LOGISTICS: There are a couple different access options here. You
could make a full run that would include a few miles of class II+ by putting
in at the base of Alpine Falls and boating down to the confluence of the
Beckler. The Alpine Falls put-in is at Hwy. 2 mile 55.3 at the pull-out to the
west of the Hwy. 2 bridge across the Tye. A path leads down to the river to
the base of Alpine Falls. If you want to skip the class II+ warmup you can
access the river at Hwy. 2 mile 53 where the river comes up near the edge
of the road. There is a good pull-out just east of the mile marker 53 sign.
The first possible take-out is at the Tye River bridge at Hwy. 2 mile 51.The
scramble up the bank is a little easier on the west side of the bridge.
Below this bridge the river is class II but you can continue another couple
miles to the bridge at Hwy. 2 mile 49.8. You can find parking on the east
side of the bridge on the upstream side.
DESCRIPTION: While the real whitewater on this section is
short--just over a mile--there are a couple of really great rapids. There are
other runs in the basin with more continuous or longer stretches of action,
but this section is well worth checking out if you're looking for something
new or want to do something else after running one of the other great
runs in the Sky drainage. Unless you like running really big drops with
severe consequences if you blow your line, you'll put in at the base of
Alpine Falls. (see video clip below).Although this V+ falls has been run, it
has a very challenging entrance and there are some spots where you
would not want to end up. Make sure that you follow the trail to the base of
the falls and don't put in at the bridge.
While the falls and river just below are beautiful, you'll have a couple
of miles of class II+ before you find any action. Despite this rating for the
first section it's not a place for beginners. Log hazards can bump the
class up another grade. You will be able to see this section in a couple
places from the road and what you can't see from the road is pretty similar
in character to what you can see.
Just downstream of Hwy. 2 mile 53 the character of the run changes
considerably. You can access the river here and make a short run through
the rapids if you want to skip the float down from the base of the falls. A
short distance downstream from the access at mile 53 you will hit a
massive logjam at an island (see photo below). While this jam currently
(Jun 2001) looks very solid and conveniently prevents logs from making
their way into the rapids below, if it breaks free it could create a real mess
for boaters in the boulder gardens downstream. It will take a few minutes
to portage the logs (if you spent some time scouting things out you could
probably find an access just below this log jam by hiking through the
woods off Hwy. 2, but it is simpler to find the access at mile 53).
Just below the island and log jam the run picks up with some great
rapids that build from class IV to IV+ for approximately 3/4 of a mile. The
first two Boulder City and Splat (see video) are multi-pitch class IV rapids
that can be boat scouted by strong class IV paddlers. The second rapid
Splat is slightly longer than Boulder City. The routes are congested and
require technical and precise maneuvering. Depending on water level you
will have several options to choose from.
After a short recovery stretch you'll come to the Mind Bender (see
video clip). This is a great class IV+ rapid with congested sections
through large boulders and a couple of nice ledges that can be split up
into approximately 3 sections and extends for a couple hundred yards. It's
longer than the two previous rapids. While strong paddlers could make it
through this section by boat scouting there are just enough blind ledges
and corners that you would be wise to have someone or everyone get out
and check for log hazards and make sure they feel comfortable with the
lines. One submerged log over a blind ledge could really make for a bad
day. Some of the holes at the bottom of the ledges could give some
paddlers trouble as levels rise. While the rapid is a very technical class
IV+ it would be a bad place to swim and especially as water levels rise
could be considered a class V. Strong class IV paddlers should be able to
handle it but there are definitely places where an inattentive paddler could
get into some serious trouble.
There is a good recovery section at the bottom of Mind Bender and
the river continues on at class III for approximately half a mile. The Foss
River joins the Tye in this section and large boulders provide some fun
and continuous rapids all the way down to the bridge across the Tye
River. Several cabins line the river here but it's a very beautiful
While you can take out a this bridge across the Tye River, you can
continue on down another couple miles to the confluence where the
Beckler joins the Tye and the two rivers become the South Fork
Skykomish. This section is class II+ and similar in character to the South Fork
Skykomish run downstream.
This run is getting more attention as of late. Put in is about a mile up a single lane potholed road along the Tye river.
There is a sign that says 'private road no turn around' and the river bends away from road. Put in here. The take out is at the road junction with the FR68 Foss road. The run is barely a mile long, pool droppish, and has some great boofs. There is a lot of wood hanging in from the banks and a couple class V penalty boxes, though the overall difficulty remains class IV. For first timers it's wise to scout carefully, or go with someone who knows the lines. Levels can greatly effect the difficulty. The Tye typically holds water late into the season, so this can be a great option when other local creeks have dropped out. Laps are easy, no hike in or off and hot laps can take less than 15 minutes. And of course there is always the option of extending runs downstream.
I did a road scout today, and found at least 4 wood hazards in Mind Bender, making the first 2 sections unrunnable. This is some BIG wood, and will probably be there for a long time.
DO NOT put in at the base of Alpine Falls unless you really like flatwater paddling. You're looking at a small amount of class II followed by 2 miles of slow moving, braided channels. In addition you get one large nasty log portage.
The class IV+ stuff is a lot of fun, but access this section from the Foss River Rd. or from Highway 2 when you first see the river after passing Foss River Rd.
Take out at the confluence with the Foss, or at Highway 2 to avoid more flat water/ class II.
4 months ago
by Michael Harms
Comments of American Whitewater on developing a day-use site at Alpine Falls on the Tye River.
GAUGE: Depending on the
freezing level (the run is around 1000'
elevation), the Tye runs approximately
15-20% of the Skykomish at
Goldbar. Bennett lists
recommended levels of 600-1500 cfs
which would put the minimum flows at
3000-4000 cfs on the Goldbar gauge
and maximum flows at 7500 to 10,000
cfs. Expect the flow to be at the higher
end of the range during spring
snowmelt and the lower end of the
range during winter rains. Expect the
rapids to change from technical
boulder chutes to rides through more
powerful hydraulics as the flow
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.
Alpine Falls Put-in
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