Thursday, June 17, 2010
KOPKA RIVER SOLO DAY 8
Bottom: First falls from the boat.
Middle: Second falls. Note canoe to left, bottom of portage.
Top: End of a perfect day, enjoying the solitude and beauty.
I wake up anticipating the day for this day I will arrive at the BIG Drops where the river plunges 250 feet in 1/4 mile. I paddle to the end of Lake K. and note the campsites on the bluff . . . they look "A" grade appealing. The lake turns east and the sides close in and the river begins again.
I'll note now that no one has to worry about being swept over a huge waterfall on this river .All the three major falls have plenty of still water before them to spot the portage and easily navigate the boat safely. The rapids that precede all the three falls however are in some sections significant and will require more than just paddling. Leaving the lake there is an easy shallow rapid that can be boat scouted, then quiet sections with current. The next significant rapid is rocky and will probably need scouting as there is no direct route down it. After zig zagging down it I ended up lining the last bit on the right. With higher water levels this rip would change dramatically, so the next guy will have to do what I did . . . take it as it comes.
The final pre-falls rapid starts easy and quickly becomes a nasty technical Cl III+ nightmare. I figured I could go down as far as I could, then line it the rest of the way . The shore is essentially useless for movement however and any lining you do is going to be mostly in the water -- slippin' and a slidin', ho ho. I decided to go to river left and head inland to see if there might be a portage trail I had missed, since this place is such a mean dog to line and risky, too, for man and boat. The water is pushy enough here that if your "Queen Mary" or "Henrietta" gets away from you she's likely to get pinned good and you've got some serious Z-dragging to do to get her free.
Sure enough 50 ft from the river I came across the portage trail. Where it starts is anybody's guess because it got past me. I hauled the boat and gear to the trail through the bush and performed the required grunt work. All in all, better than lining.
The first falls of the" big three" appeared after a short quiet lake section and there's plenty of time to spot the portage, river right. The 350 yds is pretty easy until the last 100 feet then gets interesting. The trail itself goes down a very steep "path," the last part of which involves some short vertical drops. This is not too difficult with packs. I worked it out without using ropes . . . except for the canoe. Two people working together could probably get a tandem boat down the normal trail ,but by myself it would be more problematic. So I chose to lower the boat right over the adjacent cliff, about a 25 ft drop. This I did using a carabiner and pulley to get some increased mechanical advantage (and not lose my grip!). It worked out well. Some great views and photo ops here and at each of the other falls.
Note there are campsites at each of the three falls portages ...so you can quit for the day wherever you want. My choice was to do two falls/carries on the first day and the final one the next. Turned out to be the right choice. The best campsite by far (IMHO) is on the small lake just below the second falls.
The next (#2) big falls also has portage on river right . It's shorter( 150 yds ) and also at the end has a step drop ( the "cave"). There was still a big chunk of winter ice in the cave when I looked in. Check it out. The second falls is the narrowest of the three. Watching all that water come ripping down a 20 ft wide slot is awesome, an appropriate use of that very overworked word.
The little lake that you then enter has a "A" campsite on the right, just as you leave the falls canyon. Prettiest lake I've ever had the pleasure to paddle ...quiet , intimate ..with big picturesque cliffs on three sides ......and check out the waterfall tumbling down to the right as you enter. The campsite as I said is a honey. Easy access, level enough, fire ring ready, not too buggy, plenty of wood, nice rock shelf for swimming . . . and a decent place to set up the kitchen -- plus a great view!
I pitched camp, swam, cooked dinner and enjoyed this bit of heaven . . . and wouldn't you know it, after a full day of paddling and 'packing it was such a perfect little lake I had to get in the canoe and paddle around a bit just to take it in even more.
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