SEASON: Late May through early September. Dam release is relatively stable although fluctuations can occur without warning.
As long as there is a good snowpack and the reservoir is full, this run typically has good flows through the summer. This river has fairly continuous class II rapids with some good wave trains. Beginners will find the run enjoyable at the lower limit of flows but there are fewer eddies at the higher limit of flows. Log hazards are a prevelant along the run.
The comments above about the maximum river level could be higher need to take into account the river rating of Class II. It may be possible to paddle this stretch at the higher levels mentioned, but the river flows to fast into that log jam for beginning paddlers.
An alternate Put-In: Take Salmon La Sac road, thru Roslyn and Ronald. About 1.2 miles beyond the town of Ronald, (or town or 6.l mi from Roslyn, or 6.5 miles from turnoff on SR 903) look for a gravel road going only to the left. Turn there, it is Winston Road. Have faith and continue driving, bearing left where there is a choice. You end up at a small gravel-taking area, with a steep former drive (rocks only) down to the river. This area won't be built on. It's National Forest Recreation area.
The maximum recommended flow of 3000 seems a little arbitrary. A couple of us ran this section at 3800 and the only difference was that it was a little faster.
In the summer of 2003, the only real problem on this run is a log jam about a mile below the put-in. The river makes a sharp left turn, and the entire right half of the channel is filled with trees, while the left half is too shallow to run. The easiest run is to make a sharp left, beach on the gravel bar, and drag/crawl 10 feet back to the small channel in the left.
At above 3000cfs, this run takes around an hour. It can be extended by running down into the Yakima and down to the confluence with the Teanaway. This stretch parallels I-5 for a few miles, and the scenery includes a few RV parks, but the last 3-4 miles of this stretch are much nicer. The run from the Cle Elum dam to the Teanaway confluence makes a nice day in July or August.
A better takeout is just downstream from the bridge on river right. There's a nice eddy and plenty of room to gather equipment.
One minor thing about the put-in: When you turn left on Lake Cabins Rd, the immediate left is really going straight, because Lake Cabins Rd turns right immediately - if you really took an immediate left, you'd be in someone's driveway.
I didn't go back to look for my Mohawk Probe because the river stayed high so long. Haven't heard that anyone found it. My mishap was about a mile below the put in - not at the dam, but the first one after that. I flipped where there was a line of obstacles across the river, got back in the canoe when it stopped at a log jam past the next corner and then dumped again when I hit a log jam on river left at the corner after that.
We did this Saturday the 2nd of August 2014 - Ms. Spencer must have got her boat out as we did not see it. The flow at 3700 is above recommended, but there is no reason not to run it as it is a cake walk other than avoiding the logs and strainers in a few areas. Of those areas, only one is a concern - perhaps a mile or so after the put in you will get stacked and pinned if you dont make the corner (I imagine this is where the boat was lost). We will take the other side of the river next time that essentially cuts the corner (will still require you are on your toes), but this go round we just walked around the jam. The only decent rapids are in the area just before you start to see the Suncadia lodge and the take out, but dont have high expectations as it is fairly basic stuff. One note: There were crazy swarms of mosquitos at the take out - It was not a fun wait for my buddy to go and get the truck - so be aware of that.
I have to disagree about running this section when the dam is letting out a lot of water. I was there a few weeks back and diverted to another river because if any of the kids or senior citizens in my party had fallen in that fast current we would have had a hard time getting them out. For experienced and you strong beginners not a problem but for a family outing don’t try it when it is over level.
If the log jams are cleared out of the Yakama river you can run it from below the John Wane trail near the golf cores to the confluence but 3 weeks ago it was full of log jams that blocked the whole river. At the confluence was also dangerous because of the high volume of water coming in from the left and a log jam on the right.
4 years ago
by Kathy Spencer
The gauge on the Cle Elum River is accurate for this section which is just below the dam. Look for flows of 1000 to 3000 cfs. Information on project operation can be found by checking Yakima Project System Status. The Army Corps provides an alternative gauge interface.
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.
Cle Elum, downriver boats
Cle Elum below dam
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