Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Lewis River Waterfalls

The summer of 2011 has treated both coasts to epic storms and unheard of amounts of water. The Pacific Northwest hasn’t experienced any dramatic flooding, but any local paddler knows that it has been a great year for boating. My favorite local runs including the White Salmon, Cispus, and Lewis River have all kept stable flows late into the summer and still have healthy amounts of water. 

The highlight of my summer has undoubtedly been the significant amount of time I’ve been able to spend in the Lewis River drainage, just forty-five minutes from my home town of Trout Lake, Washington. The Lewis River has three notable drops known as Upper, Middle and Lower Falls. Upper and Lower Falls are both very technical and consequential, and of course extremely fun. Upper Falls consists of a low volume thirty foot waterfall that lands perpendicular to the main flow of the river, which immediately drops another 25-30 feet into a large, boily pool. In order to have a successful ride on this intensely fun set of waterfalls, you must nail a perfectly timed and precisely placed stroke off of the first waterfall, landing either straight with hopes of not hitting the large rock wall directly after the landing zone, or turning ninety degrees in mid air and upon impact, be ready to take another well placed and timed stroke off of the next waterfall. 

Over the course of the summer, I’ve had two successful attempts out of three. My first run of the year ended with me swimming into the undercut cave on the left side of the falls and holding on to a slippery rock wall until my brother Todd Wells paddled under the curtain of the adjacent sixty foot waterfall to pull me out. My first attempt wasn’t a huge confidence booster, but it made sticking it the next two times that much better. A short paddle down stream is Middle Falls, a simple but fun fifty foot slide that is easily runnable in a kayak, inner tube, on your butt, or in any other craft you can think of. 

Just around the corner lies the popular Lower Falls. Lower Falls is a fun forty foot drop with a three foot lead in ledge. Lower Falls is much less consequential that Upper Falls, but has a cave on the left side that is not a friendly place to be. With a little practice running waterfalls this size, it is relatively easy take a powerful stroke at the top of the drop and launch yourself and your kayak away from the notorious cave and land softly in the boils below. If you’re ever in the area and need a cool place to camp, hike, bike, swim, cliff jump, pick huckle berries and mushrooms and hang out in the beautiful old growth forests, I highly recommend you stop at the Lewis River, even if you don’t feel like running any of the falls!

Well enough said in writing, now check out this video that my brother Todd and I made of our adventures on the Lewis River this summer. Enjoy!

Brendan Wells