Kayaking Toketee Falls, Oregon
Photograph by Charlie Munsey
“At this moment I was about to toss my paddle and tuck up for landing,” says kayaker Fred Norquist. “Coming over the lip was an incredible view!”
To get to Toketee Falls, which drop more than 65 feet into the North Umpqua River, this group of five kayakers had to do rope-assisted climbing down into the gorge—which included lowering their boats as well. “Once you are in the gorge you are pretty committed to running the falls,” says the Bellingham, Washington-based paddler. “There is a 20-foot-tall waterfall shortly above this last drop. We ran the 20-footer, then ran the final drop.”
Only six people have run this waterfall. Kayaker Chris Korbulic claimed the first decent in 2011. On this spring day in April 2012, all five paddlers—including Norquist, Evan Garcia, Kyle Hull, Erik Johnson, and Sam Friehofer—had successful runs. “None of us got injured and everyone had great lines on the waterfall,” recalls Norquist, who contributes to Bomb Flow Magazine. “It was a picture perfect day.”
Getting the Shot
An Oregon native, photographer Charlie Munsey shot Toketee Falls 15 years earlier and had hoped to return to photograph a kayaker descending the impressive falls. “The main challenge of capturing this moment was the combination of getting the right water level and a group of kayakers that could mentally and physically pull it off,” says Munsey. The remote Toketee Falls are Class V rapids.
To capture the kayakers and create horizontal framing, Munsey scaled a steep cliff and set up 30 feet above the water. Kayakers at the top of the falls shouted to Munsey as Norquist approached the falls’ crest, and Munsey steadied himself to shoot. “I have to admit, the moment was so powerful that I was shaking a little bit,” he says.
Munsey took this shot with a Nikon D700 camera body and a Nikkor 70-200mm, f/2.8 lens