Rock Run

Things had been looking good to get in some nice kayaking. The drought had finally been broke. A storm or two hadn’t really delivered, but potentially primed some areas. Early in the week I checked the forecast, a good bit of rain was called for on Thursday. So I started on the quest to try to rally people. I threw out some options, spread about and some a bit esoteric. Recently I had been talking about Rock Run with Thomas, and I included it in my watch list as a long shot. There was initial interest in paddling on Saturday, so it looked like a crew would come together.

As the storm hit the rain missed the DC area. However, it was looking good elsewhere. On Friday reports came in that Rock Run was too high. This sounded good for Saturday so I made the call to head there. Unfortunately the distance to the run scared people away and the list of those interested shrunk. Tanya and Ken were in, so I had a minimal group. Eventually Tanya roped in Rhys, rounding out the crew. Since it would take sometime, an early morning meetup time was set.

I ended up getting to the park and ride a bit earlier than expected, but it worked well we got moving a bit quicker. This got us to the takeout a little past 11, giving us a bit of time to explore before Rhys met us. We saw some boaters drive by, and since the run was short and roadside, decided to follow and take a look. Got to the take and chatted with some of the other boaters there. Getting there took up most of half our time so we didn’t stay long. On the way down to get Rhys we saw some boaters taking out lower. They felt it was dropping fast and was getting too low to go down as far as they had. As we pulled into the lot in Ralston, Rhys drove up and we turned right around to go drop his car at the take out.

At the put in there were a couple small groups getting ready to put on. We chatted a bit trying to get some more beta as there is not much info available on the run. In the process we found Tanya to be infamous. Some there knew her from a run she did on the past Week of Rivers.

After a bit we had everything together and an started out on our run. The action kicks off pretty quickly as it’s quite channelized and narrow. There are some good tight creeky drops with flat pools interspersed between. Most are pretty straightforward slides, but have some sort of hole at the bottom of them. The gradient is decent as well. While the road is close by the run has a fairly remote feel. Most of the time you are in a decent gorge that hides any signs of civilization. After a little we came to a double ledge drop where the line was on the left and ended up leading to a boulder. I ran down first and found some mank at the bottom of the second drop by the boulder. Others found the mank as well. I tried getting people to move a bit more towards the center. Unfortunatly this lead Ken astray and he went too far to the center. He ended up getting worked in the top hole. It was very sticky and kept his boat after he bailed. During the recovery, the boaters from the putin past us.

Once we had collected, we moved on. The drops started getting bigger and we soon came to a horizon line with some spray. We had gotten to A-frame. Took out on the gravel beach on river left above it to scout. It was a good sloping 10 or so foot drop into a gorge with some tall walls. The water was mostly on the left with water crashing off the wall. Line was to enter on the tongue at the top and drive a little towards the right. While scouting we found that Tanya had forgotten to zip up her drysuit and had got some water in it as she had rolled earlier in the run. We had got there early enough to catch the group ahead of us portaging. Some of us were on the fence for running it. Rhys decided to. His line looked good, but he flipped at the bottom. When we heard from him that he hit his head, it decided it for the rest of us not to run it.

The portage for A-frame puts you in the pool right below it and drops you immediately into Corkscrew, a very tight twisting water slide. While there is not much water in the creek, it constricts a ton here. I did a seal launch down the sloping rock, but didn’t line it up well. Ended up not making it into the pool and was swept by the flow towards a rock. Had to make some corrective moves before entering the slide. This put me a bit further left at the top of it than I wanted and I dried out sightly. Luckily it didn’t through me off too much and I entered the next stage of the slide as I wanted. There’s an about 20-30 degree pour over, that you launch driving left. You want a to be going with a bit of left momentum as the water flows into an undercut. Made the move, completed the next stage, and joined Rhys in the eddy below. He compared the section with the s-turn rapid on the roadside section of the Alseseca in Mexico. While not as big or bad, it definitely does have a bit of similar feel. I tried to figure out a way to relay that people wanted to get more in the eddy, or miss the rock up top. But I couldn’t come up with any good way. Tanya and Ken each made their way down without issue.

We continued on with a bit of apprehension as we now had to watch out for Flook’s Nook, the next big thing on the table. From everything I could tell, it’s nasty and incredibly few have run it. The things I had read people at the takeout seemed to imply that it was pretty hard to miss. But I had found no photos or videos of the drop. Every youtube video I could find that had some part of it just showed people seal launching below it. Throughout the couple nice drops after A-frame I was on edge waiting for the next one to come. Eventually, we came upon it and it was as obvious as all had described. There was a nice pool above Flook’s Nook, a big rock shelf on the right, and a tiny notch to the left with mist coming up from it. As we slowly inched up to it, our suspicions were confirmed. Nicely at the level we were there, the eddy on the right at the foot of the rock shelf was friendly, shortening our portage. All of the flow entered a three foot wide channel on the far left, slamming into a nasty undercut. The choice to walk here was easy. Tanya and I sent the seal launch, which turned out to be pretty fun. This puts you in a pool before running a nice slide drop.

A few more nice drops and some more pools got us to the takeout. There was a nice surf wave at the end of the drop that places you in the takeout pool. The plan initially was to take out here and try to get in two laps. Tanya was feeling cold and was out, and Rhys was looking to get home at a reasonable hour. They decided to take out here and I passed on the keys so that they could run shuttle. While Ken and I felt like more boating, neither of us felt like doing a second lap with just two of us. From the drive up, and talking to people we knew there was a good drop just a little below this takeout. A recommendation was to just run this and walk back up. We decided that since the group was finishing up we would also continue on down to the town. The beta I had indicated that below that drop was mostly class 2-3ish.

We left our other half and the rapids quickly picked up. There was a nice slide or two with a bit of boulder garden action and we were placed in a smallish river right eddy. Gorge walls were on the right, but an acceptable shelf to get out and scout. We found a drop similarly stout as A-frame. While it didn’t look quite as bad, there was definitly the potential for some quality time in the hole at the bottom. It was another sloping drop and this time it had a horizontal hole forming as the shelf met the pool. Ken didn’t feel like running it he made is way to river left to make the portage and set safety. I took another look and decided that conservatism was better with a small group and made my way river left to Ken to portage as well.

Below this we found the creek slowing down. The gradient decreased and class 3 gave way to class 2. At the bottom of a nice class 3 drop we passed a small group of fishermen that had a fire made. It was nice to see others had come out to enjoy the good day. Though I’m not sure how good the fishing there was. This part of the run definitely needed a bit more water as the group earlier in the day had reported. As we got closer to town the pools would widen out and there was some scraping involved. The scenery though was top notch. While the quality of the rapids had dropped a bit, it was definitely still worth being on the water. We eventually came to an ok class 3 drop, but it ended in a strainer. Some closer inspection proved that portage was necessary. Shortly below this we came upon the cemetery that indicated we were upon the town. The creek widened out and and a sand bar or two with a big strainer in it. A quick look to the right showed a beach, and my car was at the end of the small road leading away from it.