SEASON: Late snow melt when the levels are good. Early season runs typically encounter snow requiring a 1-2 mile hike to the put-in. Snow on the banks can also make the portages and scouting a challenge.
LOGISTICS: Take-out: Starting from the town of Randle (Highway 12 mile 115), take Cispus Road south across the Cowltiz River and continue for one mile to the fork of FR 25 and FR 23. Take the left fork and follow FR 23. Continue on FR 23 to mile 18.6 where you turn left onto FR 21. Stay on FR 21 for 12.7 miles and turn right onto FR 2160 which heads down and reaches the river in 1.3 miles. Although Bennett describes a take-out at the FR 2160 bridge those who have used it decribe the last two miles of the run as the "portage from hell" where the river basically runs through the forest with numerous log jams and dense understory vegetation. A better alternative which has since been discovered is to continue 1.7 miles past the bridge towards Walupt Lake to the Coleman Weedpatch Trail 121 parking area (you'll need a Northwest Forest Pass). The trail to the river is directly across the road from the trailhead parking area. It is probably a little less than a mile to the river. Finding the take-out trail from the river can be a bit tricky. It's about 500 yards downstream from Walupt Creek Falls on river left. You'll pass a couple steep talus slopes and bedrock walls. Take-out where the steep walls end and the forest meets the river floodplain (the river gradient levels out considerably here). Exit the river and walk along the toe of a talus slope for 50 yards and then bear to the right. You should cross the trail within another 50 yards. The trail starts out easy on a level grade (if you're trying to scramble up steep slopes you're in the wrong place) and then you'll make your way up the hill to the road through a series of switchbacks.
Put-in: To find the put-in head back towards FR 21, but just before you reach it turn right on to 2152 (this road is on the south side of Chambers Creek). Continue 2.3 miles to a 4-way intersection and head straight on FR 016 1.7 miles to the end at Goat Creek You'll pass another spur road and trailhead and then as you drop into the Goat Creek drainage there will be a big bedrock wall on your right. The road veers off to the left a bit and continues down an easy grade to an area that overlooks the creek. It's a short slide down the bank to the water. Early in the season snow may prevent vehicle access.
Check road conditions before you head down with the Cowlitz Valley Ranger District at 360-497-1100 or check the road status reports on the Gifford Pinchot National Forest web site. You'll want to ask about FR 2152 and spur FR 016 for the put-in and FR 2160 for the takeout.
This is a great little run with some incredbily fun bedrock slides. The only downside is the entrance and exit are a bit of a hassle and you can expect that someone will break some gear on this run (don't bring your nice play boating paddle). It's the kind of run that's a ton of fun, but it's more of a novelty run. Although this run is rated as class V the actual drops are fairly straightforward and running them requires little more than class III moves. They do create somewhat intimidating horizon lines, however, and the hazard comes with the tricky portages at the start, the difficulty of completely scouting the biggest slides, the chance that logs may require quick-thinking class V evasive manuvers, and the inaccessbility of the river canyon once you're committed to the run. Otherwise you just need to point your boat downstream and enjoy the ride.
From the put-in on Goat Creek you start out in a low gradient area with several log jams comprised of old-growth trees (this is the Goat Rocks Wilderness), before you encounter the first short rapids. There is one good slide before you reach the first of the two waterfalls that you will likely want to consider portaging. The first one kind of sneaks up on you and there are not a lot of great eddies so stay well spaced. It's a bit of a sketchy hike along the edge of a bedrock wall on river left to work your way down around the waterfall. If you've portaged the first drop then you might as well keep going because the next waterfall is right downstream and is also portaged on the left. You may be able to run these drops but beware of the subsurface rocks--it looks like a good place to break a boat.
