South Fork Stillaguamish River, Robe Canyon

Class V (V+), 56fpm, ~1000cfs (5.3' South Fork Stillaguamish)

May 17, 2003

Ben, Travis, Bill


Robe Canyon is a meaty Class V that provides a bad example as to why I boat. Its waters are murky, its rapids are trashy and the scenery is easily outdone.

The first five miles are painstaking Class I that we paddled with open minds and closed adrenaline glands. A long scout of Tunnel Rapid provided the opposite and we ended up hiking out. While retrieving my rig we ran into some other paddlers who inspired us to continue. They weren't able to lead us down but explained that the first few rapids are the most difficult (a few of which they always portage) and that the remainder of the rapids are easy to scout and portage. That was enough to get me to lug my boat down the trespass trail and Travis and Bill were quick to follow.

The first rapid had a nasty midstream boulder blocking most of the flow. Myself and another paddler were able to squeeze through on the right while the others portaged. Things kept busy below there as I recall two more portages and some new wood that required care. We lost sight of the other group during this section but were convinced that we had plenty of time for the remaining 7 miles of canyon.


Bill finishing the first rapid. Got milk?


One of our main concerns was the Landslide Rapid that most people portage. We kept an eye out for the tan cliff but found the eddy above it to be quite obvious. Anyone dumb enough to venture from the pool to the left horizon deserves to run this V-V+. Not I said the cowards. We all opted for the 10-minute portage down the bouldery right shore.


Travis running a typical rapid in the upper canyon.


The Class V-V+ Landslide Rapid. The hole below the ledge drop seen in the distance is the stickiest and there is a sieve behind the boulder seen on the right.


Careful scouting of each horizon line and fewer portages got me feeling cocky so I began to do more boat scouting. A long stretch of Class IV led to a narrow canyon where I opted to eddy out just in case. We discovered some fast waves that led to a series of riverwide holes. The decision to portage was easy for Travis but Bill and I went back and forth before giving in to common sense and the desire to breath.


The riverwide hole that we all portaged.


I recall one or two more Class IV+ boulder gardens that we scouted from shore. Fortunately, there were no more portages and we made it to the take-out with just enough daylight to see ourselves up the steep hike to the bridge. Pleased that we finished but with little desire to return. The following day, Travis and I joined John and the Hummels for a cleansing on the Cle Elum and Cooper.