North Fork Santiam River

Wednesday, April 18, 2012
Leader: Dan Christensen
Hike: 9 miles, 900 ft (Moderate)

It rained in the Valley the night before the hike. Then it rained further during the 2 hour trip up I 5 and through the Elkhorn Valley to the trailhead. But then, by some devine intervention-or strong leadership, the rain stopped as we set out down the trail. Only a couple of showers were experienced the rest of the day. We still had to deal with lots of water. There was more water on the trail than normally experienced. Rain water was dripping off the trees and brushing up against our rain pants as we walked along.

We were almost certain at least 1 or 2 of the 7 bridges along the trail would be out, but felt we would go as far as we could. Possibly we would find a way around the expected "outages" Our most challenging experience, however, occurred unexpectedly early in the hike. The one creek which isn't bridged because it is always a "walk-across" was, in fact, a raging torrent. Following much discussion, we decided we didn't want to hazard a wet wade across the creek. However, on a slope just above the normal crossing, a large douglas fir had fallen across the creek. Jim managed to climb up to the tree, gain access to it, and scramble across. This emboldened the rest of us to follow him without incident.

The north Santiam River was running much higher than I had ever seen it. When driving along Elkhorn Road we had noticed that the river downstream was very muddy. Fortunately, the river along the trail was its normal, beautiful, emerald green color, albeit with lots more white water than normally seen. The waterfalls were running strong through the chutes and canyons. So much water was running over Henline Falls, visible across the river dropping down from Henline Mt., that it seemed like a different waterfall. The normal 3 plumes had merged into just one very large one.

The hike through an old growth Douglas Fir forest then proceeded smoothly. The hike would be relatively flat if if it were not for a ridge which bisects the trail around mid-point. The ridge requires a climb 500 feet up it's south side and 400 feet down the noth side. The hike continued uneventfully until we reached the first bridge outage. But, again, a Doug Fir had conveniently fallen across the stream. It provided an easy, uneventful, crossing. When we reached the beautiful Three Pools spot on the river, we decided to stop for lunch. We then proceeded on some distance further before deciding to turn back as trail conditions had slowed our progress significantly. We never did find out if the last bridge was out. We retraced our steps back to the trailhead without incident and returned to Eugene just before 6PM.

Members: Dan Christensen, Jim Whitfield, Janet Jacobsen, Jorry Rolfe, Moshe Rapaport, Susan Sanazaro, Keiko Bryan. Nonmembers: Cindy Miller.

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