A Northwest Forest pass is required at the trailhead parking lot, they can be purchased on location for $5. The run requires hiking up as far as you would like to paddle. There are a few spots on the way up where the trail is blasted into the cliff. If you are using a backpack system, take care in these locations to avoid hitting the rock above with the top of your boat. It would be a disaster to loose control here and fall connected to your boat.
The run is known for its large, clean waterfalls and deep, vertical gorges. All of the waterfalls end in large pools, generally free of hazards aside from the height.
Twister Falls (Full Run): 5 ¾ miles
Skoonichuck Falls (Standard): 3 ½ miles
Punchbowl Falls (Hike & Huck): 2 miles
If you decide to hike past Twister Falls, you will find more whitewater and at least 1 large unrun (as of 2014) waterfall. There is still more to be explored up there.
Putting in at the base of Twister Falls is pretty neat, it is worth paddling to the upstream end of this pool to get a closer look at the giant. Downstream is a set of boulder gardens before reaching the first bedrock rapid. This can be run down the chute on the left, or some paddlers have chosen to run the triple drop coming in on the EF of Eagle creek instead. Shortly downstream is Grand Union Falls, a 40-50’ waterfall. The first 15 feet or so slides down a ramp into a launch pad, landing in a big pool.
Below here is a long section of boulder garden rapids before reaching a footbridge that signals the upcoming Skoonichuck falls. Most people scout this drop on the left. The first drop is about 40’ and has been run either down a ramp in the middle, or a flake on the left. Before the water has a chance to lose aeration it drops over a second 15’ falls, landing in a clean pool. Skoonichuck can be portaged via the trail on the left to a worn route back to the base of the falls, or a throw and go can be done on river left .
The exit to Skoonichuck is a class III rapid with another rapid just below. It is important not to get swept into the second rapid below Skoonichuck as there has historically been a log in the river right slot. The shallow bedrock above this can make it difficult to get left where paddlers will find alternate routes around the log/chute without leaving their boats. Below this rapid boaters will find themselves in High Bridge Gorge, most of which can be seen from High Bridge or the trail on the hike up. There is one rapid that cannot be seen from the trail, it is a boily rapid on a left turn. This rapid can be partially scouted on the right and could be portaged on the left though that would be challenging. Below here is a rapid visible from the trail that lands on a shelf, a “45” off the left side of the main flow has worked for boaters in the past. Check out video or scout from the trail to fine tune your line. Following the shelf ledge is the rapid just upstream of High Bridge, usually run far left.
The next part of High Bridge Gorge is placid and beautiful, a perfect place to soak it all in. The next right bend holds a triple drop worthy of a scout. The initial ledge can be tricky, and the hole on the bottom left is retentive. Below here is a mile of class III-IV before reaching a 9 foot ledge, scout right. A hundred yards below here is the entrance to Punchbowl Falls (35’), catch an eddy on the shallow left side of the river. If you have a large group, stagger this process. Scout left, run how you see fit. It would be possible to portage up to the trail on the right, or throw and go from the scouting platform on the left. The ledge just above Punchbowl is best boofed far right with a left stroke, watch out for the wall mid air. People used to run Punchbowl one of two ways, either melting far right or driving onto the pillow, turning as they reach the lip and taking a final right stroke. These days, most people go for the pillow move.
There is a huge pool below Punchbowl where people can relax and watch their buddy’s take their turns over the drop. Around the corner is lower Punchbowl. If you are not running Metlako, the standard procedure is to take out above Lower Punchbowl, and follow the trail about 1 mile until the second cliff band is passed, where there will be a way back down to the river. If you plan to tackle Metlako, lower Punchbowl is usually run center/right, which places you in the gorge above Metlako. There are only two small rapids in here, the first is run middle, the second as far left as the water will allow. Metlako (82’) is scouted from the lip on the left. For those who get cold feet, it is possible but not simple to attain/portage back up river to Lower Punchbowl Falls and the trail. Metlako has been run in all sorts of craft including kayaks, riverboard, inflatable kayak, innertube and a topo duo. It is also the site of a few contentious world records. It is fairly straight forward and very clean, landing in a large pool. At high flows people have had difficulty exiting the right side of the pool if they flush that way. A throw and go can be done from the left, also a repel if you trust the bolts and have a long enough rope.
Below Metlako paddlers find themselves in yet another inspiring gorge with only one class V rapid where most people will choose to take the easy portage on the left. When the walls open up, there is less than a mile of class II-III water to the weir at the take out.
The quality and aesthetics of this run are so high that only being there in person will do it justice. If you find yourself on this run, you will understand. Don’t sell yourself short only doing part of Eagle Creek, the further you hike the more rewarding the run.
Standard run description, photos, and video at Oregon Kayaking.
Full run described at Into the Outside
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