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Difficulty:3C1 II (v3a4 II)
Raps:7-10, max ↨130ft
Red Tape:No permit required
20 May 2023
"Flow has dropped off tremendously -- back to typical levels for this time of year. Investigated possibility of installing a new rebelay station on the
Apr - July;BEST in May - Jun
This short, fun canyon is one of the best in the Oregon coastal range. Visit in the early season to see it with good flow. Stafford usually becomes beginner-friendly by May-June. Later in the summer, the flow likely reduces to a trickle. A great early season creek for training and practice.
- Watershed: 1.25mi^2.
Stafford has been seeing increased visitation and is showing signs of abuse. Please use anchors in or adjacent to the watercourse. Climbing to trees higher up on the sides is attractive, but risks trampling vegetation and eroding the banks. Riparian environments in the Pacific NW are extremely fragile.
- Teaching people to rappel for the first time in an aquatic canyon is not a good plan. It's much safer to become fully proficient with rappel devices in a dry, controlled environment outside the canyon.
- Wrapping the rope around trees for a two strand rappel is efficient, but isn't good for the tree when you go to pull your rope. Friction damage around the back of the tree cuts into the bark. Done too many times by too many people and the tree will become girdled and eventually die. It's kinder to the tree to set an anchor or use a retrievable system.
- Two strand rappelling (as is done in alpine climbing) can be dangerous in aquatic canyons for a number of reasons. There is no easy way to lower a rappeller who becomes stuck on the rope in the middle of the pitch (ex: jammed descender). Getting stuck under a high-flow waterfall can be life-threatening.
- Beginners "leading" beginners is a common cause of accidents in canyoneering.
Follow Hwy 6 from Portland and turn off onto Larch Mountain / Drift Creek Rd. Drive down the hill, cross the bridge, and bear left at the junction to find a large parking area. From here, shuttle (or hike) 3.8mi up to the top, where you'll drop in via Stafford's eastern tributary.
- Update 2021: If you don't have a shuttle, a new mountain bike trail can be used to cut off some of the road distance. Beware bikes coming down at high speed, however.
- Be aware that target shooters occasionally set up shop along the road.
At the upper parking area, locate the big metal culvert that passes under the road and follow the use-trail that drops into the drainage. Follow it along the DCR / north side of the creek to bypass a small logjam, then drop in just below it. R1 is a short distance downstream.
Many of the anchors are intended for lower flow on the creek. Evaluate carefully whether or not to use them when flow is high. Stafford can seriously rip during flood events.
- R1: 55ft from tree DCR. A short walk below, and you'll enter the main creek and the flow will double or more.
- R2: 15ft. Human anchor in one of the pools. Drop can be carefully downclimbed or bypassed DCR.
- R3: 25ft from rootball DCR.
There's a bit of a creek walk before the next rappel.
- R4: 45ft from fallen log DCR.
- High flow: Use a tree further DCR to stay out of the torrent.
- R5: Pete's Pothole. 25ft from bolts DCR. The falls goes into a chute with a couple small potholes. The last pothole is small, but very deep (~7ft).
- High flow: Use a tree DCL to rappel out of the water.
- R6: 40ft, then a 6ft second tier which is awkward. Bolt station is on a giant boulder DCL. The lower tier can be bypassed carefully DCL while on rappel.
- R7: 50ft from bolts mid-creek.
- R8: 15ft. Can bypass or rappel from a tree DCR. With sufficient rope, it's possible to chain R7 and R8.
- R9: Stafford Falls. Rappel from a tree DCL which is set well back from the edge. This anchor requires about 130ft of rope.
- High water: climb up to a tree high DCR for a 100ft rappel out of the water. Approach to the anchor is somewhat exposed.
- R10: Twin falls 35ft from bolts in the creekbed DCR. (Please do not use the obvious trees DCL. Dippers often nest underneath the DCL falls in the spring.)
Continue down the creek to the Devil's Fork of the Wilson River. Usually, it's possible to wade/swim across and scramble up a short trail to the highway. Hike back along the shoulder of OR-6 to your car (~5min).
- If the river's running high, it's possible to bushwhack west from the top or bottom of R9.
Trip reports and media
- Karl Helser's NW Adventures : Stafford Creek Canyoneer 5-28-16
- Karl Helser's NW Adventures : Stafford Creek Canyoneer 3-18-17
Creek was first run by Keith Campbell and Karl Helser on 5/28/16.