Trip Report    

Nisqually River: McKenna to Yelm Hydro Plant

Fun 1/2 day run with a real class III rapid and dozens of playful class II boulder gardens and wave trains. 980 CFS was on the light side but ample for packrafts. Nothing beats boating on a rainy day.

  • Road suitable for all vehicles
  • Flow was 980 CFS, which was on the light side but only one or two spots of scraping.  900 is probably the lower limit for this run.  Would be fun to run it at 1500-2000 CFS. 

    After a 1/2 mile of smooth water, you soon encounter the first of many class II boulder gardens with some waves to surf. The one obvious class III rapid, Kahuna, is at 5.5 river miles and comes after a left turn and then a massive log island. We took the left channel around log island and then scouted Kahuna from river right. There is one sizable hole at the bottom that would almosst certainly flip a packrafter. We lined up right of center, to center, down a tongue 15' right of a tufted boulder, and then right of the big hole. The boulder creating the hole had a pillow and was very easy to move right and cruise by the hole. 

    Little Kahuna comes about 1/2 mile after Kahuna. Little was a standard class II wave train undistinguishable from many others on the run. 

    The put in and take out are very clean and easy. Plenty of parking. You can't miss the hydro plant on river left and the take out is at a small opening on river left with an eddy. 

We were blessed by the weather gods today. It was dry when we suited up at the take out. Dry when we put in.  After about 10 minutes on the water it started to spit. Then after an hour or so it rained for real, and then lightened up as we neared the take out. It was essentially dry when we got out of our drysuits and packed into our cars. 

We did not have any swimmers.  A couple paddlers took a cheat line at Kahuna on far river right. 

Because Kahuna is an easy portage, and safety can be set up at the hole from shore for those running the crux, this is an excellent run for new  graduates of the whitewater course who have been on a couple class II runs and are eager to see what a class III rapid looks like without commitment.