Down Our Creek

With Canoe and Paddles

Story and Photos by Mike Cothern

For decades, I’ve made numerous hikes along this same creek, but at spots far upstream, where it cuts a deep canyon near my home. Long content to frequent familiar territory, I had recently started to wonder about what the tail end of the drainage looked like. The last section upstream of the Snake River, near Hagerman, runs through private property dotted with homes built near the creek, making any sort of hike impossible. I had heard, however, that a canoe could be maneuvered down this final stretch.

I figured that after reaching the river, we could paddle flat water downstream for several miles almost to Upper Salmon Falls. Once a fishing hotspot for native Americans, the falls served as the source for the creek’s name. After we reached this historic set of rapids, we could explore the river’s north channel, which was left exposed following the pre-World War II construction of a hydroelectric dam. But before we got the chance to experience anything else, we needed to survive floating the creek in our old, beat-up canoe.

The near-disaster on the rocks did not represent our only serious moment. We had received our first test within seconds after putting in at Miracle Hot Springs. After passing underneath the bridge that carries U.S. Highway 30 over the creek, we encountered a small rapid containing a cluster of visible boulders and an overhanging tree, which together served as a reminder that we had not shared a canoe for years. The price to pay for our rusty paddling skills was extracted by a tree branch that removed a little skin from several knuckles and my nose.

Now, as we journey downstream from our initial trouble spots,  we get hung up on another rock, which again causes a moment of panic. We round a corner, only to realize that an unidentifiable hum hanging in the air is the sound of water tumbling over a three-foot stone ledge. We barely maneuver the canoe to the bank in time to make a portage around the falls.

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