Ran Deep Creek April 25-30, 2006 with a group of seven in Alpacka Rafts. The Owyhee gauge at Rome dropped from 7800 to 6600 cfs during this period.
We spent April 25 driving from Jackson, WY to a camp where Mud Flat Road crosses Deep Creek (or Hurry Back Creek on some maps). We arrived in late afternoon, and sent two vehicles, a Dodge van and a Toyota pickup, to run a shuttle to Rickard Crossing. At about 10pm, a beat-up 1970 pickup dropped off our members covered in mud and exhausted. They had gotten both cars hopelessly stuck in the mud just south of Mud Flat Road. They learned that all of the roads south of Mud Flat Road are private with no trespassing allowed. The main left turn off Mud Flat Road was heavily posted, so they went a few hundred yards farther and turned down a rough road where they got stuck.
The rancher Mike Stanford and his friends happened upon our group toiling in the mud and tried to help them unsuccessfully. Mike told us to call him to obtain permission next time. He said he needs to know who is down on his property and grazing allotments because some of his facilities have been getting looted and vandalized. He kindly drove our shuttle members the 12 miles back to our camp at Deep Creek. Mike Stanford's phone number is: 208-583-2442
In the morning of April 26, three of our group took our one remaining vehicle to Mountain Home, Idaho to purchase a come-along, stand-up jack, shovel, cable, extra gas, and tow straps. They returned at about 1:30pm. While we waited, three of us ran the upper gorge of Deep Creek from Mud Flat Road to the confluence with Current Creek. This stretch is gorgeous, fun, and worth doing, but it is extremely brushy and not recommended except in Alpacka Rafts or small IKs. It was class II and took us at least two hours to run. There is one barbed wire fence near where the gorge opens up just above the confluence with Current Creek. We then deflated the boats and hiked back along Mud Flat Road to our camp at Deep Creek.
When the group returned from Mountain Home, several of us drove to the stuck vehicles and spent the rest of that day extricating them. At 8pm, two of us drove one vehicle back to camp at Deep Creek, while three of us took the two remaining vehicles to attempt the shuttle to the take out. Mike the rancher told us that we would be unable to get our vehicles to Rickard Crossing and that we would have to park at his southernmost ranch outpost about 8 miles north of Rickard Crossing. He said that they only had been taking ATVs down to Rickard Crossing so far this year.
This team successfully placed a vehicle at the southernmost ranch outpost at about 10:30pm, and began their drive back to camp at Deep Creek. Just before the main ranch outpost on upper Castle Creek, our men got the car stuck in a mud hole. Two shivered in the truck in the dark, while Derek rode our one mountain bike 1.5 hours back south in the dark to the car at the southernmost outpost. He drove it back north, picked up the two, and drove back to camp at Deep Creek battered. Our shuttle still had not been completed.
In the morning, four of us drove back over to the stuck Nissan pickup and spent two hours extricating it by jacking up the front and rear and then using the come along to drag it out. Determined not to give up, we finally placed the shuttle, and rejoined our team at Current Creek put in at 3:30pm. The members not running the shuttle had moved all our gear over to Current Creek to save time and avoid the brush thrashing in the upper gorge of Deep Creek.
Geared up, we carried boats almost a mile down Current Creek and put in when the creek seemed clear of brush at about 5pm. This fine creek winds gradually down through meadows and joins with Deep Creek (Hurry Back Creek) with no problem, no brush. The confluence was not even noticeable, Deep Creek entirely obscured by brush. Now a much larger stream (~400cfs), we entered the middle gorge of Deep Creek and made one portage over a barbed wire fence. The gorge was broad at first and the river wound calmly through tight brush for a mile or so. Suddenly, we entered a very steep-walled gorge, the current increased, and the brush seemed to be done. No such luck.
After a couple of scenic bends with no brush, the river bed became choked with gnarly alders with current and rapids running swiftly through them. We had to be extremely careful in picking channels as the water had become more pushy. Several of us flipped, swam, and were dangerously pushed into large alder bushes. There also were several class II rapids, including the "Watermelon Seed," near the beginning of the middle gorge, which was a fun drop over a short fall. None of the rapids were difficult or dangerous, except that they typically led directly and dangerously into a web of alder brush. At 8pm, we took out in a tight gorge and set up camp.
In the morning, the river continued its rapid course through the brush. Several of us swam within the first few hundred yards of camp and fought to keep from being pinned in the brush. Every bend brought a new challenge of rapid water and brush. In places, fast current or rapids would carry us through narrow and long brush tunnels, and we wouldn't know what lay at the end. In other places, we had to thrash our way through stands of spider-infested brush while the fast current threatened to flip us. We stopped for one long break to patch a boat and go for a hike up a side canyon past pools and falls to the featureless plateau above.
Finally, at the confluence of Nickel Creek, the river changed character entirely as we left the andesite gorge and entered a broader valley of basaltic lava, juniper forest, and low canyon walls. The river had increased to as much as 800 cfs and reminded us of the mountain rivers of the Greater Yellowstone area, with large bends, rocky banks, consistent current, and wonderful class II rapids. After having averaged about a quarter mile per hour on the upper stretches, we were now covering well over 2 miles an hour.
At Castle Creek, the river reverted to class I for a couple of miles with some short class II rapids. We investigated some petroglyphs and enjoyed the relaxing float after such a stressful morning. At about 6pm, we reached the road crossing above the lower gorge and took out. Having spent so much time muddling with our shuttle, we sadly did not have enough time to continue our trip down the lower gorge to Rickard Crossing. As the sun set and storm clouds rolled in, Derek and Amy ran five miles to the ranch outpost to retrieve the car. Unable to drive it to our location on the river bank, that pair parked on the dry side of a large bog and hiked back two miles to get the rest of us. We carried all of our gear to the car, and then drove successfully back to the other cars at Current Creek, arriving at 11pm.
In the morning, with only a little bit of gas left in each car, we made it to Grand View, where we discovered a great Mexican restaurant, Salinas, and feasted in celebration. Although this river is rated class I/II, it is not recommended for beginner paddlers.
Thomas Turiano, 5/1/06
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