Class IV-V, 107fpm, ~100cfs
July 28-29, 2001
Ben, Jason, Josh
Josh warming up. Jason cooling off. The 50ft unrunable falls at the put in.
The Hummels and I first saw the Cooper during a 4 day kayak trip near Cle Elum. The first evening was spent on the Middle Middle Fork Snoqualmie (Class III-IV) on the way over from Seattle. We ran the China Gorge section of the Cle Elum (Class IV-V) the second day and the Waptus River (Class III) the third. We scouted the Cooper on the third day but talked ourselves out of it that evening. We ended up doing the Cle Elum again on the fourth.
The put in for the Cooper is pretty intimidating. A short hike leads to a 50ft falls. The guidebook says make sure to put in below this unrunable drop but we found it to be pretty self-explanatory. The flow was relatively high during our first visit so the falls looked pretty menacing. The drops that followed were just as inviting. The guidebook describes "a spectacular array of 8 to 10 foot pourovers and congested chutes that challenge even the best paddlers." We did not consider ourselves to be the best at the time. If fact, we had only been kayaking for 5 months. We decided to bail that night so we could get some sleep. That was probably a good decision because one of Josh's blades broke in half on Triple Falls the following morning. That was just below the put in of the China Gorge section on the second of three 5-9ft drops. Instead of hiking a few yards back to the truck, Josh decided to finish the run with his broken blade. He spent a good portion of the float upside down.
We promised ourselves to return when the flows died down. One month later we found ourselves at the put in. The 50ft falls still looked like it had more water than the photo in the guidebook but we estimated a flow of 100cfs, well below the suggested 300-800cfs. It had been a few weeks since we paddled so we practiced a few rolls in the deep pool below the falls. A few minutes later we floated to the edge of the pool and shot our way down the first couple hundred feet of rapids. This led to a corner and the first of several 10ft slides. We all got out to scout and I set up rescue and a photo. There was a small reversal at the base but none of us had any trouble escaping it. The next 3ft drop convinced us that we were in for a treat.
Josh on the first 10ft slide.
It wasn't long before we faced Norm's Resort. This is a keeper that should be run right (as opposed to left). We scouted well ahead and had no problem running it right (as opposed to wrong). None of us needed rescue.
Josh running right into Norm's Resort.
There were several uneven ledges that followed Norm's Resort. I don't recall the order or names. We scouted each of them and set up rescue but they were well spaced. If something did go wrong there was plenty of time to recover. Josh barely escaped a small reversal. I watched him get back-endered towards a log before his road runner paddling got him out of it.
We seal launched one drop because there was not enough water to get us where we wanted. It looked like a rocky landing near the middle of the drop where most of the water was flowing. We ended up feeding ourselves off the dry ledge on the right. Something changed our minds the second day.
Myself running one of several uneven ledges.
Jason. Same ledge, different angle.
Josh gets buried below another ledge.
Jason punches the small reversal that nearly sucked Josh beneath the log on the right.
Ledges weren't the only fun part of the trip. There were plenty of slides and chutes that kept us entertained. A short boulder garden added some variety. The river turned bony as the canyon opened up. Josh missed his line on the second to last drop and ended up getting pinned. He pulled out and was able to wrestle his boat off the rock. Jason and I scraped down on the left.
Myself running a large slide.
Josh getting pinned.
There was one final chute before the river turned to peace. A crowd of campers had formed so we tried our best to look good. Jason and Josh missed a boof near the middle and got beat up on the left. I cruised it in style.
There is a log at the bottom that is portaged in higher flows. We decided to try and roll underneath it. The log spans a large, calm and what appeared to be deep pool. Jason went first and discovered that it wasn't so deep. He barely made it through. I tried a different line and managed to wiggle my way through. Josh followed Jason and got stuck. He ended up pulling after some embarrassing attempts to roll.
We scraped down another half-mile of gravelly river and carried our boats to the campground. Jason followed the dirt road and ended up running halfway up the paved before he caught a ride to our car. Fortunately, the float was only 2 miles so the shuttle wasn't much. We ended up sitting around camp the rest of the afternoon. I wished there was more.