Lewis, E. Fork - 2 - Sunset Falls to bl. Horshoe Falls (Falls Section)

Lewis, E. Fork, Washington, US


2 - Sunset Falls to bl. Horshoe Falls (Falls Section)

Usual Difficulty IV (varies with level)
Length 4 Miles
Avg. Gradient 50 fpm

Horseshoe Falls

Horseshoe Falls
Photo of Kathleen O'Malley by Thomas O'Keefe © taken 11/23/13 @ 750 cfs

Gauge Information

Name Range Difficulty Updated Level
usgs-14222500 600 - 2800 cfs IV 00h33m 149 cfs (too low)

River Description

The East Fork Lewis is best known for a couple of classic waterfalls and a great one mile sequence of rapids that make it a local favorite. 
The start of the run is Sunset Falls. Many use the access 0.6 mile upstream to get a few warm-up strokes in. Alternatively, if you want to get to business right away you can pull out along the road above Sunset Falls and start hucking.
For Sunset Falls, the middle line is generally preferred above 1000 cfs and the left line at lower flows. You can park at the Forest Service day use site, use the restrooms, and scout all the options before your run. This convenient access makes it easy to get to both the top and bottom of the falls and it's one of the best sites in the entire region to practice waterfall running. It's common to run a couple laps of the falls.
About half a mile below Sunset Falls the fun begins with five named rapids in a half mile section. First up is Hippie John's Boulder Garden which is an easy boat scout. Sky Pilot is next which is a more congested boulder garden you will probably want to scout from the left. Take the right or left line at the top depending on flows and then power through the hole on the second pitch.
As you see gorge walls on river right and an obvious horizon line grab the eddy on river left and get out to scout the next two rapids: Screaming Left and Dragon's Back. Make the hard move to the left or take the chute down the right at Screaming Left. The tight river right chute is not an option at lower flows. If you don't like the looks of Screaming Left it is an easy portage on river left. After a short recovery pool, Dragon's Back comes up quickly as the next rapid where the main current flows from river right to left and into a hole that is best avoided. To avoid the hole drive hard right and then head even further right.
Below Dragon's Back the river flows through a beautiful little gorge section that ends with John's Swimming Hole which is marked by an obvious horizon line and a bedrock wall at the bottom of the drop as the river makes a hard turn to the right. Pull out on river right to scout or portage John's Swimming Hole. The line is once again a hard right move as you paddle over the final pitch of the drop to avoid what is typically a river-wide hole at the base of the drop. Use caution with the headwall at the bottom of this drop. The full current of the river slams into this wall and boaters have found themselves trapped against the wall.
Once you are out of the gorge the river flows through about 2 miles of easy class II and III boogie water and additional tributaries pump up the flow. The last rapid awaits as you approach the horizon line above Horseshoe Falls. You can pull out to scout the falls from the large bedrock platform on river left. The standard line is to take door two (counted from river right) and line up for the nice autoboof flake at the center. The more challenging class V river right line has been run but is generally not recommended. Another option is down river left but bring the elbow pads for that line. As with most of the rapids on this run, Horseshoe Falls is bordered by private property. For all drops on the run paddlers need to be cool and stay within the active channel when portaging or scouting. Unlike Sunset Falls which is at Forest Service recreation site, there are no options to hike back for a second lap over the falls and you won't find a good portage option.
From the base of Horseshoe Falls, you will enjoy another mile of class II and III boogie water to the take-out. 
For more information and some great photos check out the East Fork Lewis page on Jason Rackley's site.
From Moulton Falls Park just south of Yacolt, WA, head up Sunset Falls Road (Forest Road 42). At mile 3.6 you will reach the first pull-out providing access for kayakers and steelhead fisherman. You will find space for a couple cars in an unimproved parking spot off the highway. Another parking option can be found at mile 4.2.
To reach the put-in continue up to mile 7.5 and the Forest Service Sunset Falls Recreation Site. A Northwest Forest Pass is required if you are parking for more than 15 minutes. A nice network of trails provide easy scouting access. You can put-in above the falls but a popular option is to continue up the road to mile 8.1 and a dispersed campsite where a 100 yard trail heads to the river and a good access point with a nice eddy.


StreamTeam Status: Not Verified
Last Updated: 2013-11-24 21:47:01

Rapid Summary

Mile Rapid Name Class Features (Legend)
-32.7Sunset FallsIV+Waterfall Photo
-32.1Hippie John's Boulder GardenIII+
-32.0Sky PilotIVPhoto
-31.8Screaming LeftIVPhoto
-31.8Dragon's BackIVPhoto
-31.7John's Swimming HoleIVPhoto
-29.8Horseshoe FallsIV+Waterfall Photo

Rapid Descriptions

Sunset Falls (Class IV+, Mile -32.7)

Sunset Falls

Sunset Falls
Photo of Keel Brightman by Thomas O'Keefe © taken 11/23/13 @ 750 cfs

One of the Northwest's classic waterfall drops at a Forest Service recreation site. At lower flows the left line is good and at higher flows the centerline opens up.

Hippie John's Boulder Garden (Class III+, Mile -32.1)

First boulder garden rapid that starts the main whitewater sequence.

Sky Pilot (Class IV, Mile -32.0)

Sky Pilot

Sky Pilot
Photo of Megi Morishita by Thomas O'Keefe © taken 11/23/13 @ 750 cfs

A boulder garden with lines down the right or left and a hole to avoid depending on flows.

Screaming Left (Class IV, Mile -31.8)

Screaming Left

Screaming Left
Photo by Thomas O'Keefe © taken 11/23/13 @ 750 cfs

Easy scout or portage on river left. Options include the hard move to river left or the slot down river right depending on flow.

Dragon's Back (Class IV, Mile -31.8)

Dragon's Back

Dragon's Back
Photo by Thomas O'Keefe © taken 11/23/13 @ 750 cfs

At the end of the pool below Screaming Left go hard right to avoid the hole.

John's Swimming Hole (Class IV, Mile -31.7)

John's Swimming Hole

John's Swimming Hole
Photo by Thomas O'Keefe © taken 11/23/13 @ 750 cfs

Easy scout or portage on river right. Charge this drop hard to the right at the bottom to avoid the hole.

Horseshoe Falls (Class IV+, Mile -29.8)

Horseshoe Falls

Horseshoe Falls
Photo of Kathleen O'Malley by Thomas O'Keefe © taken 11/23/13 @ 750 cfs

The preferred line is generally the nice autoboof down the center but you can scout on river left to see the options.

User Comments

Users can submit comments.
January 29 2017 (657 days ago)
T4eresa (153294)
Giant log jam overhead at bottom of gorge below Dragon's back is dropping logs in one by one.
July 13 2012 (2318 days ago)
Willie IllingworthDetails
The tree referenced in the 2010-12-21 report is no longer present at Screaming Left. Beavers
apparently moved it up onto the left bank.
December 21 2010 (2887 days ago)
Ricky BeckerDetails
Tree stuck in the right slot of Screaming Left. Must make your move, I recommend a scout.

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    The rivers of Volcano Country within and surrounding the Gifford Pinchot National Forest represent some of the nation's most spectacular whitewater resources.


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