Cle Elum River

Class IV+, 111fpm, ~800cfs

July 13-14, 2002

Ben, Troy, Jason, Josh, John, Travis

Travis running the second drop of Triple Drop. Day Two.


The Cle Elum is a must run for Class IV and V boaters. The difficulty depends on the flow and, similar to my skills, this year's happened to be higher than last's. There is no gauge but it's worth keeping an eye on because when it's flowing, there's no place I'd rather be. Combine it with the Cooper and you have a weekend of unbeatable boating.

I drove down from Bellingham on Friday night planning to meet Troy and the Hummels somewhere along the way. We crossed paths near Salmon La Sac and continued to the put-in where we found an excellent camp beside the river. A campfire and barbecue made me envy the time off I had the previous summer but as fell asleep listening to music in the cab of my new truck, I realized that having a job isn't all that bad.

The next morning, Troy and I returned to Salmon La Sac where we left his truck for the shuttle. He wasn't intent on finishing the run but figured he'd give it a shot. A mile of Class II led us to an eddy above Triple Drop. Troy spent a few minutes practicing his roll but only managed one or two out of countless flips. The odds weren't in his favor so he hiked back to my truck after watching the Hummels and I run Triple Drop. We scouted from the right bank and found the first two drops to be a little intimidating. Josh got stuck on the left of the second but Jason and I had no trouble running both center. Josh had another near miss on the third drop, coming much too close to the ugly hole on the right.


Jason running center on the second drop of Triple Drop.


Josh missing his line on the third drop of Triple Drop. Fortunately, he hit the center and was able to paddle out. Jason's line isn't much better. They both should be further left.


The fun continued. In fact, it never let up. We relished the next few miles of Class III. I found myself sideways in a small hole but besides that, we didn't stop. The river eases briefly before entering China Gorge. The first few chutes and ledges leave you wishing for more but don't hesitate because the next few miles have plenty to offer.


Josh gets a face full above China Gorge.


Jason and Josh watch as John and Travis enter China Gorge the following day.


You'll have a few logs to portage near China Gorge but the eddies are easy to catch if you're paying attention. We made two short portages on the right. The canyon opens up and a long Class IV leads to S-Turn. The entrance is blocked by wood so be sure to catch one of several eddies on the right. Jason missed them all and ended up doing some boat scouting. Fortunately, he knew the move and was flushed through the logs without incident. Josh and I put in above a small log on the right. We scraped down some rocks, limboed the log and hugged the big boulder to avoid the hidden rock in the center chute.

Travis flipped in the center chute the following day and cracked his paddle blade while upside-down. Elbows in and lean right…


Josh hugging the big boulder on S-Turn.


There's another fun chute below S-Turn. Hit it straight and you should be fine. We usually get out on the right above and below to check for wood and seal launch the giant boulder.


Jason begins the chute below S-Turn.


Before long, Waptus River enters from the right. Troy met up with us just above the confluence. Be sure to stay far right on the next corner to avoid Waptus Hole. Josh thought nothing of it and got worked there at low flows. It looked ultra sticky at medium flows so we all stayed right.

After a few easy rapids you'll come to some flat water with mist near its end. Get out on the right to scout and or portage the 10-foot ledge. At low flows we boofed a chute on the far left. It looked like you'd still get flushed but it was too far from safety to chance. The right side didn't look much better but a rope could get you out. The preferred line was to boof a nose down the center. However, it looked difficult to nail. Jason tried first and found himself in the hole on the right. He got flushed. Josh tried to sneak down on the far right. He ended up pulling while upright and climbing the wall at our feet. This did little to support my attempt but I hit the center boof as planned.


Jason missing the center boof on the 10-foot ledge.


John nailing the boof the following day.


The final mile is relatively big-water Class III. Troy flipped and pulled near the end but we recovered in time to save face at the take-out. There, we met a group of boaters headed for the put-in. I wanted to join them but we decided to give the Cooper a look instead.

From the put-in below the waterfall we deemed it too high. The others thought it was higher but I estimated 400cfs and kept it as an option. I left a message with John before returning to camp. He and Travis were scheduled to join us the following day for a morning run down the Cle Elum and an afternoon…



Day Two