Difficulty IV
Length 4 Miles
Flow Range 600 - 2800 CFS
Flow Rate as of: 21 minutes ago 94 [CFS]
Next Release
Reach Info Last Updated 01/06/2020 11:50 pm

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.  At flows over 1200cfs the "sandy beach" launch ~2 miles above Sunset is a nice put-in for the class III to IV- creekin' warmup.
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 steeper boulder garden you may want to scout from the left. Take the right or left line at the top depending on flows and then take the right edge on the next two pitches--or punch the holes.
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 race 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 farther right before straightening for the slide.
Below Dragon's Back the river flows through a beautiful little gorge 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 is hard at the final pitch of the drop to avoid a retentive hole.  At higher flows (1500+) a left line comes in that requires you make a ferry across below the hole and above the headwall.
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, and a portage is possible from there. The standard lines are door two (counted from river right) or three and line up for the nice autoboof at the center. The more challenging class V river right line has been run but is generally not recommended. The "hero line" is an increasingly popular river left channel with a leftie boof.  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.
From the base of Horseshoe Falls, you will enjoy another mile of class II and III boogie water to the King Creek take out, or continue on to more challenging whitewater.
Check out the East Fork Lewis page on Jason Rackley's site for another take on the intro to creeking section of the EF Lewis.
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.


Rapid Descriptions

Sunset Falls

Class - IV+ Mile - -32.7

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
Rapid Thumbnail Missing

First boulder garden rapid that starts the main whitewater sequence.

Sky Pilot

Class - IV Mile - -32

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

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 - -31.75

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

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

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


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Teresa Gryder
7 months ago

Hippie John's Boulder Garden has several large logs tilting in, narrowing the lines. Still read and run. The large vertical log in the gorge below Dragon's Back is still in place.

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Teresa Gryder
1 year ago

Gorge below Dragon's back is clean except for one large vertical log on right at bottom. Rest of run is clean.

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Teresa Gryder
3 years ago

Giant log jam overhead at bottom of gorge below Dragon's back is dropping logs in one by one. Caution.

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Willie Illingworth
8 years ago

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.

Gage Descriptions

The Heisson gauge is well downstream from the run and flows in the waterfall section may be higher or lower than the gauge indicates depending on rain/melt or freezing in the headwaters.

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.

Date Flow Result Factor  
2011-10-12 n/a Injury Other Read More
1996-01-06 Medium Fatality Other Read More





Teresa Gryder


Thomas O'Keefe


Jacob Cruser


Matt Muir


Revision #Revision DateAuthorComment
1214101 01/06/20 Teresa Gryder updated description
1214108 01/06/20 Teresa Gryder updated image position
1202871 11/24/13 Thomas O'Keefe rapids mapped
1202874 11/24/13 Thomas O'Keefe river description revised
1211924 04/15/19 Jacob Cruser updated description
1210804 01/07/19 Teresa Gryder Added info about Sandy beach launch and about left line at Horseshoe.
1211925 04/15/19 Jacob Cruser updated description
1212579 06/01/19 Jacob Cruser updated image position
1191941 12/14/03 n/a n/a