Six day multiday Johansen Creek-Sustut River-Skeena River

In late July 2004 9 paddling friends from around BC joined together for an excellent multiday kayak trip from Johansen Lake into Johansen Creek into the Sustut River into the mighty Skeena River.  The trip was done (Sustut down) by Lothar a few years before and he recommended it as one of the best multidays he had done.  At the time Lothars team thought they were doing a first descent until they flew into Sustut Lake stopped at a hunters cabin and found  writing on the wall of the cabin stating that a german group had paddled the river just one year earlier.  Thank you to Mark Gale for the trip notes to refresh my memory of the fine details of the trip and to Steve Whittal and Alistair Champion to providing the pictures.

After a few days of paddling some classic creeks, kitnawakwa(spelling)

 etc Shane, Alistair and I take our shuttle driver Fernando for the long trip to Johannson Lake.  On the way we make a quick stop to run east boulder and then back on the road.

Jason at the lip of blue fungus waterfall-east boulder creek

Jason at the lip of blue fungus waterfall-east boulder creek

  We turn off towards Fort Saint James and then keep going past along the Kemess mining road until finally we make it to Johansson Lake.  We left Terrace at some crazy early time and get to Johansson Lake at dusk.  Fully preparing to set up tent at the lake we find a well stalked cabin start a fire and start eating mr noodles.  Living the dream already. 

Fernando and Jason enjoying dinner of champions

Fernando and Jason enjoying dinner of champions

That night we are treated to an awesome display by mother nature as it pours rain with the biggest thunder and lightning storm I have ever experienced.  In the morning pilot Wendel with AlpineAir dropped the rest of the crew off.  Jean, Mark, Steve, Lotar, Pat, Joe had a great flight and were ready to hit the water.

The rest of the crew arrives in style!

The rest of the crew arrives in style!

  As with most multiday trips I’ve done with Steve he popped out of the plane with a boat he hadn’t paddled in years and still needed to outfit it.  He is definitely the king of fitting a lot into life.

Shane, Alistair and I  start out down Johansen Creek, with the rest of the group starting an hour later.  Johansen Creek was mostly 27 Km of flat meandering creek.  One short section of low volume, boulder strewn Class 3 creeking.

Pat on Johansen Creek, Day 1

Pat on Johansen Creek, Day 1

We were all happy to get to camp on Day 1 just upstream of the confluence of Johansen and the Sustut River, none more so than Lothar who was paddling the 250 pound freefall loaded with mexican food and booze.  Definitely point and shoot boating for Lothar on day 1.  Camp was excellent with pebbles for our tents and sweet views in all directions.  Huge amount of food and drink consumed by all.

camp after day 1

camp after day 1

Day 2 was a good one.  We reach the confluence of the sustut river and are greeted with busy fun class 3 and incredible views.  To River left is the Sustut mountain Range, Savage on the right, bigger than expected.

Jason and Shane taking it all in

Jason and Shane taking it all in

Some of the group saw a grizzly in the shadows as we paddled down.

Joe paddling fun stuff day 2

Joe paddling fun stuff day 2

mark, morning day 2

mark, morning day 2

After lunch we reached our first major canyon, Lothar’s group had portaged this canyon on their trip and at first look of the first drop it looked like this might be our fate as well.

the crew scouting the first drop in the first canyon

the crew scouting the first drop in the first canyon

Most of the water sieved out under a massive boulder on the right with tree sized logs sticking out from under the rock.  Alistair, with a bad ankle that doesn’t like hiking was into making this canyon go. 
Shane and Alistair paddled over to the left side of the rapid for a look at a left side run down this massive drop.  The rest of the crew paddled over to river left to take a look as well.   Alistair and Shane were convinced that the sneak on the far left of the rapid was wide enough for a boat to pass through. Alistair, Mark and Shane were quick to run the drop and made it look easy. 

Mark entering the first rapid of the first canyon, Sustut River

Mark entering the first rapid of the first canyon, Sustut River

Alistair heading left for the 8 foot sneak boof

Alistair heading left for the 8 foot sneak boof

Alistair home free!

Alistair home free!

