Day 4: Main Salmon - Hancock to Groundhog

Trip Start Aug 11, 2011
Trip End Aug 18, 2011

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Where I stayed
Groundhog Beach on the Main Salmon River
What I did
rapid scouting
Whitewater kayaking

Flag of United States  , Idaho
Sunday, August 14, 2011

Today began with an hour long yoga class. We noticed that the guide staff seemed to be moving at a faster pace this morning. We had amigo's and mashed potato pancakes for breakfast. 

We were told that today was going to be a longer day on the river that we would be paddling about 18 miles total, the river level was about 8,500 cfs and that today would be a bigger day in terms of rapids. We were going to do some scouting and we would also be making a stop to see a ranch on the river. 

After breakfast we quickly got changed into our river gear, loaded up our tents, mattresses, sleeping bags and dry clothes while the Canyons guides were breaking down the kitchen and camp. 

We did roll practice in the eddy and in the wave train in front of our beach to get warmed up for the day. Our first rapid was class II Maisie's Rapid which was a fun wave train with a huge wave on river left.

We bypassed Rattlesnake Creek, where we saw some big horn sheep eating and continued past Magpie Creek Camp, Hida Creek Camp, Bargamin Creek Camp until we came to our next rapid. 

We pulled into an eddy and were told to get out of our boats that we were going to scout. We had come to class III+-IV Bailey Rapid. Thankfully the scouting wasn't too hard and just required climbing over some rocks. Bailey is an impressive rapid. It looks like a large wave train running down the center of the rapid but there is a large hole hidden among the waves that usually flips the oar rigs! That's not good news for tiny kayakers! I decided I was running center with a bit of right hand angle to stay away from that hole in the middle. 

I'm not sure how exactly it happened but since there were alot of swims and failed rolls among the guest kayakers and I was the only one who managed to combat roll I sort of became their leader. All the ladies looked to me to pick our lines and to lead them through the rapids as best as I could. I'm certainly not the best boater but I can read water pretty well so I felt o.k. making the decision. I would tell them what line I was going to run and they could follow me if they wanted to. 

I ran the line I decided on and had no problems whatsoever. The ladies who decided to follow me also did well. We bypassed Bailey Bar Camp and came to our next rapid class II Allison Ranch Rapid. Allison was a pretty straightforward rapid, you just needed to avoid the giant hole on river left near the bottom of the rapid. We passed Allison Ranch and came to our next rapid class II Sapp Creek Rapid, it was another easy rapid with no problems.

Next we came to class III Five Mile Rapid. This is a longer rapid as the name suggests. although its not quite five miles :)  There is a large wave train to go through with a big hole hidden among the waves just right of center. We followed the wave train and cut left to avoid that hole and then had to cut hard right again to miss another large hole on river left. We had a few swimmers in this rapid.

After Five Mile we came to class III Split Rock Rapid just around a sharp left bend in the river. Its called Split Rock because there is a large rock splitting the rapid into a right of left hand chute. We ran the line to the right of the rock. 

Next we ran class II Little Stinker Rapid without any real problems. In about another mile we were pulled over on river right and were told that we were getting out of our boats. We had arrived at Yellow Pine Bar which is a homestead on the river that we were going to visit. Yellow Pine Bar is a homestead that is now under the care of Sue and Greg, they are the caretakers of the historic bar. They allow guests to come visit the bar, the gardens and the blacksmith shop where they will tell you about the history of Yellow Pine Bar, and how they live their day to day lives in such a secluded place. It was a neat place in such a beautiful area and both Sue and Greg were very friendly. Sue had quite the green thumb as evidence by her extensive garden. She told us keeping a garden was a necessity of living on the river as the only real produce they can get ahold of is what they grow themselves, they also jar so preserves for the harsh winters that they get. Greg does the repairs and blacksmithing around the place and they have some chickens and roosters as well. Both Sue and Greg hunt and they eat what the catch and make use of the furs for warmth in the winter. It was an interesting little stop while on the river and quite an eye opening experience to see how some people still really live off of the land.

After our stop we passed Richardson Bar, Upper Yellow Pine Bar Camp and pulled into Lower Yellow Pine Bar Camp on river right. This was going to be our lunch spot for the afternoon. While our guides got lunch set up we went on a short hike up the hill to an overlook spot where we could see downriver and scout the next rapid Big Mallard. The line was easily visible from the hike so we got a good idea what the expect from the rapid. We took some photos and headed back down to the beach. We had sandwiches, fruit and cookies for lunch. Once everything was cleaned up we continued down river. 

Our next rapid was class III-IV Big Mallard Rapid. We had decided our line was going to hug the left bank at the top of the rapid and we would thread the slot between the left bank and the huge hole in the center of the river. It was a fun, bouncy wave train of a rapid but a few of our kayakers "fed the duck" as the say so we had a few swimmers to collect.

