Thursday, May 24, 2007

Cameron Creek, AB - Canada

In the goodness of Cameron Creek, Alberta - Canada

Cameron Creek and his rookie status remain fairly static due to the remote yet accessible Alberta prairie-mountain zone where the number of National Parks outnumber the representing creekboaters. In fact if this quaint little tributary of Waterton Lake was situated a few miles to the south in Montana, perhaps the run would have a greater reputation from the western boating community.

Nevertheless for a run located in the far southwest corner of the Canadian Rockies, Cameron Creek will remain a roadside playground for those looking for quality drops under looming windswept peaks and canyon walls.

Keeping the hands away from Razor Ramone

Over the past couple of weekends Cameron has been dubbed 'creek of the week' by a select few who have been keen to run BC class V but ultimately have been shut down thanks to record snowpack melting in the hot spring sun. Although creeks in the East Kootenays and Idaho panhandle have been chugging since early May, the other side of the mountains in Alberta have seen water levels remain consistent.

If you're coming from any direction to paddle you will still have to cruise the open prairie landscape until you see the mountains rise up out of nowhere. Waterton Park has only one entrance and you also will need to pay the national park fees. Once you near the townsite look for a quick right turn that steepens up a set of switchbacks. On the second switchback (nearest the canyon) pull over and have a look at unrunnable Cameron Falls. Here the creek makes a final plunge to the valley floor off an immense slide shelf in ugly fashion. After the switchbacks you will see a pullout on the left overlooking the canyon. If you are doing the main run this will unfortunately be your steep heave-ho takeout up a mixture of scree and bush.

Shon Cottrill finishes up Aldridge.

Continue driving another 6km up past McNeally's picnic area where the creek looks mellow. Another pullout on the left overlooks Aldridge. Put in here and have a good look at this rapid as it contains a couple of tight moves around some piton rocks at the top. If Aldridge looks scary, you might best reconsider paddling that day or at least go for the Cameron 'light' section. Beyond Aldridge is gentle 5 -1o minute float until the river turns right and enters the canyon. Once horizon lines start to appear be on the lookout for Wild Thing and scout on the left. Wild Thing rocks of a double ledge before turning into a sweet slide and might be the best drop on the run.

Just downstream is another double ledge within tight walls. The line is straight forward but is best scouted from the road on the way up. Hanging out in this pool below requires the decision of calling it a 'light' day and taking the easy hike out or getting the full Cameron admission. Not far below in the lower canyon is a committing cave drop that needs medium or lower flows. Look for a hard scout left wall just above a 20 footer with most of the flow going into a doom-room. Safety can be set up on the ledge that creates the cave but it will be in the hands of the first boater to style things up right. Watch for a log spanning the creek just below this and portage carefully.

Mikkel St. Jean on the crux cave drop

Once you are out of this mini box gorge the valley gets deeper but the road remains accessible high above on river left. Cameron Creek becomes the most fulfilling at this point as another half dozen crystal clean drops present themselves for more smiles and friendly hoots.

At the end is Razor Ramone, an ugly horseshoe ledge with a rock fin parallel to the line. Takeout above or below this rapid unless you are feeling like another go at tougher drops and scary portages for the final several hundred meters up to the brink of Cameron Falls.
Special thanks to Shon 'Flex' Cotrill for the snaps.

Map of the Waterton area

View Cameron Creek (IV-V) in a larger map