Whale Creek

The following trip report and photos were provided by Evan Topinka.

Whale Creek is a tributary of the Clackamas River.

Approach:
From Portland; head East on Highway 224 through the town of Estacada. Follow 224 until you see signs for Indian Henry Campground. The road splits just prior to a bridge and the right heads to Indian Henry CG. There is a parking lot at a trailhead for the Clackamas River Trail - park here. If you enjoy bushwhacking thousands of feet uphill in marginal terrain pick a ridge on the east or west side of the creek and have at it - we did not try this. Otherwise, drop one car here and backtrack on 224 and head South on Fish Creek Road. At the end of Fish Creek Road slide left onto F.S. Road 5410. Following this road involves a few major junctions: at 1.2 miles from the Fish Creek Rd./5410 junction take the right, 2.2 miles after that take the left, 2.7 miles later take the left fork, from this junction follow 5410 until it dead ends where the road has been decommissioned. 5410 is passable in a sedan. However, there are a few sketchy spots that may require ground guiding to avoid tearing up your undercarriage.

Descent:
The route we took starts here by bushwhacking downhill to the southeast. The first part is brushy, mainly rhododendrons and small evergreens, but about halfway to the creek the forest opens up and the route is mostly friendly duff. Once you have gained the creek the first obstacle will be a 15 foot falls. This is anchored by a small tree on the left. The next falls is about 25 feet and can be down climbed on steep terrain to the left. Shortly after is the largest falls on the creek with a height of 250-270 feet. This obstacle has been descended in a few ways.

On the first trip there was not enough rope to drop the falls so we followed the cliff band left (uphill!) until we found a tributary stream and followed that down. This route entails multiple drops down a tiered falls. For the second attempt we dropped a 300 ft rope down the main falls.

***Be warned that the ledge before the bottom overhang on this falls has very sharp rock***

The second individual in the party found a complete sheath separation in the rope and had to be hauled back up. It was very exiting... The third way -- so far -- to descend this falls is to follow the cliff band about a hundred feet to the left and rappel in two pitches, both anchored by trees. This falls in my opinion is arguably the most scenic in the entire Clackamas drainage and the amphitheatre and cave behind are absolutely amazing -- razor sharp flakes notwithstanding.

Continuing down stream the next major falls is about 80-90 feet and anchored from a tree on the left. The next major is 70-80 feet, anchored farther from the lip and descended on cliffs to the right. The anchor placement for this should probably be revised due to an unfriendly pull. The last falls is much fun! It starts with a 10 foot drop that is down climbed to the right of a log jammed into the base of the falls. This log anchors the next falls ~25 feet. Around the bend is the final technical drop on the creek which stands at about 60 feet tall. Anchor is a deadfall and rock pinch in the stream. You will head down a 15 foot chute that funnels into an overhang. You will be in the main flow and it will be fun unless you try this during periods of high water.

After this drop there is more of the typical northwest small stream log hopping, stepping stone dancing, under-deadfall-scurrying travel. It takes about a half hour to make it to the Indian Henry parking lot in daylight, much longer after dark sharing one headlamp. In between the major falls there are a few more smaller drops that are unfortunately undocumented but only took a quickly draped hand line, releasable anchor, or down climb to manage.

Allow at least 6 hours for descent. You can expect to make 7 rappels. The first descent was done in shorts as it was 95 degrees. Temperature wise we were OK, but our legs looked like they lost a fight with a feline. Wetsuits are probably advisable on most days. Take at least 70 feet of webbing for complete anchor replacement. Two 60 meter ropes will cover your rappels unless you feel you must rappel the big fall directly which will necessitate a 300 foot rope plus pull.

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