New Carnage Gallery



Welcome to California Creeks, an online whitewater guidebook to the Pacific Southwest. For an antidote, see our Safety Talk.

The Original Carnage Gallery and Big Boat Carnage Gallery are two of the most popular pages on this website. Here is more grist for the mill, fresh cannon fodder, another bone to throw the dawg, more tupperware for recycling, a spare paddle for the fish, new sunglasses for the ducks, and so on.

But first, rapid ratings (conspicuously missing from this website until now).

International System for Rating Rapids

This section © 2002 by David Petterson of Calgary Paddlers.

Class I, Easy. Fast moving water with riffles and small waves. Swimming is pleasant, shore easily reached. A nice break from paddling. Almost all gear and equipment is recovered. Boat is just slightly scratched.

Class II, Novice. Straightforward rapids with wide, clear channels which are evident without scouting. Swimming to eddies requires moderate effort. Climbing out of river may involve slippery rocks and shrub-induced lacerations. Paddle travels great distance downstream requiring lengthy walk. Something unimportant is missing. Boat hits submerged rock leaving visible dent on frame or new gash in plastic.

Class III, Intermediate. Rapids with moderate, irregular waves which may be difficult to avoid. Water is swallowed. Legs are ground repeatedly against sharp, pointy rocks. Several eddies are missed while swimming. Difficult decision to stay with boat results in moment of terror when swimmer realizes they are downstream of boat. Paddle is recirculated in small hole way upstream. All personal possessions are removed from boat and floated in different directions. Paddling partners run along river bank shouting helpful instructions. Boat is munched against large boulder hard enough to leave series of deep gouges. Sunglasses fall off.

Class IV, Advanced. Water is generally lots colder than Class III. Intense, powerful but predictable rapids requiring precise swimming in turbulent water. Swimming may require must moves above dangerous hazards. Must moves are downgraded to strongly recommended after they are missed. Sensation of disbelief experienced while about to swim large drops. Frantic swimming towards shore is alternated with frantic swimming away from shore to avoid strainers. Rocks are clung to with death grip. Paddle is completely forgotten. One shoe is removed. Hydraulic pressure permanently removes waterproof box with all the really important stuff. Paddle partners running along stream look genuinely concerned while lofting throw ropes 20 feet behind swimmer. Paddle partners stare slack-jawed and point in amazement at boat which is finally pinned by major feature. Climbing up river bank involves inverted tree. One of those spring loaded pins that attaches watch to wristband is missing. Contact lenses are moved to rear of eyeballs.

Class V, Expert. The water in this rapid is usually under 42 degrees F. Most gear is destroyed on rocks within minutes if not seconds. If the boat survives, it is need of about three days of repair. There is no swimming, only frantic movements to keep from becoming one with the rocks and to get a breath from time to time. Terror and panic set in as you realize your paddle partners don't have a chance in heck of reaching you. You come to a true understanding of the terms maytagging and pinballing. That hole that looked like nothing when scouted, has a hydraulic that holds you under the water until your lungs are close to bursting. You come out only to realize you still have 75% of the rapid left to swim. Swim to the eddy? What #%^*#* eddy!? This rapid usually lasts a mile or more. Hydraulic pressure within the first few seconds removes everything that can come off your body. This includes gloves, shoes, neoprene socks, sunglasses, hats, and clothing. The rocks take care of your fingers, toes, and ears. That $900.00 dry suit, well it might hold up to the rocks. Your paddle is trash. If there is a strainer, well, just hope it is old and rotten so it breaks. Paddle partners on shore are frantically trying to run and keep up with you. Their horror is reflected in their faces as they stare at how you are being tossed around! They are hoping to remember how to do CPR. They also really hope the cooler with the beer is still intact. They are going to need a cold one by the time you get out! Climbing out of this happens after the rapid is over. You will probably need the help of a backboard, cervical collar and Z-rig. Even though you have broken bones, lacerations, puncture wounds, missing digits & ears, and a concussion, you won't feel much pain because you will have severe hypothermia. Enjoy your stay in the hospital: with the time you take recovering, you won't get another vacation for 3 years.

