Tilton, Washington, US
|Usual Difficulty||III-IV (for normal flows)|
|TILTON RIVER AB BEAR CANYON CREEK NEAR CINEBAR, WA|
|usgs-14236200||800 - 4000 cfs||III-IV||00h23m||68.9 cfs (too low)|
SEASON: This is a low elevation run highly dependent on winter rains. It is often best after a good rain between late November and early April.
FUN FACT: Good play run with great scenery and some awesome drops.
LOGISTICS: From I-5: Take exit #68 (U.S. 12 E, Morton, Yakima), and drive east on U.S. 12 for 14 miles. Turn north on SR 122 (Silver Creek Rd.) and drive 1.9 miles. At the Y-intersection, take SR 122 (Harmony Rd.) 1.6 miles east across the reservoir to Ike Kinswa State Park. Turn left into the park and drive to the parking area at the far end. To reach the put-in, drive back out to the Y-intersection and then take the other fork heading north (Cinebar Road). In approximately 4.5 miles the road comes to a T. Turn right and continue east on SR 508 for about 7 miles. You'll cross high over a tributary creek before you arrive at the bridge across the Tilton. There is parking and easy river access on the upstream river left side of the Tilton River bridge.
DESCRIPTION: When many paddlers consider their first trip to the Tilton River, the class I/II paddle in and the flatwater paddle out on a reservoir, cause many to have second thoughts. Once you've paddled the Tilton, however, you'll be back for more as the whitewater in the middle more than makes up for the lack of action at the beginning and end. You'll find some great drops and fun play spots, and the scenery in the gorge is outstanding. This run is remote and a hike out would be an epic adventure through the devil's club. Although the drops are relatively easy to scout and the pool-drop nature of the run provides good recovery stretches, some are very difficult if not impossible to portage due to the steep canyon walls. For the most part the run consists of class IV drops separated by intervening sections of class III whitewater. Use your judgement if you have limited class IV experience as once you are in the gorge you are committed to the run.
The run starts out with nearly two miles of paddling through swift water interrupted by a few easy class II rapids. It's not too bad though as there are some fun eddy lines and the current moves you along. Just as you're starting to wonder when the action will get started the bedrock canyon walls start to close in and you'll have a couple fun class III drops before reaching an an obvious horizon line at the start of the first gorge. You can get out to scout on the right, and the line winds down the center and then cuts to the left to avoid a big hole on the right about midway down (photo). The next few rapids have some great playspots and are relatively easy to boat scout. There are some great waves along the right-hand side of an island. There are some eddies along the bedrock wall on river right and once you've worked this section you can continue down to the pool and catch eddy service for a nice playspot near a little beach area just downstream from the island.
Some more great class III/IV rapids follow and the next next major drop is Leap of Faith (photo). It's marked by a distinct horizon line, a mid-stream rock with chutes running down both sides, and a bedrock wall along river right. Grab an eddy on the left to get out and scout. There are routes along the right, left, or center depending on flows and your preference. As the river takes a slight bend to the right around the corner, there is a fairly significant hole that you'll probably want to avoid. Hug the right side to avoid the hole or take the more challenging route down the left. After a short recovery pool, the stretch following Leap of Faith is fairly continuous with a runout through a narrow constrained canyon section (photo, photo).
After several more fun rapids and some scenic waterfalls that cascade in from the sides, the river comes to another horizon line at a river-wide ledge (photo, video). Scout from the outcrop on river right and choose from a boof move off the center ledge, a more technical line along the left that winds past a large outcrop, or punch the edge of a hole along the right (beware of the undercut cave on river right).
After a final short recovery stretch, the river pools up above the final drop. There is a huge eddy on the right, but the best place to scout is from river left and it's easiest if you work your way partway down the rapid. Here the river plunges into the longest and most continuous rapid of the run before settling out in the reservoir (photo). You can run it down the center, weaving to avoid rocks and a couple of holes. At lower flows the rapid becomes technical and pin potential is higher. At higher flows the drop cleans up but you'll want to avoid the holes.
After one final little plunge, the flow gradually slows as you hit the reservoir (photo). Depending on level you get a little bit of current and the paddle takes about 30 minutes. Take out in the park, with the grass lawn, on the left (it's before you reach the bridge).
When flows are high (> 2000 cfs) and you get an early start a longer trip starting on the North Fork Tilton is a possibility.
lat/long approximated by Tiger map server
for additional information see
|Mile||Rapid Name||Class||Features (Legend)|
|-4.9||Leap of Faith||IV+|
The first significant drop on the run where the river funnels down through a bedrock chute. Look out for the hole on river right towards the bottom of the rapid.
Lots of fun playspots on a series of waves where the river runs along the high bank on river left and bends around to the left.
After you're done playing the Arcade a fun section begins with a distinct horizon line.
Leap of Faith has changed a bit over the years. The leap of faith you had to take is now largely visible from a scout on river left. Head either left or right of the two boulders near the top and then avoid the boulders on river left at the bottom. Wood has been an issue in this rapid in recent years and it's always good to get a recent report. There is a good recovery section where the river enters a beautiful gorge at the end of the rapid.
The final ledge drop has a couple options. You can run the right line but don't go too far right at higher water as the wall on river right is undercut. You can also run a line on river left that involves an S turn move.
Weave your way through the boulder field and then thread the holes at the bottom. This last major rapid is the longest drop on the run.