Little Nisqually River
Class IV, 108fpm, 300cfs
March, 24 2002
Jason, Eric, Ben
Author: Jason Hummel
Eric in what used to be the scary sieve rapid.
Unlike our previous trip at high flows, we were in for a treat. Eric, a local boater, Ben and I decided to go creekin’ and the hills above Alder Lake were our destination. Medium flows dimmed my memory of the prior epic and helped me believe I would have a great time. Nonetheless, apprehension filled my mind. When you’ve been worked on a creek, going back takes some gonads and a will of self-challenge not tarnished by fear. I was here to meet that fear head on, as was Ben.
Early that morning I met Ben at a small park on the edges of Alder Lake. Ben and I talked for several minutes until Eric arrived. Turns out, he hitched a ride with a few friends who were on their way to Mount Rainier for some hiking. The thick clouds overhead convinced me that kayaking was the better alternative. Boating and rain have an immediate bond; skiing and rain, on the other hand, are archenemies. I’d rather sit home and watch the Saturday cartoons than go skiing in the rain.
Stuffing our boats into Ben’s Mazda had by now become an art so in no time we were on the road. The drive to the take-out is forty-five minutes or more, giving us plenty of time to dream about putting our paddles to froth. We talked about the Carbon River and our last trip to this river. This time I was a much better boater. As in all things, pushing myself to the limit excelled my learning curve, but also put me in peril’s path. Kayaking had just began to become fun rather than a fight for survival. Indeed, this is a very good thing. Froth is my friend now and I understand it, even if it can be moody and incoherent at times, in the end, we are friends.
Instead of putting in at the same place as our prior trip, this time we decided to go further. Three miles up the road we came to a bridge across a creek that would’ve been runnable had it not been infested with slide Alder. Going back to the car we backtracked a bit to where we believed we could gain access to the main creek. Peering over the edge, we thought we saw water so we shrugged on our boats and shwacked our way to the same misbegotten overgrown creek. Ben continued the schwack, but there was no way I would drag when I could float. I put-in and paddled/wrestled my way down a few hundred yards; I was having fun. I waved Eric down and grabbed his boat above a root-wad-tree trunk-mess. From there, the going was easy until we reached another fork a few hundred feet downstream.
Now the real fun began, anyway for me the fun was beginning. I don’t know about the others. I like small bouldery rapids, and was, in fact, having a blast. We made quick work of this section, until we reached a decent horizon line. Ben snagged a small eddy and bushes while Eric and I aimed for the center. What we found, was a series of slides. The first dropping about 4 or 5 feet and the second slightly larger. I even hiked back up so Ben could take a photo. I later learned that this picture didn’t turn out. Technology, unpredictable and never dependable.
We soon reached our previous put-in and ended up running the logjam on the right.
The rapids remain Class III until you reach the canyon. In the canyon there are five or so rapids that will get your blood flowing. There are some nice waves until you see a log across the river. The portage is on the right. The rapid has 3 main entrances. The left had another log that was placed about as bad as a log could get. We scared ourselves of the possibility of being stuffed under it. Center was possible, but none of us wanted to go that way, instead we made a quick crossing and dropped the right side. Ben took some photos more photos that didn't turn out.
After that there is a series of ledge drops. We all pulled out on the left and scouted. I noticed that the sieve that had been so scary the first time was gone. I took the lead and Ben readied for a photo. I ran everything on the middle right, as did Eric. Ben ran the rapid down the gut. For some reason, the camera decided to work again.
Eric upside down in the entry of what used to be scary sieve.
Class III continues until you see another horizon line. There is a small ledge above Burly. Run it anywhere or scout on the left.
Eric running a small ledge drop.
The next rapid is the last hard Class IV rapid in the canyon. We pulled out of our boats and scouted on the left. Everything looked good straight down the right center. The line looked somewhat difficult to hit, but other than that, everything was a go. I jumped in my boat and went for it. Everything went smoothly, and I paddled away, happy to have conquered the beast that spanked me at higher flows. Ben set up for a photo from lower down of Eric, and he hit the line well and paddled by me down another Class III rapid. Sweet. Ben had really gotten worked on this sucker during our last run at high flow. At this level, we weren’t even fazed. He landed on some rocks at the bottom of the drop because he went too far left. Otherwise, he cleaned the rapid. From there we paddled easy rapids to the lake.
Jason running Burly.
Eric running Burly.
Crossing the lake was as fun as ever. All in all, we were pumped at having a good run and glad that we were able to enjoy mild whitewater on a scenic run. Once back to shore Ben and I jumped in the Expired for the long shuttle. Eric met his friends who were waiting for him. Turns out, they didn’t have chains and weren't able to get past the gate. Guess they should’ve went paddling…