Sam's, Washington, US
|Usual Difficulty||IV-V (for normal flows)|
SEASON: Winter rain storms.
PUT-IN: 500 Bridge
TAKEOUT: Queets Campground
SHUTTLE: The put-in can be reached from Highway 101 mile 137.5 where you take FR 21 east (this is also marked as West Boundary Road). Follow FR 21 to mile 8.2 and turn left onto FR 2180. Follow this road approximately 7 miles to the end. From here it is a couple mile hike down the old road (now decommissioned), bear left at the Y, and head towards the river along the route of the old 500 spur road which crosses the river at the old bridge serving as the put-in. To add another gorge, skip the 500 spur road, and continue hiking along the old bed of FR 2180. Continue 2.5 miles from the Y and follow the creek down to the river. To reach the take-out backtrack out towards the point where we got on FR 2180 and look for the FR 2180-100 spur (aka Q2100) and follow the signs for the Queets Campground that serves as the take-out where Sams joins the Queets River. For current information on roads check the Olympic National Forest web site (check rec reports for Pacific Ranger District - South), or call the USFS/NPS Resource Information Center in Forks 360-374-7566 or the USFS Ranger District office in Quinault 360-288-2525.
The most difficult whitewater on this run comes right at the beginning. The river starts out with a class IV drop within sight of the put-in bridge. You then approach the entrance to the first, and most challenging, gorge called "Yosemite Sam". The class V+ entrance rapid, "Yosmite Sam Slam", is difficult to see as the river bends hard left (you'll catch a glimpse of it between the trees on the hike in). The safe portage route is to get out on river left about 100 yards from the point where the river disappears around the corner (and hike back up to the road). You can probe your way through a class III+ section that leads up to the edge of "Yosemite Sam Slam". There is an eddy behind a bedrock peninsula on river left, but the portage from here is challenging along a steep bank. "Yosemite Sam Slam" is a great S turn rapid where the river drops about 25 feet in two significant pitches. Although it's a big drop, there's a nice recovery pool at the bottom.
The rest of the "Yosemite Sam" gorge is IV/IV+ read and run. The last drop in the gorge deserves a careful scout and is a V-. It's an easy portage or scout on river left as long as you get out early enough--as you get closer the portaging gets more complicated. The drop itself is 70 yards long and drops a total of 15-20 ft. There are three 2-3'(Class III+) ledges followed by a 5-6' drop. Add all these moves together and you get a Class IV+ to V- drop.
After leaving the first gorge you'll encounter a massive series of log jams with BIG wood that stretches out for over 3/4 of a mile requiring a few portages. The channel is always migrating in this section so it's a bit of a pain, but not too bad.
The second gorge is called "Son of Sam" and is the shortest of the three. It starts out with some great rapids that are pretty easy to boat scout but then ends with a split falls called "Son of Sam Slam". This rapid is worthy of a careful scout and potential portage. It is a 6 ft falls that is easy to recognize because 3 ft diameter logs are suspended 10 ft above the drop--jammed between the gorge walls during a flood. It's best to eddy out early and way upstream due to the difficulty of portaging from the most proximate eddies on river left or right.
Between the second and third gorges there are some fun class III rapids. At lower flows this section is pretty boney, but fun at higher flows. You'll likely have another log portage or two.
The final gorge is called "Play it Again Sam" and the first ledge drop is called "Play it Again Sam Slam". This first drop can most likely be boat scouted, but it's got a couple holes lurking behind the boulders. This final gorge is longer than the first two and the whitewater is a notch lower in degree of difficulty. There are some great play spots as the river settles onto the Queets Valley. Once again you'll probably have a log portage or two.
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