Wilson, Devil's Lake Fork, Oregon, US
|Usual Difficulty||III+(IV) (for normal flows)|
|Avg. Gradient||75 fpm|
This is a local favorite for up and coming creekers. The name of the run is for the main Wilson tributary which follows highway 6 down from the pass. The name of the river changes a mere quarter mile downstream from the launch where the South Fork enters from the left and the Wilson River begins. Highway 6 parallels the run and access by way of pull-outs on the highway and fishing trails is frequent. Still, the highway rarely enters the consciousness of the paddler because the river keeps you busy.
From the launch point the river immediately launches into a long, technical class III section. First time visitors are well advised to scout while shuttle is run. If you feel good in this section, you are going to enjoy the run. If you don't, you can easily walk back up and get a car to drive to the takeout.
The whitewater remains fast and furious for the entire run with many small horizon lines, eddy hopping galore and a couple of fun surfing spots. Three rapids of note include Elk Creek Rapid, the Mini-Gorge, S-turn Ledge and Golf Course from upstream to downstream.
Elk Creek is 10-15 minutes downstream from the launch and the main ledge can be seen while looking upstream from a bridge on the shuttle. Locals often stop while shuttling to scout. The run is usually in a slot with no hole just right of center, or at higher water boaters may sneak far right, then dodge the big play hole below unless they like playing in holes.
The Mini-Gorge is likewise visible from the road, in the distance as you are headed upstream. It doesn't look like much from the highway or from the scout but when you are in the boat you know that the drop is significant. The water squeezes down to a narrow channel with lateral waves and holes in the approach, and boily swirls below.
The S-turn Ledge occurs downstream from a long class I-II section with the highway closeby on the right. From the road you see it best when you are headed downstream. The water speeds up then bends hard left, then right and drops a ledge. At low water there are eddies but at higher flows the eddies turn to boils. The normal line over the ledge is center left where there is a tongue, but you cannot detect it from water level. Depending on flows you can run the ledge anywhere but more left has less holes. At very high flows a sneak down the center channel above the ledge may be appropriate. The far left channel has been blocked by wood for a decade as of this writing.
About 10 minutes downstream from the S-turn is Golf Course, which is a steeper section with quite a few holes, some of which are friendly and others of which you might want to go around. Generally speaking down the middle works, dodging holes as you go. This rapid is not seen from the road.
There are some great play waves and holes near a possible takeout on river left just downstream the bridge after Lee's Camp Store. You can also continue downstream to the Jones Creek Day Use area on the right, which adds one more good rapid to the run.
FLOWS: You want recent rains and a flow on the Wilson at Tillamook in the neighborhood of 3,500-4,500cfs. Lower gauge reading is fine if rising, higher reading fine if falling.