Rock Creek (Columbia River trib.) - Steep Creek to Ryan-Allen Bridge

Rock Creek (Columbia River trib.), Washington, US


Steep Creek to Ryan-Allen Bridge

Usual Difficulty II-IV(V) (for normal flows)
Length 5.5 Miles
Avg. Gradient 84 fpm

Portage at Heaven and Hell

Portage at Heaven and Hell
Photo of Rick Cooley by Matt King taken 03/13/10 @ 9.60 ft

Gauge Information

Name Range Difficulty Updated Level
usgs-14222500 1000 - 3000 cfs II-IV(V) 00h47m 52.9 cfs (too low)

River Description


Gauge: Rock Creek once had a gauge that was available online from 2008-2013.  Currently only the gauge height can be ascertained, and even that must be done in person where Rock Creek flows under the Ryan Allen Rd bridge.

9.5-11.5' is the range for most paddlers.

Here is a rough correlation showing the relationship between the gage height and cfs.

 G.H                                    CFS

9.00    ..........    304
9.50    ..........    454
10.10   ..........    701
10.50   ..........    904
10.80   ..........   1,050
11.00   ..........   1,160
11.50   ..........   1,490
11.90   ..........   1,810


The foot gauge is under the Ryan Allen Rd bridge, 10' was a nice flow where the big drops were runnable class V, and the in-between was pleasant.

The EF Lewis @ Heisson can be used to estimate when Rock Creek will be in.  It's not a perfect correlation, but it's something. 1,000 cfs is minimum and correlates to about 500 cfs in Rock Creek.



                                   Rock Creek


This is a novel run in the Columbia Gorge that sees less attention than the classics, but is worth running.  It's generally class II-IV with two serious rapids that are easy to portage. 

The first mile or two down to the Steep Creek bridge is mostly class III-IV with a couple notable exceptions.  The first is a walled in 7 foot ledge that can be a bit tricky to scout, but is worth at least one person taking a peak from the left.  Usually its run off the hump in the middle, erring to the left, in 2013 there was wood in the runout.  The hole at the base is not generally any cause for pause.

More class III+ bedrock continues downstream until the river makes a right turn at Heaven and Hell, scout left.

This two part drop is class V and deserves thorough inspection before running.  Portaging is easy, and even fun on the left.  Look for a seal launch ramp around the second part.

A short round of rapids continue down to the Steep Creek bridge, where Steep Creek itself cascades in from the right (this tributary falls has been run, but the pool has filled in with sediment and its no where near runnable as of 2015).

Below the bridge things ease off for awhile, with the occasional interesting rapid.  Watch for wood, but its common to get down this run without any wood portages.

After a long bit of easier floating, a class III rapid leading into an area with bedrock walls commands serious attention.  Immediately below this class III the creek enters the lead in to Three Swims Falls, a drop more commonly portaged than ran.  It is imperative that boaters catch an eddy at the base of the class III rapid as people have gone an eddy too far, or missed the eddy and gone over the falls blind before.

Don't let this spot keep you from doing the run, just take it seriously and don't shy away from scouting your take out eddy before running the class III rapid.  The class III can even be portaged.

Three Swims Falls is portaged on the left along a convenient shelf, next to a tributary falls.  Safety can also be set on the left.

There are a couple line options on Three Swims, if its a drop for you, the routes and hazards will be obvious.

Three Swims Falls immediately flushes into another rapid, one on the class V end of things.  Sometimes people portage the falls and run the rapid.

Downstream of Three Swims its read and run class fun down to the take out bridge.  There is one long sliding rapid in this section that is hard to see the line from above, but is run center-right or right or it can be scouted from the left.  The holes get significant at high water levels.

Most people take out at the bridge upstream of Spring Creek.  From here down to the Ryan Allen Rd bridge, the creek is class II with rumors of a surf spot between the regular take out and Spring Creek.



Downstream of the Ryan Allen Rd bridge are two big waterfalls, the bottom is pretty famous, and is called Money Drop.  Both have been run numerous times.


Far upstream of this run is The Top Rock, one of the biggest adventures available to paddlers in the Columbia River Gorge.

StreamTeam Status: Not Verified
Last Updated: 2017-09-29 19:05:13

Rapid Descriptions

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