The Top Tye was one of those runs that remained relatively unknown despite its easy
access from a major state highway and proximity to the greater Seattle area. It did not even appear in a
guidebook until 1998. Through the late 90's however this river emerged as one of the premiere steep
creeks in the region and each year this run grows in popularity. Thanks to the Twitch video series and
local paddlesports photographer Jock Bradley nearly ever paddler in the country has seen images of this
incredibly scenic creek. There are typically good flows late into the spring boating season when sunny
skies and warm temperatures illuminate the forested bedrock canyons. It's not true old-growth but it's
been a long time since any logging took place and while it serves as a convenient safety net, you hardly
notice nearby Highway 2 when you're on the river. This is a class V creek run but most of the drops can
be easily scouted and portaged at moderate flows.
From the Highway 2 bridge the river starts out with shallow class II rapids as the river
flows within easy access of FR 67. There is a significant drop near the end of this warm-up known as
Slide Falls (photo), but
you can also put-in just below this. The real action begins just a few paddle strokes downstream where
you loose sight of the river from FR 67 and the river disappears over a ledge into a canyon section (photo). This rapid, Double
Drop Falls, can be easily scouted on the right. There is a decent line down the left (photo), but be sure to get back in control
quickly and grab the eddy below on river left because the next horizon line you can see while scouting
is the Spout.
After running Double Drop Falls, you are committed to the gorge and you will find
yourself in the eddy above the first of two significant waterfalls. These two drops are featured in the
opening of the Tye River sequence in Twitch 2000. The first is The Spout where the river drops about
15 feet into the right wall (photo). Use the generous bedrock platform on river left to scout the drop or
bypass it altogether with a seal launch into the foamy pool below. The typical line is to start right for
the first pitch and then work your way over to the flake on the left which sends you clear of the hole at
the base of the falls and bedrock knee that sticks out from the wall on river right. (Tao shows how it's done).
You only have a few paddle strokes to recover but if you're in control you should be able
to grab an eddy on river left before the river plunges over a second waterfall known as Skin So Soft (photo). The standard line is
far right and you will want to avoid the rocks at the base of the falls towards the center and left. It's a
really smooth drop if you set up for it correctly. There is the option of a very challenging portage on
river left, but it requires some skilled climbing moves and then there's the issue of getting back into
your boat in the pool below.
Leaving the two waterfalls behind you paddle over a couple ledges and past some large
boulders before the current takes you through a fun flume on the right; then the river disappears
around the corner at Big Left Turn. The river eases up and provides a nice eddy just beyond the point
that you can easily see when scouting from above.
For the next few minutes you will have some easy boulder gardens that may be a little
scrapey and an island to negotiate which in past years has contained some wood hazards. Over the past
few years, the left channel has been the better option. Soon enough the river cascades down another
fun slide and you're at the mouth of Deception Creek and the start of the Park Section. You'll look up to the left to see the
tourist viewing platform at the rim of Monkey Cage Falls which is about a 20' sloping falls (photo). When you run this
drop it's not uncommon for the tourists to hoot and holler from the platform like a bunch of monkeys
in a cage--hence the name (photo). The drop is typically run down the center or a little to the right (photo), and while a line
down the left looks inviting there have been reports of injuries due to some rocks partway down the
slide on that side (photo
). This drop is also featured in Twitch 2000. The easy portage on the left is always an option.
Just a short distance downstream you will want to pull out on the right to scout Crack in
the Earth (photo). This is
one of the most unique rapids in the region and once again there is a viewing platform where
spectators will line up to watch the show. After a short entrance flume the river drops over a 10' ledge
and into a headwall only a few feet downstream forcing the river to make a 90 degree turn to the right.
At the downstream end of the landing zone the river hits a midstream boulder and the river squeezes
through a narrow slot to either side. One move is to sail off the right side of the ledge with a strong
sweep to turn your boat and land your boof headed downstream. Next you have to work hard to hit the
preferred right hand slot past the boulder at the bottom. Momentum and the current carries boaters
over to the left slot which sets you right into a deceptively nasty hydraulic. Swims are common here so
be sure to set good safety. Another alternative is to take the far right sneak which is more of a slide
down wet rocks, but it sets you past the bad hole (photo). Just another 50 yards downstream there is another ledge with a
hydraulic at it's base that gives people trouble (photo). For those running Crack in the Earth, it's a good idea to set safety above
You have some fun class III before the next big set of rapids downstream. When a
concrete retaining wall for Highway 2 comes into view high on the left downstream, you are
approaching Log Choke Falls. Grab an eddy on the right and follow the well-worn portage trail up to FR
67 and then back down to the pool at the base of the falls. Tao recorded a first descent on Log Choke
Falls but the move requires a tricky line along and through a couple massive old-growth logs that have
been firmly jammed in the drop for as long as folks have been running this river. Tao's second attempt
can be seen in the video Twitch 2000.
