Sycamore Creek - Mar 11, 2010 - Mesquite Wash to Sugerloaf Mountain - Part I

3/11/10 - Lyle Leslie, Daniel Soule, Jorge Ramirez, and I paddled Sycamore Creek at 350 cfs (360 when we put in and 340 when we took out) from Mesquite Wash, at highway 87, to Sugarloaf Mountain, a distance of about 5.5 miles. This section is downstream from the section mentioned in the recent kayaking book that came out. None of us had found anyone who had paddled this section before, and from reconnaissance trips, we had estimated we would need over 300 cfs to paddle this section. This creek rarely flows that high. Lyle had studied maps of this area, and was the most familiar with the area from dirt bike riding. He calculated the drop to be about 200’ in 5.5 miles. We had been watching the flow on the USGS website for weeks on this very wet year, and saw that the flow was good, so we decided the day before to take a day off of work and try it if the flow was still over 300. We checked the gauge at 6:30 am, saw that it was flowing at about 390 cfs at that time, and decided by 7:00 am to go for it. We got on the road at about 8:30.

We left vehicles at Sugarloaf and started paddling in Mesquite Creek (a tributary of Sycamore), but found Mesquite Creek to be too shallow to paddle. I broke my left paddle blade in the sand on Mesquite Creek. Only a small triangular piece remained at the end of the shaft. We had no extra paddle, but I decided to go on with the broken paddle despite the uncertainty of what lay ahead. I adopted a paddling strategy where I leaned to the right and was ready to brace on my good right blade. I found that I was able to line the boat up with waves and holes, but was slow when I had to ferry across the stream. I was still able to use the left blade, it just provided a lot less power.

We found the flow that we had to be adequate, and a good level for a first run. I would go at a little higher flow, although it would get more difficult as the flow went up and it became more pushy and developed bigger hydraulics. I probably would keep the minimum at about 300 cfs. We bumped a lot of rocks at the flow that we had. We encountered one rapid after another on this run. There were no long pools, and it was both very interesting paddling and very scenic. There were a lot of rocks in the rapids which created the greatest challenges. Some rapids were a maze through boulders, particularly near the end of the section.
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