We bypassed Big Mallard Camp, Oakie's Camp, Boiler Camp and Hermit Hank's Camp before coming to our next rapid class II+ Little Mallard Rapid. This was basically just a fun run through wave trains on river right. We passed Whitewater Ranch and Pictographs before coming to our next rapid.

We were pulled into an eddy on river left and given a quick description of the next rapid class III+-IV Elkhorn Rapid. This is a long, complex, blind rapid with three major sections to it. It sounded pretty difficult! In part one of the rapid we were to stay left of center and thread our way between three mid-sized holes and pull into an eddy at the bottom. In section two we were supposed to run dead center to avoid going into two huge holes on both the right and left and then we were to make a very quick decision in part three and choose to go either right or left of Elephant Rock. We were then supposed to pull an eddy and wait for the group.

Everyone looked very nervous after we got the description of the rapid. It was a blind entrance so you couldn't really see anything. We began well and everyone was following one after the other heading down the left hand side of the river but as the gradient picked up the size of the wave trains became bigger and it was really hard to tell if the whitecaps you saw were just more waves or if they were the holes we were supposed to avoid. 

At the bottom of part one we got a little too far left of center and ended up in one of the holes we were trying to go around. I got flipped and I waited until I felt the current relax a second and I rolled. When I rolled up I saw that Sally and Karen were swimming. There paddles and water bottles were floating down river so I tried to get ahold of them.

While I was trying to get ahold of Karen's paddle I got flipped again and I set up and rolled yet again. When I came back up this time Jenny was swimming out of her canoe, and Kathy and Leila were also swimming. Mary Frances was collecting paddles and water bottles while Anna and Laura were towing people to rafts and the raft guides Lisa, Tessa and Erica were trying to get kayaks. 

Sally has an incomplete spinal cord injury and doesn't have full use of her legs so she can't swim too well. They were having trouble getting her out of the water and into a raft while trying to collect people and other gear. I happened to see Jenny's canoe go floating past and no one had it so I went after it. 

I ended up running section 2 without a guide and I couldn't remember where I was supposed to go. Thankfully I saw Erica in her raft up ahead of me. I got flipped in a corkscrew wave in section two between two holes and somehow managed to roll again! I was getting tired. I just kept thinking "don't make a mess Angie!", there is no one here to save you if you swim! I followed Erica's raft to the right of Elephant Rock and helped her get Jenny's canoe into her raft and collected a few paddles.

After a few minutes we saw Tessa in her raft. She did not have any of the kayakers with her and didn't see what was going on up river. We saw in the eddy for nearly 20 minutes with no idea what was going on up river. We hoped that everyone was alright. Finally we could see some movement up river. Anna, Laura and Mary Frances were in their boats. And poor Lisa had all of the other guest kayakers, a canoeist and an IK paddler in her raft with their boats on the raft. Once they cleared Elephant Rock Lisa pulled into the eddy and the kayakers got into their own boats. Everyone looked exhausted and a little bit shaken up but no one was injured! We tried to laugh it off and named it the Elkhorn Massacre since we already had the Black Creek Slaughter earlier in the trip. 

Anna and Lisa could see that they needed to calm people down and get their minds off of it so Lisa began to tell us some stories about some of the history of the river as we floated through some of the more flat sections of river. We still had three miles to go and a few more small rapids to go through before we came to our beach for the night.

We bypassed Little Trout Creek Camp before coming to class II+ Growler Rapid. It was nothing more than a big fun wave train on the left hand side of the river. We passed under the Francis Zaunmiller Wisner Pack Bridge and Lisa began to tell us a bit about its history. 

We passed by the Jim Moore Camp and Ruff Creek Camp before coming to class II Don't Lose Me Now Rapid. Thankfully it was an easy run. We now had a few wave trains to run before pulling into Groundhog Camp which was our for the night.

As we pulled in we immediately began helping our guide crew unload the boats. Everyone was exhausted after the long run and the amount of swims, rescues and rolls that needed to be done. We helped set up the fire pit, chairs, and the kitchen before setting up our tents, mattresses and sleeping bags. We stripped out of our river gear and into warm clothes and it felt really good.

Our staff decided that it was margarita happy hour time because we had a long day and everyone needed it and deserved it. We had chips and salsa and many margaritas for happy hour while waiting for dinner. We sat and drank and talked around the firepit and replayed the days insanity, swims and combat rolls!

Dinner was Chipotle chicken, cornbread and salad, more margaritas and chocolate cake for dessert. It was another nice night so we decided to sleep out under the stars again.

During the middle of the night a bright flash woke me up. I opened my eyes in enough time to see a green glow in the sky that trailed out to a bright white as it mover across the night sky just above the treeline. I fell back to sleep and was woke up about two hours later because it started to rain. Everyone sleepily grabbed their pillows and sleeping bags and crawled into their tents. 
Main Salmon River Info:

Girls at Play:

Canyons, Inc.:

Main Salmon River:


Salmon River Guidebook:
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