The Guidebook

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Monday, November 30, 2009

The End Of The Ashlu

It ain't over 'til it's over. Well, it's over. Here, my friends, is all that remains of mighty Ashlu Creek.

This past weekend a few of us drove up the Squamish valley trying to squeeze the last little bit of life out of the fall boating season. There was no firm destination set - Fear Canyon had water for sure (as I write this I'm watching Cody's latest movie and the segment with Fear Canyon in it: funny coincidence) - but as always the gravity of the Ashlu pulled us up there at least to eyeball the flows.

It was an inevitable outcome at this point, but none the less not one we've wanted to meet. Getting to the twin bridges the river was suprisingly full - it looked like the Box or the Mine would be a real possibility. However, rounding the corner we came upon the heartbreaking sight of the powerhouse at the end of the Bottom Mile generating power - our first sight of the dewatered Ashlu.

Give them flak if you like, but in my experience the workers at the construction site have always been friendly and excited to see kayakers. Sunday was no different - we stopped and chatted with the few remaining folks around and they explained that they were running a 72 hour test of the dam, ramping up to full capacity. I'm not sure if this is the first time the diversion was operational or not, but it can only mean that whenver there's water from now on it will be in the pipe, not the riverbed. Here's the scene at the now completed dam. Notice the lack of water in the riverbed and the tiny flow coming through the pipe - I suppose this is the fish flow. Certainly not enough flow to make the Box or Bottom Mile runnable when there isn't enough water to overwhelm the diversion. There was a lot more water coming in to the lake - the Mine would have been at a nice flow but it was inaccessible because of snow.

There is also this interesting device in the valley - there is one at the start of the Bottom Mile and another at the start of the Box. These appeared some time in August or September.

Yes - the Ashlu now has an audible kayak warning system - I guess it's like an air raid siren for boaters in the canyon. When power generation stops I suppose this thing sounds with the intention of warning boaters of the impending tsunami of whitewater. Get out while you can! As everyone knows, you can just jump right out of the water while in the Box and scamper to safety. What is more likely is that this will deafen every living creature in the forest and the boaters on the water will hear nothing, being left instead to be swept away by a torrent of mud, logs and water. Anyways, how good can a siren be when it's not even plugged in?

In all seriousness, this system is better than nothing, and it might just be that it is within earshot to boaters on the river. It would certainly let you know trouble might be a brewin' if it goes off while you're getting set to go. In reality, the risk of an unexpected and severe jump in flow will forever be a consideration when paddling the Mini-Mine, Box and Bottom Mile from now on. Having bumped into a friendly dude/dam worker while recharging a flat battery on one of our cars, it was explained the plug on the siren is acutually to re-charge the otherwise solar-powered siren battery during the extended periods of cloud that persist in southwest BC. Hopefully this is the normal procedure...

The comissioning of the Ashlu dam is undoubtedly going to have an effect on the boating season of the river. At this point it's still anyone's guess as to how much things will change. High water Mine/perfect water Box is one exciting outcome. Will there be scheduled releases down the Mini-Mine, Box and Bottom Mile as promised on the Ashlu IPP website? If there will be releases it will be a welcomed concession, at least by me. Does anyone out there in blog-land know anything about this?

Back to our visit - all was not lost. Despite the dismal stream of water coming out of the dam that equated to not near enough water to boat on, the copious rainfall of the previous few days had the side creeks raging and the river was charged up enough after a few km to have good water for the Bottom Mile. This was my fourth run down this section, and it was fun as always - the level was perfect. It was obviously a rainy, very gray day and I only got one decent photo of the run.

And to end it all off, here's a photo of the water being returned to the river at the end of the Bottom Mile. A lot of water goes in the pipe.

That's it for today. While it is sad to see the river change the way it has, this place will still be one where I'll be spending more than a few days once again in 2010. Also, if you're interested there are some quick notes posted to the guide about Silverhope Creek out near Hope in the Fraser Valley.


Anonymous said...

Steve, usually love checking your blog and site -- not so much today.

I'm feeling the don't shoot the messenger, but after seeing that photo of the dam and the dry river bed I'm hurting. Gutted.


Brandon said...

DAMN... *(or Dam..)

[ CRYING..... ]