Douglas Creek is a neighbor of the ever famous Rogers Creek, the instant-ultra-classic run with the back to back to back triple set of 20 footers, and one of the most magical places anywhere. With Rogers two drainages to the north, and Big Silver with all of its waterfalls two drainages to the south, we figured that Douglas had to be good. Tucked into a distant corner of the BC mountains and accessible only by 70 miles of dirt forest roads, the small town of 3-4 houses in Port Douglas and a remote logging camp at Tipella were formerly the only signs of civilization in the area. Our efforts to make it to Douglas in 2006 were thwarted when we attempted to make it through the small gated native village at Port Douglas. This time we planned to search for a launch site on the opposite side of Harrison Lake near the logging camp at Tipella, paddle three miles across Harrison Lake and up into Little Harrison Lake, and then hike the creek to see what we could find. We would first camp near Tretheway Creek for the night so that we could get a fresh start in the morning.
Upon arriving in the area and crossing the Fire Creek bridge over the Lillooet, we began to sense that something was amiss. The road up Fire Creek was tremendously improved, and there were construction signs everywhere. We began to suspect that Fire Creek was being dammed and diverted. Although it was explored once years ago by a crew lead by Dave Norell, Fire was determined not to be a great kayak run, although it was an incredible place.
Driving further down the Lillooet Valley on river right to Harrison Lake, we were shocked to see similar construction signs on Tipella Creek.
On a tip from Daniel DeLaVergne, I had taken a group to check out the bottom falls on Tipella back in 2002. Bo Wallace fired off the first D, followed by Matt Sheridan, Dinver McClure, and myself. Although the drops immediately above looked too steep to run, I always wondered if there were more goods upstream. Upon trespassing and driving upstream this time, what we found was definitely far from good.
The way these "green" power projects work is that the water is diverted using a small dam at the top of the hill. It runs through a pipe that is buried underground. Burying the pipe creates a giant swath of destruction down the hill and huge permanent scars on the mountains that can be seen for miles. At the bottom of the hill, the water is fed into a turbines housed in large power plants, and then dumped back into the stream bed just before the stream dumps into the main river. The power is piped out of the "wilderness" in high tension lines that now connect all the way through the lower Lillooet River valley from Pemberton to Harrison Hot Springs. The result is the conversion of one of our favorite beautiful wild places into a giant scarred multi-pronged power plant.
Driving further down toward Tretheway to camp out, we got a larger view of the destruction, and of our goal of Douglas Creek.
Upon seeing that Douglas was in the process of being dammed, we hoped that the road would now be open and that we could drive right to the creek. We camped out and attempted the drive in the next day. Upon arriving, there was nobody in the town of Port Douglas and nobody at the brand new power plant. We pulled up behind the plant to have a look, and were rewarded with finding one of the most beautiful triple set waterfalls that I've ever seen. This combo sported a 10 foot boof which you would land and get one stroke over a 20+ foot drop into a giant caved out room, the exit of which is a 15+ foot perfect drop. It is literally right behind the power plant. Due to the size and the caviness of the drops, we decided that there was no way to safely do a descent with only the two of us. We would have to rally support, hopefully in the week to come, for what might be a first and last descent of the waterfalls of Douglas Creek. We did some more scouting, and finally headed back out of the Lower Lillooet Valley to meet some friends who were coming for some paddling on the weekend. Maybe they would want to try Douglas with us.
Stay tuned for the River Gypsies Summer Trip Report Part 3 - Schooling and soul searching on a standard, Douglas Revisited, and what's at stake in the rush of BC Hydro development.