Photo: Matt King
Stream: This is a classic PNW stream that runs during the summer. It is mostly IV-IV+ with one mandatory class V section (Behemoth), and one optional class V rapid (island).
Starting at a campground, there is a couple hundred yards of warm up before the river bends right and over the first falls, which is off-vertical and about 10-15' tall. If you intend on scouting, get to the left shore before the bend to scout.
Ben Mckenzie - Warm up Falls
Photo: Priscilla Macy
The next mile or so is on the hard end of class IV with the occasional mank pile or wood to watch out for. It often looks trashy from above and below, but the lines are fun and padded if you are in the right spot. It can be nice to follow someone who knows the situation down the first time, but can be boat scouted too. There is one rapid near the end of this first gorge section that should be scouted. A hard right turn leads into it quickly, with eddies on the left above the rapid. The right and middle of the river is sieved out, and at least one person has had a frightening tangle with one of the sieve's. Ending left over a nice 4-5' boof is how the rapid is run, getting to that boof changes year to year and person to person, scout left.
John Edwards, hitting the bottom left boof.
Photo: Nate Merrill
Below here is a blind rapid that is boofed far left, where less of the water is going. It drops about 5', a left stroke with your nose at about 10-11 o' clock works well to avoid pitons.
Close downstream is Not Island, the easier line used to be right the whole way, in 2018 it was easiest just to go far left through what used to be a powerful hole. It's worth a scout on the left your first lap down.
Not far downstream the river opens up for a moment into a couple gravel bars and an island. It is an option to bail on the right here if someone is not having a good day.
There is even a neat little tube through the rock to check out.
Around the corner things gorge back up and rapids build to Island.
Mcbenzie after walking back up for lap two.
Island has a moving pool above it and a horizon line, its worth paying attention here so you eddy out in the correct spot (on the left bank of the island at normal flows). The right side double drop is tougher even than it looks to get a good boof. The portage is along a shallow shelf river-left.
Approaches to Island Drop from Eric Foster-Moore on Vimeo.
Downstream are more fun rapids, one that stands out is a ramp with short but vertical walls on either side. The hydraulic at the bottom folds into the right wall, so people flip here often. What I find works is moving center to left, nose at 10 o' clock and following through with a strong right stroke.
The log is gone.
Photo: Nate Merrill
A few more rapids exist before the entrance to Behemoth, noted by a short pool created by a landslide coming in from the right. There is a lead in rapid, then an eddy on the right to scout the Rapid of No Return, which leads to a moving hallway above Behemoth. If it's your first time, scouting from the landslide is not a bad idea.
The Rapid of No Return is a little tricky, but can be thoroughly scouted and even portaged on the right. Below the entrance, catch an eddy on the left before the big horizon line that is Behemoth to scout.
The scout/portage route at the entrance to Behemoth.
Photo: Nate Merrill
And the crux move in the Rapid of No Return.
There is more than one way to run Behemoth, and more than one hazard. The biggest hazard is being pulled behind the falls on the left. To avoid this, make sure you nose is not pointed left when you get airborn. After landing, there is a ledge with a powerful hole on the right. A strong delayed stroke about 10-15' off the right wall works. Or if you finessed Behemoth you can run the ledge left where there is not a hole to speak of.
Blasting the meat of the hole.
Photo: Nate Merrill
Downstream are two long boulder gardens. Enter the first one center, then stay right or right-ish the rest of the way until the boulder gardens ease to class II-III.
Mathias drops in for his first time on this quintessential 1/4 mile of classic PNW boating.
It is easy floating from below the last boulder garden to the take out bridge, one of the side canyons is worth walking up to see a neat falls.
A couple videos
Upper Upper Cispus August 2016 from IKNick on Vimeo.
Upper Upper Cispus from Lucas Rietmann on Vimeo.
Flows: 500-700 is best for a first time trip. It's still in down to 400, and has been run even lower. It can be run high, but you won't catch me up there doing that.
Matt has a write up about what you can expect from the Upper Upper Cispus when the water is up.
And here is a video from Todd Wells at even higher flows.
Access: From I-5, head East on Hwy 12 towards Morton and Randle. Almost an hour after leaving I-5, turn right in Randle onto Hwy 131. In 1 mile, turn left onto Cispus river road (Iv'e lazily missed that turn before). 17.6 miles later stay right, you will reach the take out bridge within half a mile.
To get to the put in, return the half mile back the way you came in and turn right onto NF-21. Continue upstream about 5 miles to the put in bridge.
Notes: For those with the skill, this is an exceptional run for class V R2's.
There is free camping at the take out, and a pay site at the put in. The free ones are smaller and sometimes filled, so it can be worth the money to get a site at the top with toilets and benches and more vacancy.
Trip Report from Nate Merrill
A few weeks ago, I finally got the opportunity to create my own opinion about the most polarizing run around. I shot the following photos over a two week span in mid-late august. In subsequent weekends, we had flows around 680 cfs and 550 cfs. I'd definitely recommend the higher of the two levels. In addition to cutting down on some of the mank in the upper boulder gardens, the higher flow also washed out the troublesome hole in the gorge above Behemoth. making that section far less stressful.
I'll start with the photos from the second weekend that I spent up on the upper upper.
Cruise Control scouting the 'Warm Up' Falls - This drop is a mere 150 yards from the put-in bridge. Be careful when approaching the lip, it would be easy to get swept down the gut if you get lost on the lead-in.
Looking down into the unknown
The warm up above the warm up.
John finishes off one of the countless boulder gardens in the first gorge. This one required a strong move to the left and allowed for a really sweet fading boof off a big rock in the center of the river. The right side led into a nasty boulder sieve.
Dan Rubado - The right side of Island is a tricky line. Boof early!
The bottom hole at Island - Brandon's got safety
Jacob - Island Paradise
JD - The top of Island tends to roll people onto their left edge. Be prepared and drive hard onto the boil coming of the right wall at the lip.
Scouting the gorge above Behemoth - This is about the point where everyone starts to get really concentrated and quite. The stress factor amplifies a bit as everyone begins to contemplate the massive horizon line at the bottom of the gorge.
Send out a probe
That's me, clawing my way out of the big hole directly above Behemoth. - It's best to hit this hole on the left with lots of speed!
JD in the Gorge
View from the top
View from below
After firing off Behemoth, I snapped this shot of the lower gorge. This section is one of my favorites in the entire PNW. Go right, then right again, followed by a move on the right before heading to the right... You get the idea.
The bark is worse than the bite. Although this hole looks terrifying, as long as you're in control and paddling hard, you'll make it through just fine. JD demonstrates.
Behemoth is a fun drop, but it is consequential! There is a nasty pocket on river left that several friends of mine have wound up in. Both folks required vertical extractions up the wall.
The following photos were taken on the first weekend spent on the UUC when flows were slightly higher. I apologize for the low photo quality. I was having a bad camera day.
Alex Kilyk on a cold summer day. Temps were in the 60's and water coming down was silty run off.
Dan and Chris Menges scouting Island
Alex fires off the left line at Island
This pinch drop should be approached with caution. As you can see, there is a log in the run out that is pretty nasty on river right.
Shortly before the river drops off the face. Issac, Dan, and Chris.
Contemplating life in the eddy above the big one.
First in flight
Issac gets his river karma back in balance.
And I'll leave you with this beauty! Issac Priestly likes his beer with a little extra sediment.