A Turkey Creek Shut-ins Christmas Eve Present

By Kevin Olson (Riverlog 1982 or 1983?)

(Note: this is the Riverlog story referred to by Herm Smith in the next account of Turkey’s First Descent)

Christmas eve 1982 brought a special present to Janet Burnside, Herm Smith, Paul Kreuet, and Kevin Olson. We rendezvoused at the Silver Mines store because the Francis was three-fourths of the way up the hill on D (15-20 feet over the low water bridge???). Our plan was to attempt the Turkey Creek shut-ins from 72 if the water was high enough — was it ever! The farmer on the right side of the 72 bridge let us park in his driveway although he thought we were looney. We put on about noon in rainy 68 degree warmth. The water was just barely below the 5 foot high cow gate below the 72 bridge. The first mile of water is flat and required squeezing under, over and around five cow fence-gates. The actions starts immediately after the fifth gate.

Stan Stoy and I had scouted the shut-ins in October so I led the way. I warned the group that the eddies would be few and small and scouting mandatory at several spots. Just below the last gate we encountered 1/4th mile of “warm-up” class II action before the bottom dropped out — the next half mile drops 100 feet! I eddied out on river left just above the first major drop. Paul came barreling down, missed an eddy, was committed and flipped over in a giant hole half-way down the first drop. He self-rescued himself while his boat plummeted down the stream. Janet tried to make an eddy already occupied by Kevin, and she ended up flipping over on a pillow off a boulder, but rolled immediately and continued on to an eddy where we scouted the second major drop with Paul designated as permanent safety rope thrower since his boat was nowhere to be found. This second drop was the thrill of the day. It was a 100 yard run with huge holes and waves which required precise maneuvering to avoid getting tangled in willows. It was much like a slalom course where the penalty for missing the “gate” was entrapment or death. Janet said that this run was the first time she valued her gate work at Madawaska last Summer.

At the bottom of the second drop we eddied out left to scout the rapids just beyond the hair-pin left curve. The better part of valor saw us walk this one. When Stan and I scouted this one we were most concerned about it. The water careens off a gigantic boulder in mid-stream 20 feet past the hair-pin curve. The water pillows off the rock, which is badly undercut. If you take the right channel you end up smashed into willows. If you take the left one, you need to hope you aren’t “pillowed” sideways into one of the two willows about four feet apart. The fourth rapid is sort of a mirror image of Bull Sluice. The water drops 90 degrees off a granite outcropping into a boiling hole on the river right and then a few more feet into a “pool.” The fifth major drop requires drawing left to avoid a tree partly across the river and then a drop into large holes and waves. We found Paul’s boat somewhere above this point and easily extracted it from the willows. It will require some work on the deck to fix a hole but otherwise was in good shape. After the fifth drop the river would be considered class II save for the fact that it widens and smashes among large trees. After 100 yards of “tree billiards” it suddenly stopped just above the Turkey Creek picnic area ford. The Francis was somewhat anti-climatic after Turkey — wide, huge waves with the mandatory dam portage.

We all agreed that Turkey was a beautiful gift from the river gods. Originally I thought you could do Turkey with less water but we believe we had optimal levels. The extra water raises the ACA rating into the 30’s for skills needed to IV (V). It is too tight for anything but K-1’s.