The Super Slides run on the Cispus

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(Editors Note: This report contains directions to a much easier, alternate take out for this run that isn't in the guidebook; see details at the end of the report.)

Memorial Day Weekend, 2000

Saturday morning Josh Knapp, Brad Cascagnette, and myself drove north to Portland. We met Gabe Flock, Dave Mustonen, and George Laird in Jantzen Beach, did a little quick grocery shopping and then headed on towards the Upper Cispus drainage. About 2 hours later we found Dan Coyle waiting for us at the put-in for the Upper Upper Cispus. The level was definitely too high for that late-season class V classic, but we were hoping to hit some of the other nearby runs. Unfortunately the last several days had been quite cool, and much of the water was still locked up as snow in the mountain headwaters. Nevertheless, Dan thought there was enough water to do the Super Slide run on the Cispus. We conferred and eventually determined that low water or not, we would try the Super Slides rather than spend more time driving across the countryside.

Finding the put-in was a bit of a challenge. We followed the directions in the Bennett guidebook, but got stopped by a snowdrift before reaching anything resembling a waterway. Dave and I jogged on, reached the crest, and found what looked like a relatively straightforward access to a small creek. It turned out that was the correct creek, but access required a very steep scramble down a couple hundred vertical feet. Goat creek appeared shallow and loggy with about 100 cfs.

A hundred yards below the put-in that Dave, Josh, and I chose lurked the first obstacle. I rounded the corner first, saw a big horizon line, and pulled out in a one-boat eddy about 15 yards upstream of a 20-foot falls. The left side fell directly onto a slab of basalt, while the right side descended in an 80-degree shallow bumpy slide. Bennett describes this as a portage on the left, so I promptly started carefully scaling down a sliding slope to the base of the falls. Just 50 yards downstream lay a second big falls, it also appeared to be a portage on the left. While I was portaging the others had scouted the first falls from the right, and decided to run it. Everyone survived bouncing down the thing, but I'm surprised no one broke a boat as they skipped down the face. A couple of the guys did end up having sketchy ferries out of the current and to the left bank for the next mandatory portage; another good reason NOT to run the first falls.

Below the second falls the creek continued through class III for another few hundred yards before meeting up with the main flow of the Cispus. This bumped the flow up to about 300 cfs. At first the river was a meandering mess through many downed trees, but it soon consolidated a bit and began to slide downhill. Several 10-20 foot slides occurred, and then the next tributary came in. This is where the real fun began.

Brad and Josh cruising down the super slides.

The next couple miles were full of huge slides ranging from 20 to 60 feet tall. Nearly all required nothing more than the ability to keep your boat straight, and centered, to navigate. But this didn't mean danger didn't lurk in the river. One straightforward rapid had a logjam across the base. A couple of our group successfully boofed one portion of this jam; two others tried to follow. Both were pulled off-line and broached in the jam; fortunately both stayed heads-up and Dan Coyle was in the water just below the jam and was able to pull them out of it. If Dan hadn't been on his toes, or the broaches had become heads-down, the outcome could have been very sad in both cases. Dave, George, and I walked this logjam. A single misplaced log could have wreaked havoc in many other places.

Looking back up the canyon..

One section had a 30-foot slide that led directly into a blind 60-foot slide; once committed over the edge of the 60 footer a logjam hidden by the lip or around a corner would have been unavoidable. I was often sticking towards the rear, hoping that if such a thing did occur I'd hear some whistling prior to seeing 5 trapped boats. Fortunately I never had to find out if this plan would have worked. Shortly below the biggest slides, we rounded a corner to see Walupt Creek coming into the river over a gigantic 100-foot wide waterfall cascading down 300+ feet from river left. It was truly awe-inspiring.

The Author running the slides below the big falls.

(Before continuing, note that there is a much easier, alternate take out that isn't in the guidebook; details at the end of this report) This sight also meant the worst part of the trip was about to occur. About a quarter mile below the waterfall, the river suddenly diverted to the right and went straight through the forest! Instead of rapids, there were trees growing straight out of the swift current. Thus began the portage of epic proportions. All but Dan and Gabe actually just headed uphill toward a more level bench. We had heard it was better to hike out than try to boat through the frustrating mess. About 2 hours later, we had finally reached the take-out, not by boating, but by hiking. Then about 35 minutes later Dan and Gabe came floating down the final stretch of water. They had been able to float a bit of the last 2 miles, but only maybe 10%, and the hiking had been much more difficult in the heavy undergrowth near the river. (Editor's note: Josh said later it was pretty dark by then and everyone else was relaxing at the take out when they heard someone cursing down on the water. They got up and went down to the water and here comes Dan and Gabe, totally frustrated after a long and difficult portage-fest..)

Although a very unique run, in retrospect I think the Super Slide run was a bit overblown in the description. It was more of a novelty than a classic; it was class V with respect to access and potential hazards to an out of control boater, but only class III in difficulty in terms of maneuvering skills. It would be a worthwhile trip if it had easy entry and exit, but the difficulties of both were enough to make the novelty of the run become fairly tedious.

As a footnote...
We had about 300 cfs, which is on the lower end of the recommended flows. At higher water this run would become quite unforgiving (which I think is quite different from being very demanding), due to the speed of the current and possible log obstructions around blind corners and below slides. Also a few of the slides have places where powerful holes will form. Extraction from that canyon would also be challenging. The whitewater is going to become more difficult, but you could not honestly say it would be class V with respect to the difficulty. The strong exception would be the area on Goat Creek above the 2 falls, those both would require class V skills to safely navigate at pretty much any flow.

Alternate Take out Directions: These directions were sent to me by a paddler who is very familiar with the Super Slides. This alternate take out avoids the portage-fest described in the Bennett guide that Steve and company had to endure. Apparently there is a good hiking trail for viewing Walupt Creek Falls that descends from the take-out road. It is still about a mile hike, but it is on a trail, which is better than the alternative!

This was copied directly from the email the paddler sent to me:
Now for the secret on how to get out of the super slide run with out spending half a day - Trail # 71 (I think) which is up the take out road another 2+ miles on the way to the lake - is where you should park the take out vehicle. From the river you take out on river left just below (50 yards or so) Walupt falls comes into the run. It is about a mile hike with a good trail the whole way.