Yellowjacket Creek

Class V, 78fpm, ~2000cfs (4000cfs Cispus at Randle)

January 26, 2003

Ben, Jason, Josh, John, Travis

Travis and John at the put-in. Brown is bad.


It's generally a bad idea to kayak Class IV+ at twice the recommended high unless you are a fish and like to swim. We paddled Yellowjacket the previous day at a reasonable 500cfs. The plan for Sunday was to check out its tributary, McCoy Creek, but mother nature forced us to reconsider. The Hummels and I camped at the take-out. It rained all night but the brown and swollen river still came as somewhat of a surprise. John and Travis showed up early and we decided to make a quick run down Yellowjacket to have a look at the confluence with McCoy before committing to the unknown canyon. As it turns out, I didn't even manage a full speed glance but we all got a feel.

We started out with 5 boaters, 5 boats and 5 paddles but only 6 made it to the take-out. The first casualty came after Jason swam in Meteorite, a sticky rapid above McCoy. John helped him and his paddle to shore but his boat eventually broke free and blew past the helpless bunch, myself included. Jason had no choice but to hike out. Fearing a similar fate, the rest of us decided to portage Godzilla with the exception of John's boat which opted for a premature seal launch after he took a slip near the end. With 3 boats, 4 paddles and 4 boaters remaining; Josh, Travis and myself portaged a riverwide hole just below Godzilla while John made his way along the right bank in search of a suitable crossing. We met up ~1/2-mile downstream above a wide, moving but seemingly swimable eddy. I had hiked to the road from there when I lost my paddle the previous year so I knew John would be in good shape once we got him across. I set up with a rope while Travis and Josh stayed in their boats to assist John with his swim. Unfortunately, we all misjudged the current and before we knew it, John was up a creek with nothing but a paddle. Travis and Josh gave chase while I stuffed my rope. I caught up to Travis above a 7-foot ledge, 1/2 to 1 mile downstream. He said the line was on the right. It wasn't promising but I went for it, punched the hole at its base and joined Josh and John who were recovering in a cove on the right shore. I gathered that John got stuck in the hole long enough for Josh to eddy out right, retrieve his rope and pull him to shore. In reality, it was a lot more involved than that but I'll spare you the grisly details.

Needless to say, John was in no mood to attempt another crossing so he and Josh decided to hike out the opposite side to the road that accesses McCoy Creek. We knew it was further but weren't sure by how much. Travis and I continued downriver hoping to regain some confidence that was sorely lacking and intent on finding the lost gear which now included 2 boats and a paddle.

Our first hint of luck came while scouting a blind corner above a short canyon. We spotted John's paddle vertically pinned behind some rocks on the left shore. The only way to reach it was to catch a cliffed in eddy since access to the banks was limited. Due to swift current and several intimidating holes downstream, I missed the eddy. Travis opted to join me rather than John's paddle. Despite the loss, our hopes were renewed and our eyes now focused on finding the boats.

If I told you what happened next, you wouldn't believe me. Travis is much more convincing so I’ll pass it on when I get the chance. Stay tuned…


Rock, Paper, Scissors, Logs, Water?


This is a boulder garden at recommended flows.