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Difficulty:3C1 III (v3a4 III)
Raps:8-10, max ↨45ft
Red Tape:No permit required
20 May 2023
"Great fun day in Woodward. Hot outside, but the water temp was perfect. Lots of creek walking. Plenty of scrambling over and "limboing" under log pile
April-July, BEST in May-June
Woodward Creek is a quiet drainage on the Washington side of the Columbia Gorge. The creek sports a number of short drops between 1000’ and 2000’ elevation. This is another good creek for training, but it takes more work to get to. Woodward is similar in character to Duncan Creek next door, but has more creek-walking. The approach and exit require bushwhacking.
Update: May 2020: In shuttling up to the top, we ran into a bunch of new "No Trespassing" signs along the road about 0.5mi up from the end of pavement and a hostile local. We've been using Kueffler to access the falls for years and years, so barricading the road is of dubious legality. Until this is resolved, it may be better to hike in to avoid conflicts.
Update: May 2023: While walking the road to the top we met a couple of friendly locals (Torbin and his mother). They encouraged us to drive the road and use the trails - as they are getting overgrown without use. Additionally, they acknowledged the "hostile local" living in a bus near the "No Trespassing" and "Private Road" signs. The "hostile local" is known to neighbors as the local curmudgeon and harmless. If driving the road, please pass his home(bus) slowly, minimizing dust and keeping noise to a minimum. If confronted we were advised to smile, wave and keep moving. Additionally, if anyone in the area asks questions, we were told to say: "We are friends of Torbin."
- Woodward Creek has one minor tributary of interest: Little Woodward Creek
- It's also possible to bushwhack up the west side of the creek from below and just run the main technical section (best part of the creek). This approach requires route-finding and takes about an hour.
- Water catchment: 1.25mi^2.
From SR 14, follow Woodard Creek Rd ~2mi to an intersection. Turn right and follow the somewhat overgrown road downwards 0.5mi to small pullout just before a bridge over the West Fork. There's room for a few vehicles here. There is a walk-in campsite on the east side of the bridge.
Shuttle to the Upper Trailhead
From the lower trailhead, backtrack to Hwy 14 and continue east 1.7mi. Just before the park HQ building at Beacon Rock State Park, turn off left/north on Kueffler Rd (signed). Follow Kueffler Rd upwards for ~4mi. Park on the shoulder at a location where the road swings north. One-way drive time: ~20min. There may be a cairn marking the location to drop into the creek.
- At the end of the county road (end of pavement) is a sign stating that unauthorized vehicles are not permitted further. This sign is bogus. The road beyond is a publicly accessible Forest Service road regularly used by locals, loggers, four-wheelers, hikers, rock climbers, waterfall hunters, etc. On one trip we saw a police officer up here and he just waved at us. The sign was likely installed by locals to keep out the riffraff as there's a few private homes further up. Respect all private property and all will be well.
- Google Maps does not show Kueffler Road accurately.
Hiking to the Upper Trailhead
From the lower trailhead: cross the bridge and bear right on the gravel track. The track heads south, then swings back north, emerging into a powerline corridor. Follow the powerline east to approximately UTM 10 573849mE 5055197mN where an old logging grade crosses the corridor. Watch carefully as the grade angles back sharply left / northwest; it's easy to miss. This grade is not hiked very often and may be brushy. Follow this track (now trail) northwards, then east. Once you get going, the old grade is easy to follow. It eventually reaches the east fork of Woodward Creek. Boulder/log-hop across at the old bridge site and scramble back up to the grade. Follow the grade upwards past a burned-out car and continue following the grade to the left which will end at a gate at Kueffler Rd. Turn left and follow Kueffler Rd about 1.8mi to the upper trailhead. The hike takes about 1.5 hours. Total distance: ~3mi, 1200ft gain.
Suit up on the road, then follow a faint user trail down easy forested slopes into the upper eastern tributary of Woodward Creek (2min). Go downstream. There are a few minor downclimbs before the first rappel.
Upper Section 10ft down climb or rappel into shallow pool.
- R1: 15ft.
- R2: 25ft. Pothole falls. Anchor DCR on living tree.
Below, downclimb two rock steps (8ft, 10ft). From here, it's 0.25mi downstream to the next rappel, passing the confluence of Woodward's two northern tributaries along the way.
Main Technical Section
- 10ft. Climb down and slide into the pool. (Or rappel.)
- R3: 20ft.
- R4: 20ft.
- R5: 35ft. This is the crux of Woodward where all the water in the creek is funneled through a narrow channel with a hanging pool. Anchor on a small tree DCL probably best as a traverse line in higher water to DCR lip. Rap anchor currently around a large bush, DCR as previous tree anchor fell over. May 2023 cleaned several strainers and logs out of the drop.
Warning: Halfway down the falls is a small 1ft-diameter natural arch (Only visible in low water.) Throw your rope well clear of the falls.
- R6: 15ft. Anchor DCR on a tree in the middle of a small cascade above the drop. (R6 and R7 can be chained with a 60m rope.)
- R7: 20ft.
Walk/slide downstream a short distance and downclimb into a cool slot section to the top of R8.
- R8: Two stage: 15ft, cross a pool, then 8ft. Anchor DCL on large boulder.
Downclimb DCL (easier than it looks) to top of R9.
- R9: Rappel a short slot (~10ft) with a final 5ft drop into a swimmer. Anchor is on a dead tree creek center. Drop can by bypassed DCR.
The Slow Exit
Continue downstream 0.5mi. Pass the confluence with Little Woodward and eventually reach the bridge. It will probably take ~30min. Lots of creek-walking.
The Fast Exit
Requires some off-trail navigation. If you're reasonably competent bushwhacker, it should take 10-15min.
- Just before the end of the bedrock, watch for a minor tributary entering DCR. It may be marked with flagging. Head up the gully to locate a faint game trail running down the ridge between Woodward & Little Woodward. The trail comes & goes. Make your way down the ridge wherever is easiest to a nice grove of old growth cedars at the confluence with Little Woodward.
- Drop into Little Woodward just above the confluence. Look DCR for a large old-growth cedar on the bank. Immediately to the right of the cedar is a "root ladder" allowing a scramble up the bank. It does not appear feasible until you're right next to it. Scramble up and locate a continuation of the faint trail heading south which parallels the creek below. The trail eventually descends into a swampy area beneath some powerlines. Cross the swamp to the south side (may require wading).
- At the south end of the swampy area, look for an easy spot to climb out DCR underneath a big fallen tree. May be marked with tape. On the far side of the tree, follow a faint trail directly to the lower parking area.
As of 2020, Kueffler Rd has, apparently, been closed to vehicles by a hostile local about 0.5mi past the end of pavement. This is of dubious legality, but creates problems for shuttling.
UPDATE: May 2023: Hostile local still there, but friendly locals recommend ignoring. Friendlies also stated that despite the private road signs, the road is a FS road.
- CanyoneeringNorthwest.com : West Fork Woodward Creek
- Super Amazing Map : Woodward Creek (West Fork)
Trip reports and media
- Karl Helser's NW Adventures : Woodward Creek Canyoneer 6-11-16
Creek was first descended by Kevin Clark and Karin Mullendorff in August 2014.
The upper western tributary has been explored, but has less water and a lot of woody debris and blowdown in the creek. Two waterfalls have been found: one at about 1700ft (15ft) and another at 1650ft (~30ft). Not really worth the price of admission.
Woodward's eastern fork has been partially explored but does not appear to hold many waterfalls. The falls shown on the USGS maps at 2100' is about 30ft high and passes through a small area of interesting rock formations.