Difficulty III
Length Miles
Flow Range 800 - 4000 CFS
Flow Rate as of: 59 minutes ago 1470 [CFS]
Next Release
Reach Info Last Updated 05/31/2019 11:42 pm

River Description


With nearly 30 miles of continuous intermediate whitewater, the Cispus provides opportunities for one of the longest whitewater trips in the state. By combining this section with the Upper Cispus you'll find opportunities for overnight excursions through the Gifford Pinchot National Forest. Braided channels with wood hazards near the FR 28 bridge however keep most from embarking on such an adventure. Paddlers typically divide the lower run which starts at the FR 28 Bridge into two sections separated by the Twin Cedars access point located just upstream of the confluence with Iron Creek.

FR 28 to Twin Cedars

Starting from the FR 28 bridge (river mile 17.5), the river cuts through braided channels and shifting gravel bars. Most of the whitewater in this section is class II, but beware of wood hazards. You will encounter some private property along this first half which passes under the shadow of Tower Rock.

Twin Cedars to Scanwea Reservoir

The second half of the run contains the interesting rapids, several of which rate class III, and starts about a mile upstream of the Iron Creek Campground. You can put-in here at the Twin Cedars access (river mile 9.2), a small pullout with majestic cedar trees along the river bank. The great thing about this section is all the rapids have easy lines that make it a great training stretch for those just learning the sport.

The action starts right away with First Iron Creek Rapid (river mile 8.8) and Second Iron Creek Rapid (river mile 8.6) both of which contain some fun play spots. Let's Make a Deal (river mile 7.6) comes next followed by Rollercoaster (river mile 7.2) where the river bounces down to the Huffaker Bridge (river mile 7.1) forming fun waves along the way. From this point on the river enters private commercial forest but the trees along the river are in good shape and the remote setting is a good place to see wildlife and birds.

Below the bridge there are some fun rapids (river mile 6.6) and still within site of the bridge you come upon one of the best playspots on the run at Paul's Play Pen (river mile 6.4). Here a playful hole forms at the center and a ledge to the river right side forms a nice wave. Good eddy service makes this a great place to hang out for a few minutes.

Immediately downstream the river slams into a bedrock wall on river left at Whirpool Corner (river mile 6.3). This was to be the site of the Cispus 4 hydro project which was fought by paddlers and others who helped successfully kill the project. It would have created a 0.7 mile reservoir flooding the rapids between this point and the Huffaker Bridge and dewatering the great whitewater that continues on below.

Just around the the corner the river flows through Agitator (river mile 6.2) which forms a nice wave and then an unnamed rapid at river mile 5.9. Cheap Thrill comes up at river mile 5.6. The final significant rapid on the run is Lion's Jaw (river mile 5.4) which has a straightforward route down the left or a more exciting line to the right. You will encounter another rapid with some fun waves (river mile 4.6) before you reach the Crystal Creek Bridge (river mile 4.5). The river remains fun past the bridge but the action begins to slow down a bit as you pass Quartz Creek on your left (river mile 4.1). Most of the rapids are class II from this point on but there is one last distinct rapid called Double Trouble which comes as you pass the old take-out on river right. As you pass around a final bend in the river you're at the slackwater of the reservoir and the take-out located on river left at river mile 1.0.

If the private timber roads are gated and you can't get to this access your only other option is to slog your way across the reservoir. At one time paddlers could continue on to the bigwater rapids of the Cowlitz, but now those rapids and the confluence itself are flooded by the waters of Scanwea Reservoir.


When construction was completed on the Cowlitz Falls hydro project in 1994, we lost our historic public access along with 1.7 miles of whitewater on the Cispus (and even more on the Cowltiz). The result is that the project has made it very difficult for paddlers, and particularly rafters, to make use of the last few miles of the remaining free-flowing stretch of river. Some maps do not show this reservoir, but it's where the Cispus historically entered the Cowlitz with the dam itself at the site of Cowlitz Falls (map showing the approximate reservoir boundary).

Starting from the town of Randle which makes a good place to rendevous for breakfast at the Mt. Adams Cafe (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 right fork on FR 25 and head 7.8 miles to Huffaker Bridge which crosses the Cispus River. Downstream of this point the river flows through private forest land. Continue across the bridge and immediately take a right turn down the forest road that parallels river left (this is a private forest road known as the 300 road). The first take-out option is reached by heading 1.6 miles down this road and then taking the right fork to the Crystal Creek Bridge (the access is steep but OK for kayaks). For the full run head 4.7 miles down the forest road on river left to a pull-out just past a small creek (this is Copper Canyon Creek). Here you will find a spur road (the 340 road) that leads to the river providing boater access to the reservoir. The utility has provided a formal access site and generally has it open except during periods of high fire danger which typically corresponds to low water). Details on current status of this access can be obtained from Lewis County PUD (Copper Creek Cayon Creek take-out site web page). If you encounter any problems with access or otherwise have thoughts it is very helpful to register comments directly with FERC where they are placed on the public record. You can write to Kimberly D. Bose, Secretary Federal Energy Regulatory Commission 888 First Street, NE Washington, DC 20426, RE: Cowlitz Falls Hydroelectric Project 2833.

