Brief No. 011
DFKWA: Baldface Creek – Part I
There is no beta or guide or information in regards to hiking and/or floating Baldface Creek, a tributary of the North Fork Smith River1. Zach Collier, a River Outfitter with 20-plus years experience paddling and floating all of the many known and typical-but-still-remarkable rivers in the Mythical State of Jefferson (where residents, it’s said, are likely packing both a pistol & a crystal), as well as many of the not so known and not-so-typical-but-still-remarkable rivers, has, in the last ten years, attempted Baldface on three separate occasions, two different ways, and was turned back each time because of snow. The creek is only floatable in the winter when it rains heavily and where in the higher elevations it snows heavily. The unmarked trail down and into the creek branches off an unimproved forest road twelve miles in, the last four of which lie past a permanently closed POC (Port Orford Cedar) gate.2. In the winter and into the spring the road is covered in snowpack two or three feet deep, with drifts on the north slope and in the shade as deep as four or five feet
For reasons related to American River’s naming of Baldface to the MER (Most Endangered Rivers) list, and for documentation in regards to the Kalmiopsis Wilderness Area Expansion Efforts, we needed to reconnoiter the creek. For tactical reasons we decided to hike, not float, Baldface. A date in early March was was chosen, weather was watched, flow was monitored, and three days before our departure, the date was moved to mid March. Again, weather was watched and flow was monitored, and again the date was pushed back due to unfavorable weather conditions and limited contingencies regarding possible high-flow and gorging-out. Once again, weather was watched, flow was monitored and but this time inflatable pack-rafts were organized, which rafts would prove invaluable if not absolutely and utterly necessary.
- Despite running its course in California, the river depends on tributaries throughout the Oregon Siskiyou Mountains. The river contains not a single dam along its entire length. Wikipedia [↩]
- The US Forest Service maintains a large number of gates—some temporary and some permanent—in order to limit access and slow the spread of Port Orford Cedar root disease, which can kill trees of any size and age. More information. [↩]