Pyranha Logo
facebook twitter vimeo




Bearwallow Creek first descent.

Coming up to spring break this year I hadn’t paddled much at all since Green Race, so I was very stoked to see everything running just as break started.  The large amount of rain limited the amount of rivers we could paddle and we knew it would have to be something small…. Living less than 40 min from the Jocasse watershed I had been eyeing Bearwallow creek for several months but couldn’t ever get a good idea of how much rain it would take to get it going, I barely knew where the putin and take-out were and had not done any scouting on the run. Thursday night Scott Magley and I got out the topo maps found a solid putin and take out, estimated our trip would be about 4 miles of paddling with a 1 mile hike in and a 2 mile hike out. After studying carefully we made the decision: If the rain hit we were going to Bearwallow….We ended up getting slammed with rain that night and woke up about 6:00 a.m. , checked gauges, and saw everything in and around Jocasse was blown out…Robbie called while we were in route and asked if I was boating I told him the plan and he met us at Gorges State Park. We suited up and began the 1 mile hike down to the creek. Upon arriving, the river appeared to be a medium low flow (the perfect level for a first descent).  We put in at an eddy bellow a 25 footer that landed on a slab, it was 2 strokes to the top of the first slide ( a chunky little 40 ft slide with nasty undercut half way down). We ro-sham-bo’d for to see who would run first, Scott got it and we all peeled out of the eddy feeling great….but non of us could possibly imagine what lay ahead….The river began as some stout class IV boogie then mellowed out for a while before winding past a few a log jams (all but 2 navigable by boat) then bottomed dropped out as we encountered our first big rapid, a massive wall checkish slide that got our blood pumping….from then on it was non stop. We  began encountering massive slide after massive slide,every corner we went around had another huge rapid after it. This kept up for a long time and the sun had began to fall low in the sky, the temperature started to drop, and the gradient still hadn’t let up. We began to worry that wouldn’t make it out of Gorges State Park by the time the gates shut and we would be forced to spend the night on the river with minimal overnight gear. The sun had dipped almost behind the trees when a reached a flat section…our hopes soared but they were quickly destroyed when the river gorged up and what appeared to be a 100+ foot horizon line popped up. Up until this point we had done a shockingly small amount of portaging for a steep creek first descent (2 rapids and 2 log jams). Normally one portage doesn’t seem like a big deal but we were cold, extremely tired, and the sun was setting fast. This portage was by far the hardest of any that day and after the we made it to the bottom of the rapid we were completely spent. We decided to push on even though we had no energy left and after a few more solid class V rapids (which seemed like class 3) we finally reached the takeout road. We shouldered our boats and began the uphill hike out. After 2 miles we reached the truck, utterly spent but smiling.( I don’t think anyone in our group has ever been so happy to see the shuttle car). We made it out of Gorges State Park just before the gates closed and observed an incredible sunset on the way out, the perfect end to an incredible day of paddling.

The following pictures are an account of journey:


Early Morning in the Jocasse drainage


The hike down.


Scott starting off the day for us.


Boogie slide.




“Not Another Rapid Named Wall Check”


Bottom of “Not Another Rapid Named Wall Check”


Top of the rapid bellow “Not Another Rapid Named Wall Check”



First Big Portage


First big portage from the bottom. (would be good w/o log)


Me on “Money Shot”


“Scott’s Slide”



Awesome 15 ft to 8 ft boogie drop (starting to get dark)


The top of the massive 100 ft drop. (second big portage, that tree in the background is about half way down)


The bottom 3rd of the massive portage.


3rd big portage.


Robbie seal launching in after the tree


More “Class III boogie”


Slide leading into the last mini gorge


Slides leading out of the last mini gorge. (the water was getting low at this point)


Robbie looking stoked to be at the takeout.



So the final count over 4 miles at 300+ ftpm comes to: 3 major rapid portages (due to wood on all but one) and 2 log jam portages. I’d say that’s pretty incredible for an un-run micro creek of that gradient. What’s even more amazing is every rapid but 2 would go if there was no wood and a couple guys with hand saws could clear 90% of the wood out of this creek in a day or two. Being 95% runable (if wood free) and possessing one of the smallest hikes and steepest gradients in the Jocasse drainage I think this creek has strong potential to be a great run.

peace and good lines,

Mac M.