Just below Log Choke the river falls over what many consider the best drop on the run.
This is Box Drop and you need to make sure you don't put in below it. The river sends you shooting out
off a flake that sets you up for a perfect boof as you sail out into the pool below. It's an awesome ride
and with Log Choke Falls in the background it's an impressive scene (photo). Those looking for a short creek
run that features great rapids sometimes start their run here.
There are fun boulder gardens and ledges as you continue downstream and the first
significant horizon line you'll encounter is 8' Boof. Make sure you launch with a clean boof off the left-
hand side to avoid the hydraulic. More great boogie water continues as you head downstream and with
the added flows of tributaries that come in over the course of the run you'll have more water than in the
boulder gardens at the start of the run. You will see Martin Creek come in from the right (as recently as 2003 there was a hydroplant
planned for this site that would have been constructed on the banks of the Tye; AW played a leadership
role in killing this project and several other small hydro facilities planned for small streams on public
land on the west side of the Cascades).
The next drop you'll want to scout is Paranoia. The river drops over one horizon line with
a tricky entrance rapid that gives you limited time to set up for the plunge over a 10' ledge squeezed
between the bedrock walls. You'll want to hit this ledge on the left side with a good boof (photo from above, photo from below). A strong
eddyline in the drop above can easily set you off course. The runout from the pool below Paranoia is
another great rapid.
A short distance below Paranoia the river drops over a set of three ledges referred to as
Triple Drop. A distinct horizon line on the left side of the river marks the start of these drops. They look
deceptively tame but holes lurk toward the center at the base of the ledges so the preferred lines are
down the far right (photo
) or left (photo)
depending on flows and your preference. At lower flows you can try your luck at running the meat.
Some more great boulder gardens keep you entertained for the rest of the run. For the
most part just stay with the current and eddy hop down but as you approach two little canyon sections
the gradient gets a bit steeper. On the first of these you will be headed down the left side before the
river squeezes between a narrow slot in the bedrock. For the second one you'll be starting more
towards the right but at the bottom the current slams into the wall on river left. Keep your boat pointed
to the right once you reach the bottom and take hard strokes to avoid trouble up against the wall (photo).
When you leave the second little canyon the Highway 2 bridge comes into view. Exit the
river here from the pool at the base of this last mini canyon rapid as there is a good trail on river left up
to the road. Alpine Falls lurks just around the corner and downstream of the bridge. It's a marginally
runnable drop with severe consequences and definitely not something you want to stumble into (if you
continue past the bridge there are very few eddies above it). The run downstream continues as the Lower Tye.
The river is paralleled by two roads with Highway 2 running along river left and FR 67
running along river right. FR 67 is a short segment of the old road across the mountain pass starting at
Highway 2 mile 55.2 and rejoining it at mile 58.2. You can use either route for your shuttle depending
on where you put-in and what you want to scout beforehand. The take-out is at mile 55.3 at a large
pullout on the downstream river left side of the Highway 2 bridge. Scout the takeout carefully (takeout
at the bridge!) as you don't want to unknowingly drift into the lead in for Alpine Falls (it's been run
before, but it's not recommended as consequences will likely be fatal if you blow your line and end up
river right). To reach the put-in you can head upstream on FR 67. If you just want to run the lower half
of the run you can put-in at the base of Log Choke Falls at FR 67 mile 1.3 where a trail leads down near
concrete barriers. For the upper put-in continue up to mile 2.5 where the road approaches the river and
offers convenient access. As an alternative you can run your shuttle on Highway 2 and scout the Park
Section from the Deception Falls Recreation Area at Highway 2 mile 56.7 to see what you're getting
into. Then continue up to Highway 2, cross the Tye at mile 58.2, turn onto FR 67, and head
downstream to a convenient put-in of your choosing.
Comments of American Whitewater on developing a day-use site at Alpine Falls on the Tye River.
Because this run is higher up in the basin and susceptible to freezing level and relative snow melt the correlation is not perfect to the Goldbar gauge further downstream on the Skykomish. Check it out when the Skykomish at Goldbar Gauge is around 4000 cfs during spring snow melt or after a moderate fall rainstorm. 5000-6000 cfs is still a good level and you may find it runnable as low as 3000 cfs.
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.
Triple Drop, left side
Triple Drop, right side
Crack in the Earth and downstream ledge
Crack in the Earth
Monkey Cage Falls, from downstream
Monkey Cage Falls, from upstream
Monkey Cage Falls
Skin So Soft
Double Drop Falls
Moneky Cage low water
If someone gets hurt on a river, or you read about a whitewater-related injury, please report it to
American Whitewater. Don't worry about multiple submissions from other witnesses, as our safety
editors will turn multiple witness reports into a single unified accident report.
Log into the American Whitewater website and you can contribute to river descriptions,
flow and access tips, and maps associated with runs you've done. You can even add new
runs to the inventory!