Monday, February 15, 2010

EF Lewis River

Photo: Priscilla Macy

 3.5,  5.5,  8,  or 11 miles

Stream: The EF Lewis is a fantastic intermediate stream near Battleground, WA.  Don't come here for a constant barrage of whitewater though, for that head to Canyon Creek where you get more bang for your buck.  That said, I like the EF Lewis run better.  It's longer, and if you accept that you will have a lot of easy floating between rapids, you will be rewarded to a lot of good rapids and a great day on the water.   Higher flows makes the boogie go by faster, which can be tedious at low flows, and spices up all the rapids.  

Sunset Falls is easy to lap and has a few different lines, so makes a nice way to start the day. 

Photo: Priscilla Macy

 When you get your fill here just peal off downstream and warm up for some rapids in the class II boogie.  The first notable rapid comes on a right bend with a rip-rapped road visible on the left just above the turn.  This is Hippie John's and is best run to the left of a large mid-stream rock that can be seen from the top of the rapid.

A short class III rapid ends in some fast water above Skypilot, my favorite rapid of the Race Course section, the most common line is down the left.  A quick moment of bouldery class II leads to the gorge.  The gorge starts of with Screaming Left, followed quickly by Dragon's Back.  Both of these can be scouted from the left before entering the gorge.

The red boat is exiting Screaming Left, and the Blue boat is entering Dragon's back.  There are paddlers visible on shore where the scouting happens.  At lower flows there is a pool between these two rapids.
Photo: Priscilla Macy

Dragon's Back empties into a class III rapid that ends in a pinch point that often has logs broached between the walls.  Typically these logs are a non-issue for boaters, but occasionally they can be problematic.   The local community will have the latest on the wood configuration.

A nice flat section within the gorge is a great place to take it in before John's Swimming hole.  John's Swimming Hole is the location of the most swims on the river outside of people botching rolls in the pool below Sunset.  While the hole can be punched at lower flows, avoided left or right at any flow, it is sticky.  Some people use this as a place to practice working their way out of holes, since it is a fairly forgiving place to get thrown around and even swim.  Just mind that wall downstream that the flow pushes into.

Chris Leach goes it right.
Photo: Priscilla Macy

Just around the corner Copper Creek enters from the left, at the end of the race course.  When the flows are up the next half mile is fun and splashy class III.  Things do start to taper off for some time, but be sure to keep your eyes downstream for the horizon line at Horseshoe Falls and stay left to scout.  The far right chute would be  a bad place to find yourself drifting into by accident.  Attentive boaters will have no problem getting left to scout.  The middle line is the most common, a beautiful 10 foot autoboof.  I have heard people knock this route because it is "too easy", but I view such an easy line as a real treat.  

While autoboofs are fun, the hit can be notable if you don't land well.
The rafters about to land well.

There are also a couple fun lines on the left if you are looking for more of a challenge, and if that's not enough for you the far right line has been run a number of times.

Phil from Seattle getting creative on the left side of Horseshoe.

Photo: David Riess

Below here the river eases to class II as it passes by a house once owned by Tanya Harding, and before long King Creek enters from the left at the take out used by people looking for an "introduction to creeking" sort of day.  For boaters looking for more of a class IV-V day, this just marks the end of the warm up.

After another easy boogie section is the secret stash.  The two named rapids in here are Double Duece/Double Rainbow, and Pillow-Biter.  To run this section you should be confident figuring out class IV-V whitewater for yourself.  It can be done without trespassing, be courteous, and stay below the high water mark when scouting/portaging.  And don't run anything blind, this section is not conducive to reading-and-running.


The secret stash ends at the Dole Valley Rd bridge.

Continuing on the river boogies along through some easy whitewater again, picking up some flow from Rock Creek on the left.   The doldrums can set in here if the water is low, making for a good place to grab a lunch.  Eventually Naked Falls is reached and the easy floating is forgotten.  Naked is a fun three part rapid that is worth a scout.  The first two tiers can be scouted with ease from the right bank, where there is a nice eddy at the top of the rapid.

              Jake Brown comes clean through the first hydraulic of Naked Falls.

Downstream is the third tier, a ramp that can be boat scouted with some faith, but can also develop a hole at some flows.

Around the corner is a tall bridge spanning a beautiful pool, before the river bends left and over Moulton Falls, which is best scouted left where access from the water is easiest.

Moulton should be scouted and deserves respect, it makes for a great finale.
Photo: Priscilla Macy

It is possible to continue down to Lucia Falls, where more doldrums lead to a gorge section with a powerful class IV rapid, then Lucia.  Lucia should not be run when Salmon are present, and swimming or water contact is actually prohibited.  It is possible to take out legally on the upstream end of the park.

Flows:  People often run the EF Lewis River as an introduction to waterfall running and creek boating.  For these folks 500-1500 is friendliest, and taking out at King Creek is recommended.  If you looking for a class IV/V run, 1,500-2,500 cfs (or higher even) starting at Sunset and taking out at Moulton or Lucia Falls is the ticket.

  • My favorite trip is just a little over 1,000 cfs and paddling from Sunset Falls to Moulton Falls for a IV(V) sort of day.

  • The most bang for your buck is Sunset Falls to the Dole Valley Road Bridge.





Access:  From Battleground, WA take Highway 503 north, 3.6 miles after crossing over the EF Lewis River turn right onto NE Rock Creek Rd.  9.7 miles later you pass by Lucia Falls Park, if you are taking out here then drop a car.  If you are taking out at Moulton Falls, it's another 3 miles on the right.

From Moulton Falls, continue upstream and in 1/4 mile turn right onto Sunset Falls Rd.  In 7.5 miles you will reach Sunset Falls (passing the Dole Valley bridge access at 2.0 mi and the King Creek access point/pullout at 4.1 mi).  If you continue a short distance past Sunset Falls Campground, the road turns to gravel and you don't have to pay a fee to park).

Notes:  There is a section upstream of Sunset Falls, starting about 5 miles above Sunset Campground at the Green Fork confluence [45.824241, -122.166415].  This section has one great rapid (Double Drop), one weird rapid (Tombstone) and some other class III-IV ledges and loads of easy floating.  It's worth doing on occasion, a minimum flow is 1,000 cfs but more is better.

 The best rapid upstream of Sunset.

No comments: