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The Ohanapecosh drains the southeastern flanks of Mount Rainier in a fast and furious cascade over boulders and ledges. Long boulder gardens, challenging ledges, big holes, and incredible scenery highlight the secluded, 2.5-mile canyon. 

Huge boulders stud the riverbed, offering many routes through the narrow chutes and ledges. After one particularly steep and narrow ledge, the river eases to Class II for roughly a quarter mile before reaching Log Boof, the first rapid of consequence.

The river’s difficulty builds gradually from here with many more boulder gardens and ledges culminating in the often portaged Elbow Room, one of the longest rapids on the run with a dangerous sieve at the bottom.

A few easy rapids remain before the famed Ohanapecosh Falls, a great, 18-foot waterfall, and Petrified, a long rapid with some big holes and multiple routes. The remainder of the river is Class II-III, and paddlers will take-out shortly after the confluence with the Clear Fork of the Cowlitz River at La Wis Wis Campground.

Careful scouting and local beta is important, as old-growth logs frequently make their way into the river, and many slots and sometimes entire rapids can be blocked with wood. Additionally, many sieves exist due the bouldery nature of the river. Paddlers should always scout blind drops or follow someone who knows the river well.

A brief discussion of some of the notable rapids on this run follows, but please consult a river map for specific locations and information.

  • Log Boof: A long Class II lead-in culminates in a riverwide ledge partially blocked by a massive old-growth log. Scout or portage from well upstream.
  • Butcher's Block: Signified by a large jumble of boulders and logs and a sharp right turn, Butcher's Block features a tight lead-in to a large ledge with high piton potential. Scout and portage on the left.
  • Triple Drop: Immediately after Butcher's Block, the first ledge lands on a rock in the center-right at low flows. A tight constriction angling left ends with a large midstream boulder at low flows, and a sticky hole at high flows.
  • Elbow Room: The most consequential rapid on the river.  Paddlers must make it left of the final midstream boulder to avoid a sticky hole feeding into a dangerous sieve. The portage requires a careful traverse along a narrow ledge 30 feet above the river.
  • Ohanapecosh Falls: There are a number of lines to choose from on this 18-foot waterfall, varying in difficulty depending on where you go and what the level is. Medium flows yield a spectacular boof off the far left wall.
  • Petrified: The main line requires a carefully timed boof over a sticky hole before navigating two more pourovers. A sneak down the far right wall avoids the hole, but it has caused pitons in the past. 

Overall, the river features many Class IV rapids with some significant Class Vs, all of which can be portaged. The geology and scenery is fascinating, with smoothly sculpted walls, house-sized boulders, and a vibrant selection of foliage that nearly blocks out the sky in some places.

Logistics + Planning

Preferable season(s)


Parking Pass

Not Required


Incredible scenery. High quality whitewater. Old-growth forest.


Remote. Difficult portages. Logs and sieves.

Put-in location (lat, long coordinates)

46.71518, -121.57921

Take-out location (lat, long coordinates)

46.67937, -121.58327



Overall difficulty


Route Characteristics: Character

Pool Drop
Steep Creek

Suitable for



Nearby Lodging + Camping


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