Flowing from the flanks of Mount St. Helens, the crisp, blue water of the East Fork of the Lewis River create a whitewater playground in an enchanting canyon. The waterfall section, a class III-IV kayak and raft run, has helped many intermediate kayakers refine their skills for the steeper Pacific Northwest rivers. Even when the water levels are low, the canyon’s lush vegetation and narrow gorges attract local kayakers who are looking to escape into southwest Washington’s beautiful wilderness.
Starting on a high note, a plunge off of Sunset Falls begins the stretch. Often kayakers hike boats back up to the top to make several laps off of this straightforward waterfall, trying new lines or alternate techniques. Sunset Falls is often the first waterfall people run, both in a kayak and in a raft. Rapids downstream are generally class II-III, until the gorge narrows at the top of Screaming Left. A scout on the left is recommended for first-timers. This rapid can be run right or left, each with very different maneuvers. Just below Screaming Left lies the next drop, Dragon’s Back, followed by a large old-growth tree wedged between the narrow canyon walls at the end of this classic set of moves. Many find themselves high-fiving after displaying finesse and precision, or swimming to catch gear after faltering and aborting. If you find yourself in the latter situation, get to shore quickly to prevent a swim over the next drop, John’s Swimming Hole.
Several miles downstream, Horseshoe Falls makes for a spectacular finale to this classic whitewater run. With both mellow and scary lines, everyone can find a thrill on this last waterfall.