Upper Upper Cispus River

Class V, 130fpm, ~700cfs (850cfs Cispus at Randle)

February 15, 2003

Ben, Travis, Leo

Travis taking a sneak route in one of the middle boulder gardens.


My original plan was to ski but when Travis called late Friday and said he and Leo were going to try the Upper Upper, I was obliged. The flow was considerably higher than my previous trips but I welcomed the challenge with my new drysuit and Gus. At the time the Cispus at Randle gauge showed between 500 and 600cfs. No problem.

I left Bellingham at the crack of 4am and met Travis and Leo in Randle around 8am. We found ourselves at the put-in around 10am. The first few drops were pushy but pleasant. The upper boulder gardens cleaned up nicely after recent floods and we welcomed the higher flow. The first log portage was nearly submerged and we had no problem running it on the far left. During a scout of Voodoo we spotted a small log wedged deep at the bottom of the left chute where we normally run it. It looked like a bad pin depending on how deep you went so we opted for the sneak route on the right. Care should be taken at lower flows since the log would be more threatening and the sneak route dries up, although you can still portage on the right.


Leo running the first waterfall.


Travis running what is normally our first portage.


Leo running right at Voodoo. The log is barely visible at the base of the left chute.


Soon we reached Island Drop. The right side was as intimidating as ever but the left had filled in to provide a seemingly easy alternative. I waded through the portage route to set up safety for Leo who ran it perfect. Travis hit it with an angle and spent some time in the hole. I'm not sure what happened to me but I also got stopped and booted a short while later.

Next came the tight chute against the cliff. We spotted a log caught in the entrance but Leo scaled the cliff on the right and determined that it wasn't blocking. We all got flipped but made it through ok. By then, it had started to drizzle and a hike to the road was becoming more tempting but with only 100cfs more than our previous high and good luck so far, we agreed to continue.


Travis getting tossed in Island Drop.


Leo running the tight chute. The log on the left is new and could present a problem at lower flows.


Just prior to the landslide was a bumpy rapid that Leo and I managed to clean. Looking back we noticed Travis had flipped but before we could grimace he was upright with the loudest boof that I'd ever heard. Fortunately, the echoes came from his boat rather than his head.

The landslide rapid had a clean line down the center that we all ran. I'm not sure whether the other log (the one that necessitates a portage at lower flows) was submerged or gone but at that point we were more concerned about the upcoming waterfall.



The landslide rapid. This is normally our second and final portage.


The rapid above Behemoth had some wild hydraulics but we made our way through on the right with little trouble. Our first look into Behemoth made us wonder what the heck happened. The pool at its base had turned into a wash machine and the hole below it was bound to put us through the wringer. So much for our friendly ferry to the left.

By then the drizzle had turned to steady rain so waiting would only make things worse. Leo went first and got tossed into the punchbowl on the right. He made several attempts to ferry but his closest barely lined him up with the hole on the right. Finally, what appeared to be a frustrated all or nothing led him to the left side of the hole where he plunged sideways into the luckiest rodeo I'd ever seen. It led him on the outskirts of the hole to the right wall where he (thankfully) was able to exit his boat and set up safely for Travis and myself. I went next, came up upside down but managed to roll in time to paddle into the punchbowl rather than backwards into the hole. My attempts to ferry gave the same results. The speed and swells of the froth were too much for my measly motor. My best effort lined me up for the hole so I went for it and made it through with little if any speed to spare. Travis watched from above and with his new knowledge he skipped the punchbowl and went straight for the hole. We all made it through but it was by no means guaranteed.


Travis running the Behemoth while Leo stands by with a rope next to the (w)ringer.


The final boulder garden was a kick. I enjoyed watching Leo and Travis run it while beating my way down backwards.

If it weren't for the hole below Behemoth, I'd have done another lap. Instead, I let my fears rest with an afternoon of skiing at White Pass. A few days later we found the Cispus and Cowlitz gauges were adjusted to reflect changes in riverbed following the floods. The Cispus at Randle was closer to 850cfs when we ran it. In some ways I was pleased because I'd have never ran it had I known it was that high. In general, I prefer the higher flow but for the time being, 849cfs is my limit.