2011 Green River
February 13, 2011 at 6:47 PM
WELL, AT LEAST WE FOUND THE TAKE OUT
By Tom Riggs
Look for the Green river in Washington and most likely you will be steered to the action packed run that starts below Howard Hanson dam and ends at Flaming Geyser Park near Tacoma. You might even be directed to the Greenwater river. Neither of these were our target on Sunday the 13th of March as Paul Morin and I searched for a new river to run.
Using Jeff Bennet’s Washington Whitewater Guide book we made a plan to catch this run during a projected rainy weekend when there should be sufficient water to bump a couple of rafts down the 12 mile stretch he references. Figuring to use a mountain bike as our shuttle rig we combined our gear into my truck and his trailer and drove up to Toledo, Washington and proceeded to zip right past our cutoff for about 5 miles. We were admiring the views of the N. Fork Toutle but knew something was amiss since we could not find our road and the snow was along side the road. We also had a trusty Washington Gazeteer and Paul’s iPhone to help us navigate.
Sure enough on our return through Kid Valley there was a sign for Rd 1900. We veered onto this gravel Weyerhaeuser rd and soon crossed the N. Fk Toutle winding our way up past several locked gates but diligently following the instructions in Bennet’s book. Things started looking up as the gravel transitioned into chip seal all the while passing more locked gates. Well the optimism soon faded as our paved road was blocked by a locked gate that lead to Pete’s Place.
Figuring we must be near the river, Paul and I began hiking down an abandoned skidder road which became an elk path eventually leading to a stream and dense underbush with no sign of the river. We hiked back to the truck and determined we were on the right road but in the wrong century. Bennet’s book was published in 1991 and obviously roads and ownership change.
“There was that one fork in the road that was not gated” said Paul, so being determined to find the river and scout it we decided to give it a try. Up at an intersection there was a man a van and several vehicles parked along side the road. “Aha, a local, we thought. Surely he will be able to guide us to the nice boat ramp launch and take out points” . We asked him if he could direct us to the Green River but he admitted it was his first time up here. He did say there were some fishermen in the woods about 100 yards who might be able to help. Being males, we had already used up our “get to ask directions once per day” quota so we declined.
On our departure we asked what they were doing up in the woods and he replied they were working on a show for “Animal Planet”. As we drove off we figured they must be setting up game cameras for elk as there was sign all over the place.
We continued down the road and finally could see a river that was green, not the mud color of the N Fk.Toutle. We were at a fish hatchery located about a half mile above the Green’s confluence with the N Fk.Toutle. No one was there so we walked down river looking for the bridge described in the book and the gaging station. We got to within sight of the N Fk Toutle and there was no bridge and no gage; only elk and fishermen trails. We did find a nice take out area at the hatchery but it was 150 yards beyond the “Hatchery Vehicles Only” sign.
The road upstream from the hatchery was gated so Paul and I began hiking along the river looking for the gage and picking up a stray pop can here and there hoping this would improve our river karma and help us find a way to the put in. Well our karma was sort of answered when we saw a flatbed truck pull up to the gate and a woman getting out to unlock it. We flagged her down before she could drive off and asked her about river access.
“There is no bridge across the Green river and this road dead ends one mile upstream. We have no gage but do use information from the N.Fk Toutle gage to help us estimate flows on the Green.”
“What about getting to Cascade Creek ?” I ask referencing the launch point in Bennet’s book.
She looked puzzled and said she had not heard of Cascade creek, but assured me the road had no forks or bridges, just a dead end.
She said the hatchery had been there since 1955 but there was a time in the early ‘90s when it was not there but was rebuilt in 1995 and displaced some houses that had been there as well. That might explain the omission of a hatchery in our guide book but I was dismayed by any lack of bridge abutments or road. She did say the chip seal road had been the access point to the river in the past but was now gated by Pete’s place. She did not recall any bridge but admitted she had only been working there for 3 years.
One of the tasks that the hatchery does is install a fish weir on the river about a mile up. She said that when it is installed it could be a problem for anyone who happened to be boating the river. It is not in the river all the time however. I would caution anyone who can figure out a way to run this river to check with the Washinton Department of Fisheries to find out the status of the weir.
She mentioned that Weyerhaeuser opens several of the roads during hunting season in the fall and we might be able to access the put in then. Unfortunately in the fall as we all know, most rivers turn to a trickle given that the rains are just starting and there is little no snowpack in this low elevation drainage. One thought that crossed my mind was to call to see if Weyerhaeuser planned any open weekends in the winter or early spring. It might be possible to catch a rainy weekend when / if the gates open.
I guess there was a reason I had never run into anyone who had run this Green river in recent years. At the takeout it looked similar in size to the Trask, big enough to fit a raft. The Gazeteer shows a myriad of roads in the area and it may be possible to approach Cascade Creek from Randle on Highway 12 but even if that were a viable route, it would preclude any bicycle shuttle.
At thought that crossed out minds with the lack of scouting reports and roads was how would we get ourselves out of a jamb if it turned out the river above us was choked with log jambs or debris slides. We weren’t going to find out today.
We thanked her for her time, and before we parted she shared that the Animal Planet people were making a “Bigfoot” documentary. I wished I had a gorilla suit. We could have some real fun I thought.
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