Once you're below the waterfalls, you'll soon join the confluence of the Cispus and the slides begin. You may find it a little grungy at first and stay alert because there will likely be another log portage or two. You'll have a few good slides before you pass a tributary creek that comes in as a waterfall on the left. Just as you're starting to wonder if the run is going to be worth all the hassle the slides build in size until the final sequence of 3 giant slides that come in quick succession. These are difficult to scout but you if remain well spaced you can probably find an eddy or two. For the most part you want to stay center and avoid logs that occasionally extend out from the edge of the bank. One channel-spanning log in this section could form a serious hazard so use caution. As you make the hard bend to the right and follow the last big slide down you'll be able to grab a good-sized eddy. A few more rapids follow before you encounter the most amazing site on the run--Walupt Falls. This waterfall is absolutely incredible and there is a nice little beach where you can take in the view. Those with more energy can hike up and run the slide at the base of the falls.
After the falls the river makes a hard bend to the right and you'll have a couple final rapids to enjoy (500 yards or so) before the gradient levels out and the forest comes up along the river. Take-out here on river left and begin your hike along the trail.
For a trip report and additional description, check out the Cispus Super Slides page on Jason Rackley's Oregon Kayaking site
For expert paddlers, other great runs in the immediate area include:
For intermediate paddlers, these runs are good options
There are also opportunities for mountain biking and hiking and some great camping spots in the National Forest.
While visiting WA from the East Coast (Eastern TN), we did our hike and shuttle exclusively on river right and it seemed like a relatively low hassle way handle the logistics for this run. It may or may not be faster and easier than the approach listed above - I'm merely posting to provide you readers with another option. We found this option somewhat accidentally - we misinterpreted the instructions from a friend who was actually trying to route us to the river left trail. All of the roads described below are shown in DeLorme's Gazetteer (at least the edition we were using).
To the take out: From Forest Road (FR) 12, head east on FR 2160 towards (but not all of the way to) the Cispus River. Take a left onto FR 2152, which should be your first left. FR 2152 meets FR 016 and 017 at a four way intersection. Take a right on FR 017 and head east down towards the river. The Klickitat Trail (Trail 7) intersects 017 at the dead end - it heads down to the river from the SE part of the informal parking area found there. If it's your first time using this trail, I'd recommend hiking down to the river and placing some sort of flag so you can find it when you reach the end of your run. If you're feeling a bit more adventurous, a description on finding the trail from the river is provided below.
To the put-in: We did a fairly short bushwhack down the slope and put in about 200 yards above the confluence of Goat Creek and the Cispus, which prevented us from having to deal with the painful amounts of log jams reported to be upstream and from having to portage the marginally runnable waterfalls on Goat Cr. From the take out, back track on FR 017 to the 4 way intersection and turn right on FR 016. If you're at all concerned about the paint job on your rig, this road will make you cringe - lots of thick, low growing brush could tear it to shreds. As FR 016 begins to enter the clearing shown in 'Put-in' photo linked to this page, you'll see a 4WD track of to the right. We drove this tack about 100 yards then parked the car. We then hiked down this road and began bearing slightly to the right (downstream). Eventually, you should hit Goat Creek just above the confluence. Since there was a lot of wood everywhere, we ferried to river left which looked to be easier terrain to deal with ... there's also some impressive old growth on this side of the creek!
Finding the take-out trail from the river. Pass Walupt Falls. After some Class III, you can sense that the valley is opening up very substantially. When we did the run, there was a logjam here that could be snuck on the far left side of the right channel. The trail is just beyond this log jam on the right.
When the Cispus River above Yellowjacket Creek is right around 3000 cfs during late spring snow melt, this upper reach will likely be at a good level (the run itself will be 10-20% of the flow on this gauge). You'll be grinding down the slides a bit but higher water could make the portages/scouting more challenging. Although the slides are fairly straightforward you want to be in control should you encounter a log hazard.
Permits are not required for this reach.
We have no additional detail on this route.
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Walking into Goat Creek
Walupt Creek Falls
Slide, midway through run
Slide, early in run
Second Waterfall, Goat Creek
First Waterfall, Goat Creek
Logs on Goat Creek
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