The Breitenbush is one of the classic intermediate runs in the Cascades and a great introductory creeking run! But it is not recommended as an introduction to class IV. Even at moderate flows, this run as handed out some bad days for class IV paddlers who let their guard down.
At lower flows (below 750 cfs) most of the rapids are class III+ but come consistently throughout the first half of the run. At these levels the second half of the run can drag on as the river spreads out and the gradient drops. Because of this at low flows some boaters use a primitive campground 1/2 mile upstream of the bridge over Humbug Creek to get the action packed upper half of the run, while cutting out the gravel cruising and open class II of the second half of the run (at the cost of missing Barbell, Woo Man Chew, and a couple other class IIIs). Just be sure to note the take out area so you don't miss it from river-level. Because this portion is only 3 miles long, you can take your time catching eddies, or grab a second lap.
At higher flows (1200+) you can expect a continuous class IV experience. For the most part the rapids can be boat scouted by experienced paddlers but keep a sharp eye out for wood which can be in play anywhere along this run. At medium levels and up the second half of the run moves along fast and is good fun. Taking out at the gauging station is highly recommended at medium flows and up.
Beginning from the bridge upstream of Cleator Bend Campround, the river flows past the campground in an alluvial reach that has a tendency to collect large channel-spanning logs. As you come back along the road, you have an easy warm-up rapid before you soon arrive at a horizon line above The Slot.
The Slot is one of the more significant drops on the run and it's a good idea to scout from the bedrock shelf on river right--even if you know the run you want to check for wood. The crux move at The Slot is making it over the first ledge which develops a sticky hole. From there you just continue down the middle through some fun hydraulics. Beware of the surging eddy tucked into a little cove towards the bottom which can create trouble for paddlers who end up there. Less than a mile downstream you will come to The Notch (THIS RAPID HAS CHANGED FOR THE WORSE, READ COMMENTS AT THE BOTTOM OF THE PAGE FOR DETAILS). This one is a little tricky to boat scout and the historic scouting eddy on river right at the lip is gone. Eddy out high above, or committ to running far left against the wall.
More fun rapids continue including a few larger drops but eventually the action lets up as you pass Humbug Creek and approach the bridge.
Below the bridge the river takes on a bigger feel and two named drops await. The first is Barbell named for the large barbell-shapped rock. The river right line is over a ledge that requires a precise boof to the right to avoid the hole. The alternative line is down the boulder garden on river left.
The last big rapid is Woo Man Chew. The standard line is down the left over a ledge and through a hole. At higher flows some options open up on river right.
There are a few more fund rapids that are easy to boat scout in this section but you are at the end of the action when you see the USGS gage station on river left. This is a standard take-out.
A short distance downstream of the gage station the reservoir begins but when the reservoir levels are low the river continues with more class II down to Detroit. As you pass under the Highway 22 Bridge the river flows through a short gorge but after that it meanders back and forth through gravel beds deposited at the upper end of the reservoir. If you take-out below the bridge it's a bit of slog back up to the highway.
For additional information see the description and photos at Oregon Kayaking.
Logistics: The Breitenbush runs along FR 46 through the ravine down below the road. Head to Detroit and at Hwy 22 mile 50.0 turn onto FR 46 which is signed for Breitenbush. The Detroit Store at this corner is a standard meeting place for river trips. You can take-out downstream river right of the Hwy 22 bridge when reservoir levels are low but this is rarely done.
Heading up FR 46 to mile 0.9 you will reach the Upper Arm Day Use Area representing the head of Detroit Reservoir and one potential take-out when reservoir levels are low. The standard take-out is at mile 1.7 at the USGS gage station.
Starts off with a 4' ledge and then continues down a narrow bedrock chute.
THE LINE SHOWN HERE HAS CHANGED AND IS NOT RUNNABLE BELOW 1,000. READ COMMENTS FOR DETAILS.
Ledge drop to river right requires a good boof or charge down the boulder garden on river left.
Ledge drop with left and right lines.
Potential access point when the reservoir is low.
Lower access when the reservoir is low.
HAZARD: Notch update 01/12/2019: The old scouting eddy on river right was not there. At 600 cfs, if you were to take the main line you would run out of surface water and end up in a sieve focalized in a root wad. Run the drop far left against the wall, this line ends in a straight forward 3' ledge............................Read the previous comment from cepaulo for more information.
The Notch has changed as of 12/31/18. I paddled it a week prior to this date and it was as normal. Typically, you run it river right, just left of a tree stump/root ball and slide down a small flake (as in the picture in the description). Now, much less water is running to the right side for some reason at 1000 cfs. If you attempt river right, you will essentially beach yourself on rock and need to push yourself along until you can scrape over the other side (at 1000 cfs or lower). For a cleaner line, it looks as if you'll need to go river left.
Sharon's Drop, below S-turn, is runnable as of November 2007. Jason Rackley's site mentions that it looks runnable, but isn't due to several logs. There is a log on the right side, easily visible from upstream. The left side is clear.
1 year ago
by clinton begley
2 years ago
by Jordan Loos
3 years ago
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