Everyone else was convinced to run it although I was still wavering.  Just then Pat’s boat slipped off shore and started floating towards the rapid.  There was no way anyone could get into their boat and save it in time.  Pat had images of a very long walk out in bear country.  Amazingly though the ghost boat found the perfect line and made it to the bottom eddy with only a minor bow dent to show for it.  I figured if a boat could float the right line then I should be OK!  With a little rope work Pat was able to get down to his boat, very happily I might add!  The next rapid we scouted from the right, most of the rapid slammed onto a rock but the right slot was the line.  It looked relatively easy but seemed to push most people into the right canyon wall in the runout.  All went well for everyone though.

Steve bracing for all shes worth, second drop first canyon, sustut r

Steve bracing for all shes worth, second drop first canyon, sustut r

Lothar ready to get his face wet

Lothar ready to get his face wet

After that the canyon opened up for a bit.  We took a quick break and Joe and Shane were successful fishing.  About 4 Km downstream the canyon closed up again and one more sweet drop was had.  An 8 foot ledge which we all ran right down the middle.

hanging out below a sweet ledge, great way to finish day 2

hanging out below a sweet ledge, great way to finish day 2

Mark getting air time on the ledge, end of day 2 Sustut River

Mark getting air time on the ledge, end of day 2 Sustut River

Day three started with some pretty canyon flats.  Soon though we were into some fun Class four.  Each rapid seemed to get progessively harder until we got to a big class 5.  The right side pushed into a couple of huge holes.  Scuba gear would be a good addition to run the rapid on the right.  The left side was the best line but had some issues.  You had to enter with a boof from the left ledge, then down the middle a bit to avoid an ugly rock sieve on the left then cut back left in front of a house rock.

looking back upstream at this big class 5 on Sustut River

looking back upstream at this big class 5 on Sustut River

A couple of folks including myself walked the rapid.  Most ran it without issue.  The most interesting and exciting line happened to Jean.  As he was landing from the top ledge a salmon jumped in front of his face.  Loosing focus Jean got pushed up against the front of the sieved rock on the left.  Safety was there though and with Jean politely asking the boys to push him away from the sieve they succeeded and he finished the rapids clean.

Jean landing after the first ledge

Jean landing after the first ledge

Jean being helped off the sieved rock by Joe and Shane

Jean being helped off the sieved rock by Joe and Shane

Day 4-6 of the trip it was all about friendly, fun mother skeena.  There were so many incredible surf waves and holes.  If only we were in play boats!  We still had a blast in the creekers though.

The mighty Skeena after the Sustut confluence

The mighty Skeena after the Sustut confluence

Joe surfing on the Skeena

Joe surfing on the Skeena

Pat rippen

Pat rippen

Sweet Skeena River

Sweet Skeena River

Steve enjoying the moment

Steve enjoying the moment

Last obstacle on the Skeena

Last obstacle on the Skeena

Lothar's awesome girlfriend Deb, meets us with beers at the takeout

Lothar's awesome girlfriend Deb, meets us with beers at the takeout

We haul the boats up Damsumlo bridge, mission accomplished!

We haul the boats up Damsumlo bridge, mission accomplished!

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Above, the A team, on the log from left to right Shane, Steve, Lothar, Jean, Jason, Mark.  In front Pat and Alistair.  In back Joe.

To finish, a great multiday that was enjoyed by all skill levels, a highlight for me was having a couple of black bears swimming across the skeena, one in front of me one behind.

We started the trip in early August, it provided perfect flows for the Sustut and Skeena but was a little low for Johannsen Creek.  For a strong group I think earlier season trips at higher flows are possible and would also make Johannson Creek more fun. 

 Looking for a new multiday, this ones worth doing!

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4 Responses to “Six day multiday Johansen Creek-Sustut River-Skeena River”

  1. James Van den Broek Says:

    Sweet write up and pretty cool trip by the signs of it..

    Summer of 2004 right? Just after Terrace PP? If so have a feeling that we were talking to Joe then about our trip down the Babine (me and 2 Irish lads) and he mentioned we should ditch the Babine and hook up for your trip- I think the long long drive was the trip puller at short notice with most of them flying up!Oh well Babine was cool even if this sounds better!! Next time hopefully for me!!who knows my plans summer of 2009 but some multiday trips in BC be awesome!

    • jcathers235 Says:

      Thanks James, I remember seeing you folks at the party now, I would highly recommend the trip if you came up here again. Hey whats your cell phone # and where are we staying in flagstaff.
      Cheers jay

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