Nothing had been happening rain-wise in the valley for a couple of weeks, so after a significant rain event on the Southern Oregon Coast Steve Stuckmeyer, Josh Knapp and I loaded up the creekboats and headed south.
As usual we had only the vaguest sort of plan, part of which included exploring a few mysterious tributaries of the major coastal rivers. We rendevoused in Eugene quite early, and after a couple of hours of driving we arrived at our destination. On the way down we drove over Floras Creek and noted that it was at a healthy flow, muddy and full-banked. We decided that Floras would be plan B, because the crux gorge was supposed to be pretty short, so we figured we could run it in a short period of time if our exploratory stuff didn't work out.
After stocking up on day-old pastries and a few other suspicous-looking food items at the local stop-and-rob, we drove up a creek that had looked very promising on the map. After wasting a few hours wandering around in the mountains we found the way blocked by a logging operation that had closed the road. Geez, you'd think they OWNED the place. Oh wait, they do.. oh well, time for PLAN B..
By this time Steve was starting to look a little green after inhaling a bag of sketchy-looking day-old Creme Danishes, and on the way to the put-in he said he was going to be sick and wasn't feeling like paddling, in that order.
The crux gorge on Floras is very short, maybe a half mile long, and most of it is visible from the road, which is perched a quarter mile above the creek on the canyon wall. Of course, we were a little short on time so when we saw the huge white blot far below us through the trees at 30 miles an hour, we pronounced it "Good to Go" and didn't bother getting out to look.
As soon as a got a look at the first drop I had one of those feelings, which turned out to be mostly correct; I saw a killer boulder siphon on the right, and an evil looking slot on the left, with a very tough, narrow lead-in, kind of like a much tougher 'Chute to Kill' on the Upper Collowash, with worse consequences for a missed line which essentially boiled down to: you miss, you die.
Needless to say, we opted to grovel along the wall on the right, which was about how it went, because the generally unstable, landslide-prone nature of the geology (which had created the nightmare we were portaging) made movement very difficult. We put in below this drop and starting moving very slowly downstream as we were now a little paranoid after studying the rather impressive sieves and undercuts in the first drop.
After running a few drops and generally not liking the feel or nature of the rapids (very unfriendly stuff) we scrambled into an eddy above another significant horizon line. Once again we got out on the right to scout, scrambling over a couple of mammoth conglomerate boulders to do so. Below us the creek was roaring over a six-foot ledge and pouring onto (and under?) a huge boulder, which was forming a large hole and then pouring left against another huge boulder. This drop didn't look runnable from my vantage point, so I opted to walk it.
Josh was a little more optimistic though, so while he scrambled to the top of a gigantic boulder to take a better look at the far left slot I began the complicated and annoying portage on the right. I don't know if it was the look on my face when I emerged or the loud thumps and crashes coming from under the boulder during my portage that convinced Josh, but once I emerged he gave me the thumbs up.
I got into my boat and ferried across the creek to get a better look at the line, and it did look doable, and I gave Josh the "I think it'll go" signal.
After a minute or two Josh came flying down and cleaned the drop no problem, driving hard right to left to avoid landing on the huge partially submerged boulder in the middle of the creek and dropping neatly into the left slot. For a moment I thought he was going to get plastered against the boulder on the left, but a few strokes and he was out!
Below this drop there were about two hundred yards of continuous class IV boulder gardens, and then we were on the flats again and began the long slog out.
Flows and Generally Unfavorable Comments: Big Fans of Floras Creek (are there any out there ?!?) should stop reading now..
This run isn't really worth doing. The hard stuff isn't very fun and there isn't much of it, and you spend the majority of your time slogging through miles of seemingly endless, annoying class II and III which isn't even scenic enough to be worthwhile. Therefore, gnarly creekers looking for a challenge won't like it because of all the flatwater, and conversely beginners looking for an easy paddle are in for a nasty surprise when they get to the crux section.
Oh yeah. Flows. You need lots and lots of rain. We estimated we had about 500 cfs, but you could go a lot higher.
I rated this run class five because the crux gorge meets that standard, even though it is only about a half mile of a nine mile run. The vast majority of this creek is class II, very non-descript and boring.