Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Curiosity Brings Paddlers to the Chehalis River

Curiosity drives exploration and consider Dave Graf, a trip leader of the Lower Columbia Canoe Club an explorer. His group of eleven boaters from the Lower Columbia Canoe Club and the Southwest Washington Canoe Clubs spent a recent Sunday paddling a “dark”13.5 mile section of the Chehalis River. River guide books thoroughly document the river from Oakville to Gray’s Harbor, but the section around Centralia and Rochester have little to no information in print.

That is not to say that Graf and his cohorts would drop their canoes and kayaks in the water without any information. They had a good idea what the river would provide. Generally they expected Class 1b and c movement on the gentle river. Class 1 is the most mellow of moving waters and Class 1a would be considered a lake with no wind. Class 4 and 5 would be highly technical rapids and waterfalls.

The big question was what hazards or obstructions might be left from this last December’s flood. In fact the group’s intrigue for this trip followed after a recent float trip down the Nehalem River in Northwest Oregon where the paddlers saw a little more adventure than usual. They were astounded to see debris strewn forty feet above the current water level in trees. Their thoughts shifted towards the Chehalis.

One of the major logistical concerns for a trip in this area is that most of the river flows through private land. The group lit in the river at Borst Park in Centralia and then floated to a point near Independence Bridge where Graf knew a landowner and secured permission to access the river.

“While on the river we were treated to 3 Eagles and an array of ducks and other birds” reported Graf after an intimate look at one of the most natural rivers in Western Washington.

A look back up river to the other members of the Lower Columbia and Southwest Washington Canoe Clubs during a 13.5 mile float trip on the Chehalis River below Centralia. Photo by Dave Graf

The Chehalis has a menacing history and landowners tend to keep their distance. This was very observable from the water itself. “From our perspective on the river there were very few houses apparent, although we know they are close, so it made it seem like a very remote river and that is exceptional for most of our northwest rivers” said Graf.

In all, the river was just as they anticipated. The 13.5 mile float trip turned out to be quite a physical experience in order to make decent time on the slow running river. “Everyone stayed dry and had a great time. We have the tired arms and backs to show for it too“.

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