Beech Creek Trip Report 1994


An email discourse between Shelby D. Johnson & Tom Lewis following a Beech Creek outing.

(EDITOR'S NOTE: Those of you with a high level of sensitivity might want to avoid the last half of this article containing Tom Lewis' colorful descriptions of various bodily functions. You have been forewarned, so don't e-mail me complaining about how filthy the Net is, etc., etc.)


We got down to the putin' and got on probably around 9:30ish after about 15 minutes into the run the group was a little strung out and it was raining so hard that visibility went to hell. The lead group eddy'ed out underneath the really big bluff on river right just a mile or so from the putin.

When the other group caught up we took off. About a half mile below that Wade Colewell broached in a slot above a drop in a real nasty spot. Things looked deadly for a minute or two, Ted C. and I scrambled, clambered, up on the boulders above the broach. Wade kept his wits and was able to drive his paddle against the boulder and shoved his bow free, the water lined him up he rock braced all the way down the drop and was free.

Just shortly after Wade C's broach. I was following Green, Randy Jackson, and Ted. I saw stern's dissappearing over the horizon. I lined up on the same line. I came over about a 3-footer, and jammed the bow into a rock just under the foam pile. When I hit it my right side foot peg, just went out from under me. The water surged around me, and spun me off the rock into side-surfed me in the hole. Blake hot on my heels had no time to eddy out above and ran right over the top of my stern.

Everyone below was wondering why I wasn't getting out of the hole. Green thought I was hot-doggin'. I was in there without one leg surfin' my ass off. I tried a number of times to back-ferry out with no luck. I would try then rest. A large boulder was on one side of the hole, and I finally tried exiting in that direction. With one huge stroke, I buried my blade deep as I could into the downstream, and lifted the edge really high. I came out but was so full of water that I fell in after an extended slow-mo brace. I tried twice to roll

Green collected my boat and Blake (DeeCab) got my paddle. I ran one more little rapid and realized I'd never make the rest of the run safely. I said goodbye to the group about 3 miles in on the upper canyon.I found a place where the bluff was only about 45 feet tall and knew my throw-rope would reach. I found a route which had some water running down a right facin diheadral. I tied the boat on to my rope did the climb free. I had three biners, one pulley, and two prussiks and set up a haul system. I was the only rock climber in the group and had it not been for those skills I would have spent much longer in the upper gorge trying to drag out. I hoisted my boat up the bluff, and then spent the next two hours dragging out up the hill to the road.

Jeff could fill you in on the rest of their run. Congratulations on getting to run it, I know you loved it.

This canyon and the creek that rages through it will haunt my memory until I enter the grave, as it will for the others fortunate enough to ever run it. I was very disappointed but I knew I couldn't go on without full boat control. I wanted it so bad. This is the second time I've had to walk out.

Sincerely, Shelby D. Johnson


Shelbnick -

You know the old "If you just let me off this river alive, Lord, I'll start going to church and take up softball" routine? Well let me tell ya, after those first three miles of "attack trees", I was entertaining all sorts of repentive scenarios. The first three miles are the price of the next five, though. Just enough to really get the hair on the back of your neck erect.

Here's the blow by blow. Charles, Lane and I are headed to Boxley via ARK 21, no way to get there by 9AM. Lane's complaining of severe headache, apparently getting car-sick. We don't stop at the Hailstone (Buffalo) bridge, though, we just point her straight up the Cave Mtn. road, gotta catch Jeff and the "guides." Lane finally says "stop the car", we jump out and stand around, nothing comes up. Two open-boaters pass us headed up the hill. "There goes today's sacrifice to the river gods," we say. Back on the road, here comes a frog-strangler. Rain coming sideways, even out of the ground. Lane has to take a shit, jumps out of the car into the storm, gets soaked, jumps back in, back out, you get the picture. Rain stops as quickly as it started. I ask the open-boaters, "Are you ready for this?", they say sure, and head on down the put-in trail. Charles and I grin at each other.

Lane finally gets an open defecation window, drops one he later says "looks like something that couldn't have come out of his body", catches a wiff of it, and blows chunks. I luckily have departed for the river. Lane, newly purged, and Charles follow me down. We eye-ball "Wake-up" or whatever it's called, run it and the "fun" starts. One canoeist is soon in the water, we get him back in, and head on down (I mean, DOWN) for about a mile through the trees to a congested right-hand turn. This one messes with everybody. Trees snatching at paddles, holes surfing boats into trees, I slam one head on, bounce off, flip, roll, and canoeist/swimmer above wraps his Mad River around same tree. Gunwales snap like toothpicks, he hikes out of river.

On dowstream, Lane's the probe, goes into a hole, comes out after a awhile, and Charles and I skirt it. Canoeist #2 gets in the hole, surfs, and swims, and flushes straight into a siphon. I see him go in from above, Charles and Lane see him pop up from below, canoeist sees God.

Up next is a rapid I'll call "Door #4", don't take doors 1-3, Charles knocks on #3 a little, enters #4 upside-down, rolls up below, no problem. I walk this one, but it wasn't that bad. A little later Charles back-enders on a tree, kayak looks like it's climbing tree, hence a new nickname, "the squirrel."

Finally out of the trees. Big drops, "Beech Ball", "Beech Falls" (our favorite), and "White Lightning" in there somewhere. Jeff, what's the slot on the right with the nasty curler on the right of the slot? Where you think you lean on the curler, but you're wrong? This one trashes everybody, I find a nice sneak to the left.

Water going in and out of caves, undercut walls, big scenery, too many drops to count. Beech Ball and Beech Falls stand out most in my mind. That big pinnacle (cliff) jutting out directly downstream in the lower canyon is the prettiest spot in the state, as far as I'm concerned. I admit I was relieved to see the tranquil valley at Boxley finally through the trees. Takeout level was 3.3.

I will not be available for any subsequent trips down Beech that involve the following: