Tye, Washington, US
|Usual Difficulty||IV+ (for normal flows)|
|Avg. Gradient||60 fpm|
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 section.
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.
Comments of American Whitewater on developing a day-use site at Alpine Falls on the Tye River.