Longtime readers and those who have read the guidebook know that I’m not big on packraft beta. The judgment that comes running with first descent eyes is a prerequisite in the wilderness, and a major part of my decision to put the guide out at all was to drive education as packrafting gets (a bit?) more popular. That said, I think about everyone 5 years ago expected packrafting to grow faster than it has, at least insofar as backcountry is concerned. That time may have belatedly come, as Alpacka is currently running a 4 month waiting list. What sort of boom might the Bob see this summer?
Last summer a friend of a friend took a swim in lower Youngs Creek. lost his boat, and had a good scare. A friend and I ran Youngs this past week, had our own adventure (more later), and got a good look at the log which prompted the Forest Service to leave to signs (propped on sticks) at different spots before the Youngs crux, warning of what is downstream.
I’ve always been ambivalent about Youngs. On the one hand it is a fun and gorgeous stretch. On the other, it is not a trivial section, with a few tricky moves and, especially at even moderate flows, a lot of push. Calling the South Fork of the Flathead wilderness flatwater may be accurate relative to something like the Middle Fork of the Salmon, but there are enough exceptions that especially for novices the phrase misleads, drastically. Youngs Creek could have a lot of carnage this year if runoff doesn’t move the log. Enough that I am moved to be specific.
There are actually two logs (red marks at left photo). The first is a mature lodgepole spanning almost the whole river right below The Pool, a large and later in the summer gorgeously clear eddy at the end of a long riffle. The danger here is twofold, as running right in the riffle will put you straight into the log, and while running left provides a good setup, you still might not see the log until you’re already parked far river left. The second log is a broken up larger spruce, which also almost spans the whole river. Portaging is possible, but brushy, on either side.
Either log could and very possibly will move in the next six weeks. There is still a lot of snow in the mountains. Perhaps more significant, the record wind storms we had in west-central Montana in January and February (multiple 80+ year old trees were blown over here in town) appear to have been widespread across the southern Bob complex, at least. We experienced exceptional blowdown and deadfall everywhere we went this past week, and a good bit of that will necessarily end up in the rivers.
As always, pay attention and be proactive.