To reach the put-in head back the way you came along river left. Once you reach FR 25 at Huffaker Bridge continue upstream along river left. Take the left turn onto FR 76 following it for 0.8 mile to a site just past Iron Creek where the river comes close to the road; this site is known as Twin Cedars. For a longer run you can continue up FR 76 to the FR 23 bridge which crosses the river and is considered the traditional dividing point between the upper and lower run. Between Twin Cedars and FR 23 you can also access the river at Tower Rock Campground.

Additional Information

  • Bennett, J. 1997. A Guide to the Whitewater Rivers of Washington, second edition. Swiftwater Publishing Co. Portland, OR.
  • FERC eLibrary: Cispus 4 Project under docket 10567; Cowlitz Falls Project whitewater recreation issues under dockets 2833-049, 2833-055, 2833-092
  • Gifford Pinchot National Forest website
  • North, D.A. 1999. Washington Whitewater. The Mountaineers. Seattle, WA.
  • McNulty, T. 1990. Washington's Rivers: The Unfinished Work. The Mountaineers. Seattle. WA.

Rapid Descriptions

Twin Cedars put-in

Class - Mile - -9.2

First Iron Creek Rapid

Class - II+ Mile - -8.8

Second Iron Creek Rapid

Class - II+ Mile - -8.6

Let's Make a Deal

Class - III Mile - -7.6

An easy line to the right or a more technical line to the left.


Class - III Mile - -7.2

Huffacker Bridge

Class - Mile - -7.1

Unnamed Rapid

Class - Mile - -6.6
Rapid Thumbnail Missing

Paul's Play Pen

Class - III Mile - -6.4

Whirlpool Corner

Class - II+ Mile - -6.3


Class - III Mile - -6.2

Unnamed Rapid

Class - II+ Mile - -5.9

Cheap Thrill

Class - III Mile - -5.6

Lion's Jaw

Class - III+ Mile - -5.4

Unnamed Rapid

Class - Mile - -4.6
Rapid Thumbnail Missing

Crystal Creek Bridge

Class - Mile - -4.5

This bridge serves as an alternate access point. Access is available on downstream river left.

Double Trouble

Class - III Mile - -2.3

Scanwea Reservoir

Class - Mile - -1


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Bob M
2 years ago

according to the following website: https://www.lcpud.org/recreation/copper-canyon-creek-take-out-site/ "Road Status Last Updated: June 21, 2017 Port Blakely 300 Road Gate: Open Port Blakely 340 Road Gate: Open Information Hotline: (360) 345-1484 As of 2017, all access roads to our Copper Canyon Creek Take-Out site are now open unless otherwise noted on our website due to hazardous or safety concerns."

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Renee Paradis
6 years ago

2014 340 Road gate opening days are scheduled for: Saturday, 26 April Saturday, 10 May Sunday, 11 May This gate is scheduled to be open 10am to 5pm on these days. The 340 gate serves the Copper Canyon Creek take-out facility. To verify, please check with contact Debbie at debbie@lcpud.org.(360)740-2457. For additional information, please visit http://www.lcpud.org/Recreation/Take_Out_Site.

Gage Descriptions

Paddlers enjoy this river every month of the year and you can get down the river at flows lower than the recommended range. Flows around 1000 cfs are good for beginners. As flows increase above 2000 cfs the river becomes a lot more pushy but the rapids themselves do not become significantly more difficult.

Directions Description

We have no additional detail on this route. Use the map below to calculate how to arrive to the main town from your zipcode.

No Accident Reports




article main photo

Cispus River Take-out Open This Weekend

Thomas O'Keefe

The gate at the take-out for the Lewis County PUD will be open this weekend (May 22/23). The gate will be opened from approximately 10 am to 6 pm by PUD staff. The river is at a nice level and this will be the last official gate opening for the spring.

article main photo

Work Begins on Access to Cispus River (WA)

Thomas O'Keefe

For over a decade American Whitewater volunteers and affiliate clubs have been working to find a solution to access on the Cispus River. FERC has finally provided some guidance on how to proceed and we are actively working with other stakeholders to finally resolve one of our longest standing access issues.
article main photo

FERC opens comment period on Cispus (WA)

Thomas O'Keefe

Lewis County PUD has been out of compliance with their recreation plan for more than a decade with a continuing inability to provide a take-out for the Lower Cispus as required in their license. They recently submitted a plan to FERC that includes public access for individuals who can provide proof of $1 million in liability coverage. FERC is taking comments on this plan until August 15th and those with an interest in this river, a once popular beginner/intermediate float, are encouraged to comment.

Thomas O'Keefe


Matt Muir


Revision #Revision DateAuthorComment
1195344 06/06/09 Thomas O'Keefe
1191885 04/08/08 n/a n/a
1196642 11/22/09 Thomas O'Keefe update photos
1197147 01/21/10 Thomas O'Keefe update PUD link
1212377 05/16/19 Thomas O'Keefe updated description
1212533 05/31/19 Thomas O'Keefe updated image position
1212376 05/16/19 Thomas O'Keefe updated description
1206477 05/23/16 Thomas O'Keefe broken link fixed