Cooper River, Washington, US
|Usual Difficulty||IV-V (for normal flows)|
|Avg. Gradient||107 fpm|
|Cle Elum Inflow Cle Elum Lake|
|dream-557||1200 - 1650 cfs||IV-V||71h58m||4000 cfs (too high)|
SEASON: Can be too high at the peak of snow melt so check it out as an option during late snowmelt (or early if not snowed in). July is often good after the Cle Elum gets too low. In years of high snowpack the Cooper can be paddled through the summer.
FUN FACT: Summer creeking
As the spring boating season comes to a close the Cooper offers some great whitewater, warm east-side temperatures, crystal-clear water, and impressive scenery. Logs are always a possibility on this run so get a recent report or proceed with caution on your first run.
Make sure you put-in below the big falls (photo) and be prepared for immediate action. The river starts with a technical lead-in rapid before you reach the first slide which drops you into this beautiful river gorge (you can easily scout this before you put on). Another fun pour- over follows before you quickly reach the lead-in to Norm's Resort.
Norm's Resort consists of a pourover at the starts which is quickly followed by a second ledge that feeds into a good-sized hole on river left ( photo). The move is to hit this last ledge on the right to avoid the meat of the hole (video). You can scout and set safety along river right and there's a good recovery pool at the bottom.
As you continue downstream horizon lines come in quick succession, while still allowing plenty of time for recovery between drops, and the river continues with a number of great pool-drop rapids. As long as you're paddling at medium flows they can be easily scouted and good portage options exist for most (photo, video ).
As you approach the end you'll come to Shark's Tooth (photo). This is one of the longer rapids on the run and involves some tight moves through midstream boulders--in contrast to the rest of the ledge drops on the river. After this drop the river starts to open up a bit and you can see the Cle Elum River valley. There's another fun ledge drop before you reach and obvious horizon line at the Wall of Voodoo (video). This drop deserves a careful scout. The wall at the bottom along river right is slightly undercut but shouldn't present too many problems for those in control. You can expect to have spectators here on warm summer weekends as the pool at the base of the drop is a popular swimming hole. The bedrock wall on river left below the drop is a popular jumping site and makes a fun seal launch for those in kayaks.
The action is over once you leave the Wall of Voodoo behind. A few more mellow rapids take you a couple hundred yards past an island and a few cabins before an easy take-out on river right.
Although the consistent action makes this run seem longer than it is, many paddlers load up the boats for a second run. Many will feel fulfilled even after just one run on the river--bring the camera and enjoy the east- side climate and scenery.
LOGISTICS: From I-90 take exit 80 and head for Rosyln/Salmon La Sac (those arriving from the east can take exit 84). 2.7 miles from I-90 you'll reach Highway 903 turn left, headed north (at this point you're at mile 4.2 on Highway 903 which becomes Salmon La Sac Road). Continue through Rosyln and past Cle Elum Reservoir. To reach the take-out continue up Salmon La Sac Road along the Cle Elum and you'll cross a bridge across the river just before the Salmon La Sac Campground at mile 21.0. Continue on another 0.7 mile to the Cooper River Trail (trail #1311). This trailhead requires a Northwest Forest Pass and it's a short scramble down the bank to the big pool (i.e. swimming hole) at the base of Wall of Voodoo. The old access on river right is now closed due to habitat restoration work that eliminated the old informal campground. This was private timber land that was purchased by the Forest Service for habitat and the benefit is it will be managed as forest and not converted to cabins that would have meant lost access and loss of scenic qualities. To reach the put-in head back on Salmon La Sac Road to mile 19.6 on to FR 46 which crosses the Cle Elum and then continues up along the Cooper. Head up to mile 3.2 and a small pull out on the right with room for about three or four cars (photo). This pullout is less than 100 yards beyond the turnoff for spur road 117 which heads off to the left. There is an unimproved boater trail down to the river. Make sure you work your way downstream to a put-in below the big falls. Check out current conditions on the Wenatchee National Forest site .
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Nearby runs of interest include