Upper Trout Creek

The Columbia Gorge has one of the highest concentrations of quality whitewater in the United States, and Trout Creek lands somewhere near the top of the list. Trout is a tributary of the Upper Wind River, and the two are very similar in character. If you have paddled some of the harder stuff in the area you will enjoy this run, which is harder that the Upper Wind or Farmlands, but easier than the Green Truss or Little White.

The only difference between Trout and the aforementioned runs is access. The road to Trout Creek is often snowed in when it has water in it, so if you want to paddle this creek timing is everything: it runs in the early fall after heavy rains, or in the spring during the snowmelt event. Every spring we repeatedly send hapless road probes up FR 43 as the weekends approach and the snow is melting...

Non-Probe: (usually me)
"Is the road to Trout clear yet??"

Road Probe:(probably Pete)
"Nah, I hit snow two miles from the put-in..."

(Two weeks later)

"Is the road to Trout clear yet??"

Pete the road probe:
"No, I hit snow one mile from the put-in."

... and so on.

The put-in for this run is deceptively placid, giving little indication of the serious gradient waiting downstream. We put in on one of those wonderful Northwest spring days, when the air was somehow warm and crisp at the same time, and spirits were high as we were on the brink of another spring paddling season.

The put-in for Upper Trout creek, shot from the road bridge.

There are two things about this run that stayed with me after I did it. First of all, the scenery is great. The creek winds it's way down through one of those thick, lush Pacific Northwest rainforests that are becoming all too rare these days. The second thing is the incremental nature of the run. It starts out as class I, eases into slippery class II boulder gardens, then a class III or two, and then you reach the good stuff, which eventually builds into a non-stop series of IV to V boulder gardens. The gradient in the meat of the run is about 195 fpm, which translates into a great day of creekboating!

We actually had to portage a log in the first really steep boulder garden, so stay on your toes. The wood is pretty easy to see from above, and it might be runnable but we didn't bother.
Below this drop the rapids got progressively more massive, until we finally reached the point where we no longer felt comfortable boat scouting.

Pete gives Steve verbal instructions on how to run the next drop.
The rapid in the background is the last drop we felt comfortable boat-scouting on Upper Trout.

There were a wonderful variety of boulder gardens on this run, and we were all quite surprised at how much we enjoyed it. If you have paddled the harder runs in the gorge, you really shouldn't miss this creek!

Steve Stuckmeyer, somewhere in the middle of the steep section of Upper Trout.

Steve again, running a fun drop downstream.

Steve waits in an eddy while Pete cruises down a fun drop somewhere in the crux section

All too soon the boulder gardens eased off and we could see the take-out bridge below. There was one more nice rapid leading up to the bridge, which is where the Pacific Crest Trail Crosses the creek. We are definitely looking forward to our next trip down this run, which turned out to be another classic Columbia Gorge creek!

Most paddlers use a boulder at the take-out bridge as a gauge. The boulder has a 'cup' in it, and you can figure out the relative gnarliness of this creek by the position of the water in relation to the cup.

I have run the creek at both of the flows shown in the photo below.

The picture on the left was taken the day the photos on this site were taken. The water was about 8-10 inches below the 'cup'. This is the minimum flow for Upper Trout, about 150 cfs. At this flow, one of the last boulder gardens was almost too low to run.

The picture on the right was taken when the creek had about 500 cfs in it, very pushy and demanding. At this flow the crux section was solid class five, no mistakes allowed, big holes, some pretty hard moves to avoid significant hazards.

The moral of the story is: If the cup has water flowing into it, you'd better be on your game!
Unless you know the creek well, a good first-time flow is somewhere between these two extremes.

The gauge rock at the take out bridge, taken at a minimum, class IV flow (left) and a class V flow (right).