Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Mormon Bend-Yankee Fork

Click the graphic above to see the larger version.
We plan to use a wide variety of map types to describe each section of The Salmon River.  Here, for example, is a screenshot of the Mormon Bend to Yankee Fork stretch.  This is easily the most treacherous portion of The Salmon River between Stanley and North Fork.  Yes, there are many other hazards lurking here and there along that 148-mile length of river.  However, nothing rivals the collection of various rapids in the Mormon Bend to Yankee Fork area.  Shotgun Rapid and Sunbeam Dam are the two biggest headliners here.  Each is a unique piece of water unto itself.  Sunbeam, of course, is a man-made hazard.  Even though it's been perhaps 70+ years since Sunbeam was dynamited, the breached area of the dam is downright dangerous at any water flow.  People do run Sunbeam successfully so it can be done.  Sunbeam is not for novice or even intermediate boaters.  If you make a mistake there and flip, you're going for a long swim and you could damage or even lose your equipment.

Shotgun Rapid is easily the largest natural rapid on the river between Stanley and North Fork.  There are other rated rapids on this stretch. If you plan on running Shotgun Rapid, you better be dressed for the water temperature.  In the early runoff season when the rapid is running high and mighty, this means a full dry suit with neoprene cuffs.  Don't skimp on personal protective gear.  Wear an excellent type five life jacket and have a support crew on shore ready with throw ropes and other rescue gear.  Travel with a crew of experienced boaters using the best possible whitewater equipment.

At lower flows, Shotgun arguably becomes even more dangerous because of the possibility of getting badly banged around in the rocks.  Ankle entrapment is yet another ever present danger.  Simply put, you better be on top of your game to run from Mormon Bend to Yankee Fork!

Note that there is perennial confusion about the name of the River Access Points below Sunbeam Dam.  Technically, there is a small access immediately below the confluence with the Yankee Fork.  Farther downstream at a point known as Elk Creek, there is a well-developed public River Access Point with ample parking and sanitation facilities.  The lower RAP is where the commercial outfitters put in for the next stretch.
We've seen kayakers and duckie boaters use the upper put-in but it's not as convenient and safe (parking-wise) as the lower, high-use RAP.

Some adventurous kayakers occasionally run power portions of the Yankee Fork between the dredge wasteland and the main river.  This stretch of the Yankee Fork is not for the unskilled or faint of heart.  Be sure to scout every piece of this stretch because log jams and fallen trees could mean a very disasterous end to your short excursion!

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