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Upper Thomas Creek: Pumpkin Patch to Thomas Creek Falls

Willamette Valley, Oregon

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Upper Thomas Creek: Pumpkin Patch to Thomas Creek Falls

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  • Pumpkin Spice, a Class V rapid above Thomas Creek Falls.- Upper Thomas Creek: Pumpkin Patch to Thomas Creek Falls
  • Pumpkin Spice, a Class V rapid above Thomas Creek Falls.- Upper Thomas Creek: Pumpkin Patch to Thomas Creek Falls
  • The runout of Pumpkin Spice.- Upper Thomas Creek: Pumpkin Patch to Thomas Creek Falls
  • Thomas Creek Falls are even fun for an inflatable kayak.- Upper Thomas Creek: Pumpkin Patch to Thomas Creek Falls
  • There is plenty of room in the pool below to enjoy the view.- Upper Thomas Creek: Pumpkin Patch to Thomas Creek Falls
  • Thomas Creek Falls.- Upper Thomas Creek: Pumpkin Patch to Thomas Creek Falls
  • Enjoying the view from below Thomas Creek Falls.- Upper Thomas Creek: Pumpkin Patch to Thomas Creek Falls
Overview + Weather
Pros: 
Beautiful scenery. Runnable waterfall. Fun ledges. Bridge to bridge access.
Cons: 
Open only for a few weeks in the fall.
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Region:
Willamette Valley, OR
Average Gradient: 
95.00 ft/mi (17.99 m/km)
Route Characteristics: Character:
Pool Drop, Continuous, Gorge, Steep Creek, Wooded (Forested)
Gauge URL: 
http://waterdata.usgs.gov/nwis/uv?site_no=14188800
Overall difficulty: 
IV+
II
III
IV
V
Parking Pass: 
Not Required
Preferable Season(s):
Fall
Put-in location (lat, long coordinates): 
44.6713, -122.4565
Suitable for:
Kayaks
Take-out location (lat, long coordinates): 
44.7027, -122.5673
Total Distance: 
8.00 mi (12.87 km)
Current Local Weather:

Notable Hazards + River Information

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Adventure Description

Adventure Description

Contributor

Each October, when hunting season comes around, access is allowed to the logging roads to Thomas Creek. The Pumpkin Patch was so named because, much like a pumpkin patch, you can go in just a short way and get a worthwhile reward, but if you want the biggest and the best you have to go just a little further.

Upper Section

The upper section begins by parking in a pullout on the left and walking down some brush to put in to Thomas Creek. This upper section has noticeably less water than what would be observed at the take-out location.

Navigate an island after some low-volume warm-up paddling. While most of the water goes right, it is recommended to take the left channel. Immediately after the channels merge back together, the whitewater picks up pace with Class IV whitewater that can and should be scouted.

There is an eddy on the left before the creek turns right and pinches down to half its size between a couple of boulders. It is important that you catch an eddy right or left just below this pinch to scout the rest of the rapid, which makes a bend to the left over Pumpkin Spice. Pumpkin Spice is the only rapid on the run that is Class V in nature.

Pumpkin Spice has a narrow hallway leading to a 10-foot ramp that must be run right (without hitting the right wall) to avoid a violent piton middle and left. The line is straightforward, but don't mess it up. Scout or portage the lead-in and rapid on the left; safety can be thoroughly set below.

A nice boof and a short section of easier whitewater lead to another island that is best run in the right channel. Shortly below this island is a bridge, then some easy floating through some island-and-boulder bar-style rapids before the whitewater builds again as the creek passes under another bridge.

Thomas Creek Falls

This second bridge signals that you are very close to Thomas Creek Falls, separated by only two short Class III to Class IV rapids. There are small eddies just above the falls that should be caught one boater at a time. If you are feeling cautious or the water is high, you can choose to walk down to the falls from this bridge along the road and then down a short trail.

The line on the 30- to 40-foot Thomas Creek Falls is obvious along the right side and away from the log in the center. The lead-in is straightforward, the landing soft, and the pool devoid of hazards at normal flows. The log is intimidating and would be disastrous to collide with, but numerous runs off the falls have proved that the line is manageable for skilled boaters.

Thomas Creek Falls can be portaged via a throw-and-go from the lip on river-right or a sloppy up-and-around route on the same side. It has been recommended that the throw-and-go would be less hazardous than hiking a boat around due to the steep nature of the terrain. Do what you are most comfortable with.

The Standard Stretch

Float through easy boulder bars to warm up before the first rapid, where the current is forced against the right wall, creating a rapid that ends with a short plunge into a powerful hydraulic. Run this final plunge on the left side of the right channel with a strong right stroke, staying away from the right wall. It is possible to scout or portage this rapid on the left.

This section reaches its prime as bedrock begins to line the stream and the green walls are in stark contrast to the turbid water if the flows are high enough.

Sustained and highly enjoyable pool-and-drop Class III continues for miles. As flows rise above 1,000 cubic feet per second, the difficulty approaches but never reaches Class V (even at 8,300 cfs), but as flows approach 2,000 cfs, the eddies loosen and people have reported floating downstream alongside flotsam in a Class IV environment.

The last three rapids are the most exciting. The first is rowdy at flows upwards of 1,000 cfs. Start right, working back to center, and hold steady through a violent but forgiving bottom hydraulic that empties into a large pool. At some flows you can take this rapid more center-left.

The next rapid pushes into the left wall if you run left. After another pool the creek enters the final set of ledges, which can be run right down the tongue. Just be sure to keep your nose up or prepare for a ride.

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(19 within a 30 mile radius)

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