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).
An easy line to the right or a more technical line to the left.
This bridge serves as an alternate access point. Access is available on downstream river left.
according to the following website:
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."
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.(360)740-2457. For additional information, please visit http://www.lcpud.org/Recreation/Take_Out_Site.
10 years ago
by Thomas O'Keefe
Ruling of the Pollution Control Hearings Board denying water quality certification for the Cispus 4 hydro project.
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.
Permits are not required for this reach.
We have no additional detail on this route.
Use the map below to calculate how
to arrive to the main town from your zipcode.
Take-out on Scanwea Reservoir
Crystal Creek Bridge
Paul's Play Pen
Rollercoaster from the bridge
Let's Make a Deal
Second Iron Creek Rapid
Winter on the Cispus
Lower Cispus Take-out
Lion's Jaw from above
Enjoying the Cispus
First Iron Creek Rapid
Twin Cedars parking
Twin Cedars Put-in
Paddling the Cispus
Log on Lower Cispus
If someone gets hurt on a river, or you read about a whitewater-related injury, please report it to
American Whitewater. Don't worry about multiple submissions from other witnesses, as our safety
editors will turn multiple witness reports into a single unified accident report.
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.
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