Lewis River

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Lewis River Canyoneering Canyoning Caving
Also known as: Upper Lewis Gorge.
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Lewis River Banner.jpg

Difficulty:3C1 II (v3a2 II)
Raps:‌7-8, max ↨150ft
Descent:2.5-7h ⟷0.6mi
Exit:30min-1h ⟷0.8mi ↓275ft
Red Tape:No permit required
Shuttle:Optional 15min
Condition Reports:
16 Sep 2023

"Entered via the Babyshoe Creek approach just for fun (low water) and dropped in a few hundred yards above R2. Swims were chilly as ever, and pockets o

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Best season:


This page describes a unique technical canyon located in the upper headwaters of the Lewis River on the northwestern flanks of Mt. Adams. The softer volcanic substrate yields narrows, potholes, waterfalls, and a committing lower section making this a classic northwest canyon. It's one of the prettier canyons in the area with striking orange/yellow rocks in the lower canyon.

  • Another option for entering the technical section is to come in via Babyshoe Creek. This will drop you in a few hundred yards above R2.
  • The Lewis River valley is quite extensive, draining a significant area of Mt. Adams, the Dark Divide, and Indian Heaven plateau. This page describes the technical section of the river way up in the headwaters, but there are many other technical canyons in the same watershed (ex: Big Creek, Cussed Hollow, Pin, Chickoon, etc). Most of these, however, are lesser tributaries of the Lewis River.

Water Flow

Be aware: the Lewis River is glacial-fed from the snowfields high on Mt. Adams. It may be running considerably higher than other creeks in the area on hot summer days when a lot of melt is taking place high on the mountain. The water is often colder and siltier than others in the area. When the water is running high, you may expect to encounter serious hydraulics in the technical section, including the dangerous crux of the descent. This earns the canyon it's "R" rating. The most dangerous hydraulics can usually be bypassed by rappelling out of the water or using alternate anchors.


Park on either side of the upper bridge. Hop the guardrail on either side of the bridge and bushwhack your way upstream and down steep forested slopes to the creek.


Be aware, some obstacles may be considerably more difficult in high flow. Please do not add webbing to unlinked bolts or leave fixed lines in the canyon. All jumps should be scouted first to ensure it's deep enough and there are no underwater obstacles.

  • R1 - 30ft from webbing around a log located right at the lip of the falls. Beware kicking down rocks when getting on rappel. (Alternatively, downclimb DCL through a slippery boulder jam.)
  • Downclimb DCL past an 8ft drop just after the waterfall.

Walk downstream about 0.3mi. The going is a classic Pacific NW creek-walk at first, but becomes more interesting as the canyon walls start to rise around you. Expect a couple minor downclimbs and pools.

  • R2 - 10ft from single bolt located atop a large rock knob DCR or downclimb a narrow chute DCL. Babyshoe Creek enters DCR immediately downstream of the rock knob.
  • S1 - 8ft slide or jump. Located immediately below R2. Usually very deep; the R2 bolt can be used to safely check for new debris.
  • R3 + traverse - 20ft traverse from a single bolt to an exposed bolt station DCR right at the brink. Rappel is 30ft in two tiers: 15ft to a waist-deep pool that is undercut DCL. The second tier turns DCR and the main flow is avoided by rappelling over the nose to a (relatively) dry landing.
  • R4 - 50ft in two tiers from an unlinked bolt station DCR.
  • R4a - First tier (30ft) is dry and out of the water, landing in a chest-deep pool. The rope can be extended to continue down the second tier, which is right in the flow, but be aware that the rope pull can be challenging from the bottom of the 2nd tier.
  • R4b - 30ft from a hanging rebelay (unlinked bolt station DCR). These bolts may be underwater at high flow. This hanging rebelay is an unpleasant place to be as the anchor manager, but it facilitates an easier rope pull from the top tier. LAPAR should consider going double strand (when conditions are safe) as retrieving the rope from R4a can still be be difficult from the hanging rebelay. The line from the rebelay is outside of the flow to begin with and then right in the heart of it for the last 10 feet.

(Note: A DCL bolted anchor at the top of the second drop was considered to provide a high flow line, but the rock was deemed hollow and unsuitable for bolts. A bolted deviation 10’ DCR from the hanging rebelay could potentially provide a great high flow line.)

Immediately below R4 is a short slot. Sliding will drop you into the center of a surprisingly deep pothole. If jumping, keep your jump shallow as there's an underwater boulder 5ft downstream. As you round the next corner, there are two short slides DCR. Probably only suitable for mod/low flows. The first pool is undercut DCR.

  • R5 - 45ft anchored via a long fixed rope from a tree high DCL. Protect against rope abrasion on the rocky protrusion DCL. The main flow channels DCR and taking a direct line will encounter the full wrath of the jet.
  • R6 - 150ft in five tiers anchored from a small tree DCL. Much of the rope is needed for the horizontal distance. (To avoid the crux, possibly rappel from a tree high DCR. A belay may be required to reach this anchor.)
  • 1st tier: 25ft. In high water, this is the crux of the canyon where the current is directed into a pool that is 100% whitewater. Rappel down and kick off the wall, attempting to land in the slack water "eye" of the pool and swim! As of July 2023, the crux is only waist/chest deep.
  • 2nd tier: Short drop into a curiously deep, small diameter hole.
  • 3rd tier: 15ft into a shallow pool.
  • 4th tier: 15ft. Either down a narrow chute DCL or a rockface DCR; both into deep pools.
  • 5th tier: 3ft. The last small drop can be jumped.
  • R7 - 70ft from a cairn DCR. Avoid entering the hanging pothole in the middle of the drop in high flow. It is possible to rappel directly in the watercourse for the second half of the drop or stay DCR to stay entirely dry.
  • The stone dragon (or is it a dog?) keeps careful watch over R7.
  • Immediately after R7, there is a short jump into a seemingly benign pool that is undercut. In higher flow, consider taking off your pack prior to jumping into the pool or have someone stationed at the edge to help pull anyone out.

    • Exit the technical section downclimbing a groove under a log DCL.



    Continue downstream about 0.75mi to the FR-90 bridge. Expect the usual Pacific NW creek-walking and climbing over/around/through a few sizeable logjams. When possible, exit the creek DCL onto an open forested bench and continue downstream. The bridge will sneak up on you. The hike downstream goes pretty quickly.

    No Shuttle

    Continue downstream ~0.3mi and exit DCR to gain a ridge. Follow the ridge uphill until it intersects with one or more game trails. Follow these game trails back east, paralleling the top of the canyon on the north side, until you, eventually, reach the upper parking area at the bridge.

    Red tape


    Beta sites

    Trip reports and media


    First scout: Ken Leibert and Evan Topinka, October 13, 2013. Second scout: Evan Topinka, Sami Topinka, Justin Reynolds, and Eric Stone, August 17th, 2014. First known descent: Evan Topinka and Eric Stone, August 8th, 2015.


    Information provided by automated processes. KML map by (unknown). Main photo by (unknown). Authors are listed in chronological order.

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