Salmon River Canyon

First no-portage descent
May 11, 2002.

Photos and story courtesy of Ashland Mine Productions)

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The Salmon River Canyon is the Mount Everest of Oregon Kayaking, requiring a level of commitment that few are willing to accept. The first known descent of this canyon was made by Tim Gross and others in 2001, and we followed soon after, running the canyon from top to bottom, including the 'Split Falls' section.

The canyon itself has only been run once from top to bottom that we know of, and it wasn't until late 2002 when every runnable drop on The Salmon was paddled by a very strong team of boaters.

Until very recently this section was only run at very low flows, which was considered necessary because the nature of Frustration Falls. Frustration drops about sixty feet over three tiers, with the final drop landing in a 'room' with undercut walls. The difficulty with Frustration at higher flows is that the water divides below the first tier, and if the flows become too high, the secondary falls coming in just downstream of the main drop blocks the exit from the 'room'.

This disturbing fact had always kept paddlers out of 'The' Canyon at higher water, but that all changed on May 11th, 2002 when Ben Stookesberry (of Ashland Mine Productions), Dave Norrel, and Eric Seymour completed the first no-portage descent of Salmon River Canyon at the highest flows to date.

Frustration Falls, from above. The blue line shows the regular line taken by everyone who has run this drop to date. This drops you into the 'room', which can only be exited by paddling through the secondary falls, indicated by the yellow arrow.

Dave Norell runs the first drop on Frustration Falls.

Ben, running the second tier on Frustration.

Eric Seymour runs the final drop on Frustration, dropping into the 'Room'.

Dave Norrel battles his way through the secondary falls blocking the exit of the 'Room' below Frustration falls. Ben said later that like Dave, they all got pounded hard trying to get out of there.
(Just downstream is a twenty foot falls, then an eighty foot falls, so swimming is not an option here.)

The last drop on the Salmon is Final Falls, a towering eighty-foot drop that had never been run prior to this trip. Ben Stookesberry was the first and only person to run this monster on this trip..

Ben Stookesberry's first run over Final Falls, from the top...

And from the front..

A parting shot...
In 2007 a group of locals ran Salmon Canyon. Final Falls usually doesn't get run, but on this trip Chris Korbulic fired it up..

Chris Korbulic fires up Final Falls in May 2007
Photo Copyright © Lana Young Photography