The first descent of the headwaters of Marble Creek was made in June of 2017 by Coeur d'Alene paddlers
Todd Hoffman and Chris Celentano. The run has three distinct sections, each with a slighty different
character. The first section. from the Duplex Creek Splash Dam to Splash Dam 2, contains
nearly continous class IV whitewater. The second, from dam 2 to dam 3 has slightly longer
distances between the drops, but the drops are bigger and more distinct than in the first section.
In the last section, from dam 3 to the take out, gradient continues to
diminish, but there are a still a few major, standout rapids.
The first 1/4 mile below Duplex Creek Dam is a long series of rapids that essentially flow into each other. At lower flows the section is manageable class III/IV, and it's possible to eddy above most drops in a somewhat controlled fashion. At higher flows, large stopper holes start to form, eddies become almost non-existant and velocity picks up considerably (at high flows I'd rate it a very solid class IV if not higher, given the lack of eddies).
The very first rapid contains a couple of fairly large ledge holes / boulder drops and runs
straight into the next drop, which also has some retentive holes to watch out for. The third drop
is on a long straight away that makes a right hand bend into the fourth drop, which has a couple
of big hits at higher flows. The last drop is a long section of continuous class III+ through a long,
open S turn. As the gradient backs off here, there is a large vertical wall on river right. When you see it,
start getting ready for splash Dam #2.
The second Splash dam (see above photo) is a very hazardous mandatory portage. It is impossible to boat scout,
and running it blind would be disasterous. You absolutely must eddy out well above it, which means knowing
exactly where you are on the river. A few hundred yards above the dam in an indistinct section of canyon, the river splits
into two channels around a very long island. Eddy out immedeatly on river left above the Island as
high up as you can. Both channels quickly increase in gradient, making them a point of no return for
being fed into the dam.
The river right channel flows against a vertical wall, and ends by spilling over a 4 to 5 foot ledge
formed of sketchy logs. The river left channel makes a sharp righthand dogleg against a huge
boulder, then feeds immedeately into the ruins of the dam (which is where the two channels flow back
together). We made a miserable, long portage on river left. On an earlier scouting / hiking trip, I
had taken special care to mark the eddy above the dam on my wrist mounted gps, which I carry on
the river. I was glad I did, as it would be very easy to get caught off guard and get sucked
into the dam, especially at higher flows.
Immedeateley Below the second dam there are quite a few big drops. The first is a long, bedrock slide / ledge (Class IV). Lower down is Double Drop, a distinct, two-part ledge drop. We were able to boat scout many drops in this section, but a few require out of boat scouting. At higher flows, there would be some very committing read and run boating involved between dam 2 and 3.
The third splash dam is a much larger structure than the first two dams. There is a channel on river
left that was runnable on our first descent. Not far below here the river splits into several
braids, and the river bottom is composed of very large bouldery material, which caused the channels to dry out
for several hundred yards. Luckily, the river soon enters another gorge and channels back up. Major rapids
in this section include a 90 degree headwall (class III at low flow),
and a narrow, vertically-walled mini gorge that terminates in a very tight constriction rapid.
The constriction is class III at low flows, but it looks like it could become rowdy out higher levels.
If the constriction were blocked by wood, things could get very ugly.
On our first descent, one rapid in this section had a river-wide piece of wood. I barely made a tiny eddy above it by clinging onto brush and rolling out of my boat. When I crawled up the bank - to my great surprise - I was a few feet away from a large black bear that was facing the opposite direction. After a few heart stopping seconds, I yelled and the bear took off like a rocket.
There is a staff gauge on the upstream river right side of the bridge at the take out. A now defunct electronic gauge that operated at the site can be seen just downstream from the bridge on river right in a small turn out along the river. This is also the launch site for lower, upper marble. Minimum level is around 1.6 on the staff gauge.
|Ave Gradient:||75 fpm|
Accessing upper, upper Marble Creek requires backpacking your boat in roughly 6 miles on trails 251 and
261 - with substantial elevation gain - to Duplex Cabin (see photo). Getting to the launch site from
the cabin requires bushwacking and dragging your boat another 1/4 mile down steep hillsides through
dense timber and brush to the Duplex Creek splash dam. It is best to plan on hiking in the day before,
camping at Duplex cabin, then descend to the river the next morning to complete the run. Even with plenty
of scouting and portaging dam 2, the run can be completed in a single day.
The take out is located where Forest Road 321 (FR321 / Marble Creek Road) crosses Marble Creek roughly XX Miles above the confluence with the St. Joe river. This is also a trailhead for trail 261, though it is not where the hike in starts. There is a small takeout beach just downstream from the bridge on river right. Don't block access if you park here as this is also the put in for the lower, upper Marble Creek.
To get to the put in out, return downriver on road 321 for roughly XX miles to road 216. Continue up
216 for around XX miles, watching carefully for the poorly marked trailhead for trail 251. There is small
turnout at the trailhead big enough to 2 or 3 vehicles. Load up your gear and head down 251 until it's junction
with 261. Note that there are several unmarked trails near the junction of 251 and 261, and its VERY easy to
get turned around here. Once you're on trail 261 head East. You can't see the river from the junction. Trail 251
continues to Splash Dam #3, which is located near the mount of Cornwall Creek.
In first mile on 261, the trail fords Homestead Creek, a sizeable tributary that can be extremely
dangerous to wade at high flows. Unfortunately, paddling across it is not possible. On my first attempt
at running upper, upper Marble I was turned back here by high water, and had to stash my boat and return
a week later when flows had receded. From Homestead Creek, the trail climbs from 3,720 feet for
a couple of miles before flattening out at about 4,400 feet. Duplex creek is the next sizable
tributary you'll hit on the hike in.
On the uphill side of the trail at Duplex Creek is an historic camp, which is now frequently used by
horse outfitters. There is a huge, flat camp site on the top of a small meadow that isn't easily
visible from the trail. The ruins of Duplex Cabin are tucked back in the draw, and the creek
now flows right through it. There is usually a large cache of equipment and cordwood
at the camp. On my first scouting trip in to upper, upper Marble I found lots of snow morels here.
From the camp, the best place to start bushwacking down to the river is actually 300 to 400 yards back down the trail in the long flat section before Duplex Creek. The grade is fairly gentle most of the way, and the brush and timber are manageable. Its best to have the put in location marked on your GPS, as its easy to drift off course as you make your way down hill. Keep your group close together as you descend to avoid getting separated.
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Copyright Todd Hoffman 2009 - All Rights Reserved