Cispus - 3 - FR 23 Bridge to FR 28 Bridge (The Upper)

Cispus, Washington, US


3 - FR 23 Bridge to FR 28 Bridge (The Upper)

Usual Difficulty III+(IV) (for normal flows)
Length 9.5 Miles
Avg. Gradient 61 fpm

Upper Cispus

Upper Cispus
Photo of Rich Bowers by Tom O'Keefe taken 03/31/02 @ 1500 cfs

Gauge Information

Name Range Difficulty Updated Level
usgs-14231900 900 - 3000 cfs III+(IV) 00h50m 569 cfs (too low)

River Description

LOGISTICS: Starting from the town of Randle (Highway 12 mile 115), take Cispus Road south across the Cowltiz River and continue for one mile to the fork of FR 25 and FR 23. Take the left fork and follow FR 23. At mile 9.1 FR 28 turns off to the right and crosses the river in less than a mile. This is the put-in for the lower and one potential access point, but continuing upstream avoids the braided channels near the FR 28 bridge. A good pullout can be found by continuning on FR 23 to mile 12.7, past the North Fork Cispus. There is a good access point here before the road heads up the hill and out of site of the river (if you take-out here you'll have about a 7 mile run). To reach the put-in, continue on FR 23 to mile 19.5 and the bridge across the river. Access can be found on downstream river left.

DESCRIPTION: With nearly 30 mile of continuous intermediate whitewater, the Cispus provides one of the longest continuous whitewater trips in the state. By combining this section with the Lower Cispus you'll find opportunities for overnight excursions through the Gifford Pinchot National Forest.

Starting from the FR 23 bridge the river hits some good class II and III boulder garden rapids. About 2 miles into the trip the pace begins to pick up as the river enters a constrained bedrock section. There is one drop in particular here (class IV) that forms some good-sized holes and may be worth a scout on river right. This section continues for nearly 2 miles to the confluence with Blue Lake Creek. After this the gradient tapers off slightly and there are more class II gravel bar rapids with some bedrock shelves here and there. With 1200 cfs you should be able to get through these fine, but as flows drop below 1000 cfs they would get a bit grungy. Log hazards are also especially prevelant in this area.

You're best off taking out near the North Fork Cispus as the river becomes even more braided between this point and the FR 28 bridge. In his guidebook North calls this section the Okeefenokee and you'll be able to see why on the drive up along the river.

For expert paddlers, other great runs in the immediate area include:

StreamTeam Status: Verified
Last Updated: 2003-10-06 17:53:37


Rapid Descriptions

icon of message No rapids entered. If you know names, and locations of the rapids please contact and advise the StreamTeam member for this run.

User Comments

Users can submit comments.
April 25 2012 (2397 days ago)
dunner (154347)
We ran this section on 4/22/12 @ ~2800 cfs, all the rapids were clear of wood, but there are two
river wide log jams that required portaging lower in the braided section. One is about 1/4 mile
above the confluence with the North Fork Cispus and the other is about 1/4 mile below the
April 16 2007 (4233 days ago)
Joe SauveDetails
As of 4/15/07 there were a few wood issues on this run. We portaged one tree across the river in
the first mile, which was easily spotted and easy to portage. The 2nd log was another riverwide
tree and it poses more of a hazard. It is (very approximately) about 2 miles into the run, the
river takes a sharp right turn into a rocky class 3 rapid and there is a tree across the river at
the end of the rapid. The 3rd wood hazard was about 2 or 3 rapids downstream from White Lightning.
There is a stout rapid here where the canyon walls close in and the river goes over a couple steep
ledges. There is a log balanced across the boulders at the top of the first big ledge that goes
about 3/4 of the way across. You may be able to duck under or go around, but we carried around to
be on the safe side.

Do more than just check gauges; join over 5,000 AW members today.

Or, consider donating

Associated Projects

  • Volcano Country (OR/WA)
    The rivers of Volcano Country within and surrounding the Gifford Pinchot National Forest represent some of the nation's most spectacular whitewater resources.