Saturday, January 1, 2000

Bridge Creek

Additional Google Earth Paddling Resources Available @

The lower section of Bridge Creek was run for the first time in 2000 by the Knapp's. Since then this section has become, if not the most popular, the most talked about creek-run in the North Coast region. Bridge Creek flows out of the Marble Mountains and drops into Wooley Creek on its West bank about 9 miles upstream from the confluence with the Salmon. In doing so, both Bridge and Wooley Creek flow through some of the most beautiful untouched forest in the world. Bridge Creek runs very near, and parallel to, the Marble Mountain Wilderness boundary; so close in fact that, once you descend into the drainage your surroundings are virtually indistinguishable from their officially wilderness counterparts. The Marble Mountain Wilderness was established in 1953, making it one of California's earliest. One of the first advocates (with clout) for the preservation of this remarkable area was President Hoover, who had a camp built several miles up Wooley Creek which is accessible only by trail.

The run starts out with a 2.5 mile hike, 1.5 of which is on decommissioned Forest Service road, and 1 last mile that is a 2000 vertical foot bush whacking descent. It has been done in 45minutes but, depending on the size of your group, plan for at least an hour and a half of fun. The put in is just about the perfect place to relax and get a snack in before embarking upon the creek. It is a bedrock pool/slide section that is surrounded by 6 foot in diameter Fir trees, one of the best places ever on a warm spring day.

The creek itself starts out pretty manky. There is a lot or scraping and a few log portages before you get to any significant drop. In fact a lot of the "in between stuff" is of this nature there is a lot of technical route finding, it keeps you in your toes, literally if you space out for a second you will broach; I love it, many people hate it. Again, like most creeks on this area there is a lot of gradient (around 400 ft/mi) and enough wood to build your dream home in Catanoochalatawaga.

Once you get to the first set of drops you see why Bridge Creek has such a great reputation. There are over 20 super high quality bedrock drops along the 3 mile lower section most of which are clean. There are a few must-runners, and one very interesting portage that takes some time (this drop that you portage around is a very dangerous log jam that comes just after a fairly benign looking right hand turn, another good reason to scout if it is your first time down.) The run can be done in a relatively short amount of time, but personal first descenders should allow at least an hour per mile along Bridge Creek.

Once you hit Wooley Creek you will A: feel like your on a river the is the size of the Colorado, B: make much better time. The entire 9 miles of Wooley is world class read and run class IV+. It has very similar characteristics to the Salmon (go figure) and drops through several distinct gorges. This section can be run in around an hour with a good team.

The optimal level for Bridge Creek is still out for debate. My favorite level is around 4.5 ft. on the Salmon River gauge. Some people claim that it is great at 6 ft; one of the things you have to worry about as the water gets high is that the gorges along Wooley Creek can get extremely pushy and they have caused more than one team to abandon their boats and hike out. At any level you want to have a strong team going in, it is a small creek so small groups are obviously better, there is not a lot of eddy room. You should also allow for some extra time, you are going to be a LONG way away from any help so any rescue is going to come from within your team, I have some friends (who after having a bad experience themselves) wont go into Bridge Creek without overnight gear. That being said, plan well and have fun huckin.

Merlin on one of the many drops bridge creek has to offer.

No comments: