Sunday, May 12, 2013

North Fork Reservoir, Clackamas River.

North Fork Reservoir, Clackamas River.

I have never been on the Clackamas river before. I have seen it from the road and even boated past the mouth while on the Willamette, but never actually been on the river. Come to find out, it is a great river for swimming, boating, and fishing. Amongst other things, it is much cleaner than the Columbia or the Willamette. It is also very cold.

View North Fork Lake Kayak in a larger map
On this particular perfect Sunny Saturday afternoon I set out with two new kayaking friends to have some fun in the North Fork Reservoir. This is a lake made by a small hydro-electric dam, The North Fork facility, which generates enough electricity to power more than 4,500 homes, went into operation in 1958. The project created a 331-acre lake, with which PGE controls river flows at North Fork, Faraday and River Mill” (From PGE page)

There are a couple of public places to put in and one private launch area. The private place was closed, so we went to a little side road right up at near where the river dumps into the lake, emptied our cars there and then parked along the road. Not a lot of parking there, I am betting it is hard to find a legal place during the summer. But it was only a 100 foot portage down a paved road to the water and it was easy to launch from there.

We first headed up stream. The South side of the lake is sheer too and I found a pretty little lily that looks like an avalanche lily, but the location and time of year is a little wrong for that. Take a look at the picture and let me know what you think. Plenty of beaver sign over in that part of the lake also.


Next we headed up the steadily strengthening current till we got to the actual flow of the river. A few little white rapids were present. When we just didn't feel like fighting the current anymore, we turned and ran quickly down stream. Back past our put-in and down to the very slow moving and deeper waters. Lot's of fish to be seen. And many aquatic foul. We saw quite a few Canada Geese and Common Merganser ducks.

A mile or so down the lake and there is a place where the road bridges a side finger of the lake and there is this cool large culvert that you can easily paddle a kayak through. Hell, you could motor a small fishing boat through. On the other side is a shallow protected area of the lake. Perfect for swimming and fishing and practicing rolling our kayaks.

The two lovely ladies I was with are much better kayakers than I (another good reason to hang around with them) and they changed into wet suits and practiced doing rolls. I have to learn how to do that. If you can't roll, you have to do a wet exit and self rescue. I was in a dry suit and I was practicing that. I had also brought along this little battery powered bilge pump I have rigged up. I am trying to figure out a good way to connect it up to my kayak without having to drill any holes in my poor Journey.

Now if I can just get my feet in.

I am glad I wore the Drysuit. The water was much too cold to be spending any extended time in it. My partners were very cold after a couple of rolls and we soon were all sitting up on the banks taking in some sun and having a little meal. One of the nice things about a kayak trip is that it is pretty easy to bring a lot of supplies with you. Fortunately for the cold ladies, this was an incredibly beautiful spring day. Temperature was over 80 and not a cloud in the sky. This is the type of weather where people die in Oregon because they dive from the hot bank into the cold water and pretty much die from shock. There are signs to that effect posted in many swim holes.

We left our little Thistle and Blackberry encrusted beach just as the sun dipped down below the far tree line. A very hot wind was picking up but the other side of the tunnel was not churned up (as it often is in the early evening). We had a very pleasant paddle back. On the way we passed a 10 foot or so deep area where we could see to the bottom, there were a lot of fish down there. I am thinking trout. (PGE says they stock the lake with Rainbow). Most over a foot long. If I had had a reel I could have caught us dinner.
Still at the close of the day

As it was, we loaded our stuff back on the cars and drove into Estacada for a pleasant dinner with a view of the river. All of the specials for the evening were mexican dishes, which seemed strange to me until my paddle friends reminded me that it was Cinco De Mayo.  

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