Yellowjacket Creek, Washington, US
|Usual Difficulty||IV(V) (for normal flows)|
|Avg. Gradient||78 fpm|
|virtual-7116||400 - 1000 cfs||IV(V)||00h23m||511.36 cfs (running)|
SEASON: November to April with rainfall
ACCESS: In the past people would use "a class V scramble down to the river", this access point is described in the Bennett Book by Gary Korb. These days, boaters are using a roadside put in a few miles upstream. Besides being easier access, it adds a few fun rapids and either a stout 30 foot waterfall or a fun throw and go (where a drysuit).
Yellowjacket Creek is a fantastic small river, full of scenic gorges. The rapids range between straightforward ledges to steep slides to boulder gardens and one large waterfall, making this a lively run. The first big drop comes after a short warmup. It looks from above almost like it could be boat scouted, don't fall for that trap, scout on the right as most will portage. In 2017 it was possible to run down the left and avoid the meat of the rapid.
More boulder gardens lead to a narrow gorge. A twisty class IV lead in lands in a pool with an obvious horizon line below, there is a fun ramp to boof down the left for what may be the most fun rapid of the creek.
There is some more whitewater downstream, and things ease off before bending right amongst boulders and where you might least expect it a large horizon line presents itself. Be sure to eddy out on the left to scout/portage. The left side of Yellowjacket Falls lands on a rock, but has been successfully run center boofing towards the right. This drop is the real deal, with high consequences for missing what is kind of a straight-forward line. If you portage, have someone jump in and get ready to collect boats downstream. It's nice to have one person in their boat, and one on shore for corralling purposes.
There are a couple fun slides immediately downstream of Yellowjacket Falls that can both be run right, below these ledges is the historic put in at the base of the "class V scramble".
The next stand out rapid can be scouted on the right, or has been boated scouted. Here, the river bends right then left through a tight boulder jumble. The line is obvious, but wood would be a disaster.
Below that rapid, Yellowjacket Creek provides some fun class III boulder gardens as you approach The Meteorite, a series of three small ledges just above the McCoy Creek confluence. This drop can be scouted left and run right. Just below the confluence, prepare for Godzilla, one of the highlights of this run. This series of four ever-larger ledges can pack a wallop as levels increase. Scout left.
Below Godzilla, the river continues through the best drops on the run. This lively section is a hoot, and most drops are boat scoutable, but get out when needed. When you see the river bend right toward a house rock then left into a cliff wall, stop and scout the seven foot sliding falls. At lower levels, you can scout from the dewatered right side of the drop and run as far right as possible in the left channel. As levels increase a right side line opens up.
Below the falls, the river eases to class III for much of the rest of the trip. There is one good rapid remaining, the most scenic drop on the run. When you see a large, light grey basalt wall rising out of the water on river right, prepare to scout this last drop from the left. The run is far right, against the canyon wall. Below the final boulder garden, Yellowjacket Creek returns to class III boulder gardens set in small canyons. When you leave the canyons for the cobblestone gravel fans, you're a half-mile above the takeout.
With contributions from Brian Vogt
for additional information see:
DIRECTIONS: From Randle, head South for 1 mile on 139 before veering left onto Cispus River Rd/NF-23. 8 Miles later turn right on Cispus River Rd towards the Learning Center. You will quickly cross over the Cispus, and 1.3 miles after the turn you will cross Yellowjacket Creek at the take out.
Just passed the take out bridge (and on river left) turn upstream onto NF-28, continue upstream 7.4 miles. The creek should be close by and a road blown out by a debris flow heads towards the creek and to a bridge at the put in.