Sweet Creek, Oregon, US
Sweet Creek Falls to Homestead Trailhead
||IV-V (for normal flows)
Avoiding the hole at #5
Avoiding the hole at #5Photo of Nate Pfeifer by Joe Bushyhead taken 11/29/10 @ a good level
FLOWS: The level ranges above are based off dropping flows. If flows are dropping, this
gauge is pretty accurate. Rising levels are hard to account for since the gauge is so far
downstream on a much bigger river. If you leave the house with 8' and rising, you may
have 15' by the time you get home at the end of the day. That said if flows get blown
out, you are close to Lake Creek and can do some playboating as a backup.
Video from a high water day (well over
Sweet Creek is located in the Oregon Coast Range near the town of Mapleton. It is a short but
adrenaline packed run that is unlike most runs in Oregon, with gradient that reaches ~500 FPM in
the crux gorge section.
The entire run of Sweet Creek is ~1 mile long, starting at Sweet Creek Falls and ending at the
Homestead trailhead. The gorge section starts ~.3 miles from the takeout, and is what most
boaters concentrate on, doing multiple laps in a day and utilizing the convenient hiking trail
etched into the cliffs along the right bank to do so. If you do decide to hike all the way up to
the base of Sweet Creek Falls to start the run, you will be faced with some chunky rapids for the
first ¼ mile or so. After that, and before the gorge section, are a series of ledges which
can be best described as a scrape-fest when water levels are manageable for the action
downstream, and what Sweet Creek is known for. That said, they can be fun and they also allow you
to get some boating in if water levels are too high for the gorge, or if there are people in the
group that need a warm-up or aren’t ready for the steep stuff.
It will be pretty obvious when you have reached the gorge, as the bottom drops out below the eddy
you’re sitting in. If you haven’t done so already, now would be a good time to get
out and scout and/or set safety. The gorge can be broken down into two sections, the top five
drops, and the bottom three. For reference, I will be referring to the drops as #1 through #8,
starting with the top one (furthest upstream).
The Upper Gorge:
This drop is actually a two-tiered ledge dropping about 8’
to 10’ in total (photo
). The first
tier has a small ramp that flows over a kicker rock which can knock you off-line if you
aren’t ready for it. As soon as you land you’ll have enough time for about one or two
correction strokes before going over the second. This bottom one should be run on the right, as
the left side feeds into a pocket hole against the undercut left bank. I know of at least one
person who has swam out of this hole. I was not on the trip, but supposedly it took quite a while
to retrieve his boat. There is a nice eddy below #1, on the right, to prepare for the next drop.
This is definitely the best drop of the run, essentially an 8’
auto-boof that gives some serious air time if you throw in a good stroke (photo
). About the
only way to screw this one up is to go off it sideways, which has been done more than once. That
said, the price of failure is also quite high, since there is a small cave behind the falls which
grabs (and has held) people that have blown the line. There is a good place to setup safety on
the walkway above (photo
). Once again
there is a small eddy below the drop to rest in (on the right).
Next, a small boulder garden guards, and somewhat complicates, the line
over #3 (photo
preferred line on this ledge is driving hard left and running it on that side (photo
this means that you need to thread across the boulder garden entrance from right to left from the
eddy above. If done properly, a delayed boof stroke will land you in the boiling punchbowl below
) and line
you up for the slide section immediately below. It should be noted that there is a log in the
middle of this ledge, but is out of play if you nail the entrance. The right side of this ledge
is typically not recommended since it pushes against the overhung wall on the right, and it makes
it harder to set up for the drops below.
Once you leave the punchbowl (below #3), you will be
careening down a shallow slide into drop #4 (photo
). To properly
set up for #4 you really want to enter on the hard left side of the slide, since once
you’ve committed there’s not much correction that can be done. Even with this line,
you will probably get bumped right by a shallow rock, just above the lip of the forth ledge.
Further, the flake on this drop is upturned and can kick you funny. The goal here is to keep it
straight and stay away from the right side of the kicker flake as you come off the ledge
There is a crack over there that has vertically pinned a couple of people including myself. For
further documentation of this hazard see a write-up and video here
A fast moving jet of water separates #4 from #5. If you didn’t come
cleanly off #4 you may need to roll and/or spin around quickly to line-up for #5 and clear the
meaty hole at the base (photo
). This hole
has served more than its fair share of beat-downs for those that don’t make it through.
Needless to say, this is a good place to set up a bag for your buddies. Another line option you
have for #5 is to catch the eddy on the river-right shelf just above it (photo
). This is
easier said than done, and you must come off the drop above properly to catch it. If you are able
to make it into the eddy, you can drop over the right side of the #5 using a boof flake and
barely get your head wet. Once past here, catch the large left eddy, celebrate, and look back up
at the impressive cascade of water you just came down (photo
you’re planning to run laps, take-out just below on the right and shoulder your boat back
up the trail (photo
). If not, just
continue down to the lower gorge.
A short trashy section separates the upper gorge from the lower (photo
). The three
drops located in the lower section are not as difficult or intimidating as the upper five.
However, there are still consequences and lines that must be made.
The Lower Gorge:
This ~12’ waterfall is one of the more trashy drops on the run,
and often portaged for this reason. The entrance is very shallow (especially with low water) and
makes it hard to get speed and a good boof stroke in. The normal line is off the middle of the
waterfall to land in what appears to be a small pothole (photo
). One must be
careful using this line since being off by a mere foot in either direction could result in a
smashed elbow on that side; elbow pads are definitely recommended here. There appear to be line
options on the right and left (depending on flow) but I’ve never seen anybody run them so I
can’t say for sure.
Directly below the 12’er is a super fun, low angle slide into a
large pile of water. You can get up some good speed on this one and use your boat as a
battering-ram to bust through the bottom hydraulic (photo
). This is one
of the most fun drops of the run and pretty much a no-brainer.
The last drop on Sweet Creek is a river-wide 8’ ledge with a
great boof flake in the dead center of the ledge. From the eddy above you can catch a glimpse of
the “nose” which is your target, and takeoff platform. A well placed stroke will
ensure some airtime and a smile on your face as you finish up this last drop (photo
From here it’s just a short distance to the Homestead parking lot and hopefully where you
parked your car. After you’re loaded up make sure to stop in at Caffeination Station in
Mapleton. This coffee house has great java and excellent service; you won't be disappointed!
*For more information on this run including methods for determing flow, see a trip report on
Wheels & Water here
StreamTeam Status: Not Verified
Last Updated: 2015-12-30 20:58:08