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
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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.
As of 1/5/20 clear of wood, a major log at the end of first drop has been washed out. everything after leap of faith is also clear.
Yesterday Tilton was clean of wood. It should be noted that Final Ledge is very different than what is described. Left is a sieve with wood and the middle has a very big hole. Right is still fine but use caution and scout if you are considering a different line.
As of 3/22/2008 the run was clean (no Wood in Leap of Faith).
Posted by Nick Newhall 25MAR2006
First off a few things. Tilton is in good shape until you get to Leap of Faith. Actually Leap of Faith is good. It's what is below that is bad!
There's been a landslide on river left where the creek from river right comes in immediately below Leap of Faith. This landslide looks like it has deposited rocks in the river, not an issue, but the tree it brought down with it is going to be there a while and will definitely be more of an issue at higher water as eddie above it become less availble. Portage river right, actually scratch that. Start hiking out.
The old growth log downstream of Leap of Faith in the second small drop, and across the route you want for this drop, is river wide and I'm not sure it's going anywhere even with higher water. We had 900 cfs on the river and I got in the same drop as said log before I saw it. I may have soiled myself at the sight of it. There was maybe a foot of clearance under the right hand side of the log at this flow. Definitely not enough to pass under upright or upside down. At higher flows, if this thing doesn't move out this is just going to get a lot worse. Unfortunately there is no way to slide up to the log and go over, and traversing along above the river isn't an option either. Almquist and I explored that option.
So everyone knows you can extract up the creek as long as you stay to your left as you are looking uphill. Eventually you'll run into a tree farm and then come out somewhere in the middle of the road you drive shuttle on.
7 years ago
Ideal flows are above 1000 cfs with the best action at flows up above 2000 cfs. The run can be very flashy and if you leave your house with the gauge at an ideal level and heavy rain in the basin, you might find yourself paddling a flooding torrent by the end of the day.
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Log Jam Aerial View
Final Boulder Garden
Sunny day in the gorge
Gorge below Leap of Faith
Leap of Faith, final pitch
Leap of Faith
Rapid on the Tilton
Ledge Drop near end
Tilton Ledge Drop
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