if I had my drysuit on. Did I mention that the water was cold? My partner even mentioned that she was a bit concerned for some of the people that were not wearing skirts. The skirt is a tube you wear around your body that seals to the lip of the kayak cockpit and keeps the water out. It can keep you from taking a wave into the boat and swamping you. It can also make it harder to get out of the boat if you happen to flip over. So there is that.

He breaks through the Eddy Line
And is swept away by the tide

He is valiant

Moving damn fast
And never seen again

We all rafted up after a while in the little eddy and ate our lunch and chatted. Just a nice random collection of people that happened to be out on a Mother's Day paddle. Our mother's would have been happy that we all had the camaraderie.

Everyone else shows me how to do it.

We finally called it a day and headed back down the river. We were in a hurry to get out of the cold, but the sun came back out when we were about halfway back to the ramp and that made things a lot more lazy. People would paddle around and find a friend they hadn't seen in a while and just have a little chat. I wanted to do some rescue practice, but decided that the water was just too fraking cold, even for a guy in a dry suit. So much easier to just enjoy the sun and the day.

Old Lava Flow?

Don't you think?

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