Class VI, World Class. Not recommended for swimming.

And now the pictures.

Arroyo not-so Seco, Mucho Cojones

Hardshell kayakers show how to boof off the left side (orange boat), or how to run straight down the gut and survive (red boat, same as the sticky creekin' kayak in scenes below). Then Tuthill shows how to miss the eddy and go over the drop sideways.

Arroyo Seco CA Arroyo Seco CA
Perfect boof avoids most of the bad stuff

Fast speed and hydrodynamicity win the day

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Sideways orientation doesn't work for boofing

Boat emerges upright and unscathed!

Arroyo not-so Seco, Wide Boats not Welcome

This one doesn't look bad from the top, probably because it's too steep to see much of anything. But the hole is deceptively sticky, especially for this creekin' kayak.

Arroyo Seco CA Arroyo Seco CA
Excellent line at the entrance

Perhaps not quite enough speed?

Arroyo Seco CA Arroyo Seco CA
Beautiful (intentional?) tailstand!

First roll moves him back into hole

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Post windowshading, counterclockwise roll seems to work

Now the bow seems to be as sticky as the tail

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He's trying hard to avoid windowshading round 2

Good idea to use left cliff to climb downstream!

Arroyo not-so Seco, Moderate Undercut

We don't even go near this one at high water, but it was only 400 cfs, so the recirculation didn't go too far. The tail of this creekin' kayak was pretty sticky, however.

Arroyo Seco CA Arroyo Seco CA
Good line, fair speed, bad brace or lean?

First roll moves kayak back into recirculation

Arroyo Seco CA Arroyo Seco CA
Pounded in reversal, paddle ripped away, bail!

After a few minutes, kayak comes free

Upper White Salmon WA, Farmlands Section

Photographer: Dale Hosley, 2002

Upper White Salmon Farmlands WA Quote:
The 7-8' drop that my brother Ryan had just run is behind him to the left in the picture. After running the drop and being momentarily submerged, the hydraulics ejected him from the hole and shot him up against the left bank. He wasn't there long before he rolled over and was sucked back into the hole where both he and his boat were washing-machined for a while before I dropped my camera and threw him a line to haul him out. Not a swim he really enjoyed.

Deer Creek, Ishi Falls

Ishi Falls, the hardest rapid on lower Deer Creek, is a complicated four-part drop. The first part is a narrow slalom, the second is a tall but forgiving waterfalls, the third (crux move) is a tall waterfalls with big reversal at the bottom, and the fourth part is a narrow turbulent slalom, which many boaters experience at surface level or upside-down. After seeing one kayaker get munched in the crux falls, Mike opts for a sneak route to demonstrate his boat's slow hullspeed.

Photographer: Boris Trgovcich, 2002

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Wide-angle view of second and third sections.

Maybe not enough speed going over crux falls?

Deer Creek CA Deer Creek CA
Nice tailstand, umm... backflip!

Bad spot to convert yer helmet into a rudder!!

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Yawn, lucky thing this isn't on video... Note how far shadows moved during our nap.

South Trinity, Grouse Creek Falls

You'd think that by the time someone has boated 90 years like I have, they wouldn't make stupid mistakes any longer. You would be wrong.

Photographer: Andy Hertz, 2001

South Fork Trinity CA South Fork Trinity CA
Darren leaned right to avoid leftward flip,

So I prepared for a strong left-side brace...

South Fork Trinity CA South Fork Trinity CA
Oops, braced too hard Blub blub blub!

Rogue River, Rainey Falls

This drop is a favorite spot for carnage photographers. Rafts make it upright more than 50% of the time, kayaks less than 10% it seems. You can judge the distance of the underwater swim by seeing where the kayak flipped in the second picture, noting the small side falls, then comparing this falls to the just-surfacing helmet in the third picture.

Rogue River Rainey Falls OR Rogue River Rainey Falls OR
Chase bravely approaches the big drop straight-on,

And quickly flips his 2-person IK back to front!

Rogue River Rainey Falls OR Rogue River Rainey Falls OR
White helmet surfaces way downstream, But Chase's boat takes its merry time


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