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By Don Urrizaga
| We loaded up at the boat shed and drove to Corn Creek on the 16th of June. We arrived in the early evening and opted for setting up camp and pitching tents before the rain came, and rigging boats the next morning. The next morning the weather gave us a reprieve long enough to rig boats. Corn Creek was quiet and we pretty much had the boat ramp to ourselves. The river lapped up on the ramp at 5.5. We launched around noon. The reprieve was over and we rowed in a downpour. We wanted Blackadar Hole Camp, but it was reserved. We discussed Motor with the Rangers, but were told it was under water. We contemplated going to Barth Camp, but it was 23 miles. We stopped and scouted Motor. It was half under water, but doable (“a bird in the hand”). So we stayed rather than chance finding the same thing or worse downriver at the next camp. We set up camp, rain canopies and tents, cooked dinner, drank rum, and had a great night.
The next morning there was some confusion whether we were stopping at Bathtub Hot Springs or Barth Hot Springs. We ended up at Barth, which was under water. What wasn’t underwater was scalding hot. The weather was nice. We pushed on hoping to get Bargamin Campsite. There were people on the beach at Bargamin, so we eddied out above and sent Rick Thompson in his Fatcat down ahead of us to scout them out. They were hikers from a nearby lodge and Bargamin was vacant. For future reference Barth and Bargamin are both very nice camps. You can scout Bailey Rapid from Bargamin.
Day three dawned with fairly nice weather. It rained on us off and on for the first five days, but not continuously. We ran Bailey straight down the tongue. Bailey at higher flows is usually washed out, but it still offered big fun waves. We played bumper cars, calamitously attempting to eddy out, without an eddy, on river left to scout Big Mallard. There was a group camped at Yellow Pine Bar Camp, on river right, yelling something to Mark McKenzie. He pulled over to find out what they were saying, but then could not get back to river left where we were bouncing along the bank. He had no choice but to power into Big Mallard, and we all followed. What we found out later was the group on the right told Mark “Big Mallard was washed out”. I’ve never seen Big Mallard so tame. Big Mallard was washed out, but little bitty class II Little Mallard was a raging monster. It sent Rick straight up and over and gave us all some excitement. With Bailey, Big Mallard, and Little Mallard out of the way we entered Elkhorn. I’ve never seen Elkhorn so big. I’ve never seen the hole behind Elephant Rock so big and powerful. The waves in Elkhorn rivaled anything you’ll see in the Grand Canyon. We all made it through. We talked about scouting Whiplash, but didn’t. We made it through Whiplash too. We arrived safely at Rhett Creek Camp. I hadn’t heard about the fire at Rhett Creek in 07. I was surprised and disheartened to see all the tall ponderosa pines burnt, black, and dead. Rhett Creek is still a beautiful camp.
Day four was fairly routine with stops at Painter Mine and Five Mile Bar. We camped that night at Warren Creek Camp. Warren Creek is a very large, very nice camp. By the time we reached Warren Creek and set up camp we had two down with the flu.
Day five was an easy float with the traditional stop at the Polly Bemis Ranch. The plan for the night was to stay at Maxwell Beach Camp. It is a large beach where “guests” enjoy Frisbee and volleyball. I didn’t see no stinkin’ beach. We knew we missed Maxwell when we plowed through Dried Meat Rapid. We ended up camping on a sliver of sand called Slide Beach Camp. It was cramped with tents stacked on top of each other and Mark had to sleep with the groover. Once again we had a fun night.
Day six arrived with the anxiety of knowing Chittum awaited us a little less than three miles downriver. When we entered Chittum all of us thought we’d bought the farm. It was huge -- to say the least. It made everything else we’d run look easy. Rick had the cleanest run. Once unencumbered by (separated from) his boat he shot down the tongue and out the other end. Vinegar Rapid was next. It was big. Then came House Rock. It’s an enormous rock sitting in the middle of the river. It was completely submerged and creating the biggest hole, competing with Elephant Rock, in the river. We all let down our guard somewhat after Chittum. David Jones thought he’d just casually drift over the pour-over and surf the hole for a while. He washed out of his boat, but managed to climb back in. He lost an oar, but grabbed a spare and kept his boat upright. Two other occupants were washed out and now we had “swimmers”. The crew swept into action and pulled them out of the water and to shore. That night we recouped at Spring Bar Campground.
Day seven dawned sunny and beautiful. We de-rigged boats. Heinz from Five Mile Bar in his “triple” picked us up and hauled us back to Corn Creek.