Ship Creek is my favorite. The upper section (see Brad M.'s post below) is great for beginners at low water (i.e. May & Sept) and for intermediates at high water (June & July).
The section downstream of the Arctic to Indian Trail is pretty darn radical. I think in a packraft it is harder than 6 Mile, a run I have made 4 times now (each canyon packrafted at least three times). That middle section of Ship Creek is just unrelentingly steep, rocky, woody and technical.
But the last, lower canyon, the one that’s about a mile long just upstream of the Reservoir is pretty much my favorite stretch of whitewater anywhere. The first time my son ran it when he was 16 he said it was the most fun he’d ever had in his life. It’s hard though! In my enthusiasm I have taken maybe 15 different people down it over the last four years, mostly below 5 feet on the NOAA guage (http://aprfc.arh.noaa.gov/ahps2/hydrograph.php?wfo=pafc&gage=shia2&view=1,1,1,1,1,1,1,1), but at least once at 5.2 to 5.3 feet (with Thai Verzone who looked freaked). Most have chosen not to come back, but a handful have found it to be as exciting as I do.
Recently, several people have been flipping and swimming in the first section of the canyon, called “Tunnel Visison” by Tim Johnson in his new whitewater guidebook. Since 2004 there’s been a log extending all the way across. At flows above 5.2 feet, it was possible to boat over it, but below 5 feet, the strainer needed a portage. While I sort of liked the log as it offered up an interesting portage, others have been working on getting it out-- notably Brad M.
So after witnessing a nasty swim under the log last week, where a head was bumped, ribs brusied, and a paddle broken, I decided that the log really did have to go.
Today I took a couple APU students into the canyon without boats and on a mission. We rappeled down over snowy slopes, dressed in dry suits and carrying saws. I slid over the log on my belly, feet downstream, and cut the thin end of the log until my saw blade bound in the water tensioned wood. Trying to free it, the saw blade broke. My APU students, Ian and Alex, lifted the log over the boulder and as they did so, the new saw cut broke and the log fell free. We pulled it up onto the river right side atop the slice of log that Brad M. cut earlier this summer.
So Tunnel Vision is clear of wood as of today.
I’m going in tomorrow to run the whole thing.