It was time to expand my horizons. It was late September and I was feeling good about my boating, I hadn't swam in about a month, and for the first time I was able to be a support/rescue boater on easier runs. The problem is to this point, 2 solid months boating, maybe 10 or 15 runs through Tamihi but I hadn't been on any other rivers...and there are lots of rivers out there of similar difficulty or easier than Slesse down on The Chilliwack.
That Friday I decided to take the plunge, I noticed on The Vancouver Kayak Club (VKC) board that a few people were doing a run down the Chehalis on Saturday, so after checking the difficulty in Claudia's guidebook(Class III) I said I was in. We met Saturday morning at the takeout and the level was low, very low...probably a good thing for my first time as if there's one thing I was used to dealing with, it was low level induced exposed rocks. So we set off on the shuttle, this time it was myself and 4 people I had never boated with which was also a first for some time...and as usual I was by far the least experienced paddler :)
There are 2 options when it comes to putting in on The Chehalis, you can either start on Statlu Creek on or upstream of the bridge (gets more difficult as you go more upstream, and punishingly low water most of the time), or you can do a bit of a hike in to the Chehalis itself upstream of the confluence with Statlu (and apparently run some of the best rapids). There is also from what I've heard the option of going lake down through some good class 5, but that has been blocked with wood for some years, not that I was near a skill level to attempt that either! We were going to hike in, it seems the logging roads have really changed the dynamic of the area since the guidebook was written...and none of us had a GPS to confirm the coordinates, so we found the best looking option in line with the guidebook and went for it. We hiked forever, seemed like a good 40 minutes of hiking with our boats and gear through swamp, dense forest, devils club (The worst.), it was a good bushwhack. Finally we found running water! We used rope to get our boats down a steep canyon embankment (didn't remember reading about this for the put-in)...and finally got on the river, dead tired. We got on, did a few rolls, everyone was asking me about my level and comfort factor, then cringing at the thought of multiple rescues in a canyon (though pool drop which means rapids are followed by calm pools, and with some eddies at this low level). I don't think anyone has a break-down spare paddle either, which later I would learn is a great idea in a canyon.
We got going, the first 6 or 7 rapids were incredibly bony (rocky) and I thought fairly difficult, but we did them alright and then, ta-da, came to the confluence with The Chehalis. It was clear we'd actually put on in the lower canyon area of Statlu Creek at this point, we got way off track on our hike in, so we all had a good laugh and decided we'd never try the hike in again!
What an amazing river, the water is crystal clear green, and through much of the run you are in a steep walled (maybe 300-500 foot), wider box canyon and you are fairly committed, especially after the confluence with Boulder Creek it would be very difficult to get out for any reason. There is one really nice and more difficult rapid called Landslide which was formed by a landslide in 2002, I paddle with someone who was on the river (upstream) when this actually took place, that had to be an experience! There is maybe 2 more rapids that are more difficult, the rest of the run isn't too bad. I do remember 'Go right or die' rapid my first time, I ran straight head on into the rock you had to go right of, got turned around and went backwards down the hole on the left! I was a bit worried at the time, but made it through no problem (is it weird that I often have an easier time when I run things backwards!?). There was one more rapid which was incredibly difficult, and involved a few manoeuvrings around rocks and had holes coming at you from all directions (this would get quite hard at higher water). Towards the end there is a really cool place with a MASSIVE log jammed along the entire width of the river that is actually large enough to seal launch off of!
In the end we finished the run with no carnage (I was surprisingly actually the only one of us who ran it clean without using a roll!). Since then I've done The Chehalis 2 or 3 other times, once at a good water level, once with a beginner (like myself the first time) in tow, and each time putting in on Statlu higher and higher upstream of the bridge. It's got to be one of the most scenic and favorite rivers of mine! ...and so close to home! Overall it was a great second river experience.
My undoing would be the next day on the Mamquam...