Posted by Jon Almquist at Seattle Kayaker Yahoo Group (1/25/2006)
Yep, we took the "free" route by accessing via West Side Road in the park. The road was closed to motorized vehicles due to a wash-out, but we fabricated a "kayak" trailer from a bicycle baby carrage and had one guy peddle the bike while two pushed from behind. You go up over one easy pass - historical in that it's famous for the crash of a large military plane - and then you get a fun down hill screamer to the SF Puyallup bridge. You can probably expect 2-3 hours hiking / biking from the start of WS road to the bridge. If the road is open to vehicles, you're golden.
Boating from this point down to the main canyon is unique, lonely (you're in the park for the first bit), but not what I would consider outstanding. The glacier till raised river beds are fun, as you're floating along at the crest of these huge gravel deposits. It's a strange feeling to be floating HIGHER than the surrounding land. There is also an upper vertical walled gorge probably less than a mile long - that would be stellar. But alas, wood kept us on the rim. Once you get past this gorge, you'll have miles of wilderness class 2 before the main canyon. Unless you get to the river at daybreak, expect to spend the night. Also expect wildlife - we saw bear, deer, elk, etc.
The canyon is fantastic - deeper than the Carbon, vertical in spots, and quite dramatic. Most of the drops were straight-forward. We did encounter a fresh and rather large land slide that created a class 6 mess (think Sultan), with an easy carry on RL. Just below, we eddied at the brink of a class 5ish drop, walled in on both sides, with fresh rock and wood from the slide impeading the line. There was one small eddy RR that allowed us step out and teather our boats in a gully. Portaging on shore was not an option. Neither was going up the walls or paddling back upstream to a potential exit from the canyon. This was likely the biggest "now what" moment in my paddling career. Of course, cool heads prevailed, and we were able to rig a tag line to a mid-river rock that luckily had a hidden but nice seal launch shelf on the downstream side. This dropped us into the latter part of the rapid, below the crux move that was jammed with wood and sharp rock. All is well that ends well. My guess is that both these drops will have cleaned up with years of flow.
Visual. Look for flows of 400-500 cfs. The gauge at Electron is located just upstream of the diversion for the powerhouse which removes up to 400 cfs from the river.
Permits are not required for this reach.
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Electron Hydropower Plant
Looking Up Into Puyallup Gorge
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