Guidebook Title

River Title
(South Fork to above Highway 4)

Grays Info boxThe Grays River is located in the far southwest corner of Washington and for this reason advanced boaters often overlook it. First time boaters on the Grays will be pleasantly surprised to find big powerful rapids set in a beautiful basalt gorge. At most flows there are pools after all the big rapids but the rapids often contain sharp rocks and other hazards. At high flows the rapids can be very pushy and large holes develop in several of the biggest rapids.

River Description(Kayak/Raft/Canoe)

Update (2010)
A large landslide below Superbowl has dramatically altered Picnic. Primarily the left side of the river has filled in with gravel and straightened out the rapid but also made it steeper. The holes at the bottom seem bigger and stickier than before and push more right than before. It is relatively easy to scout the entire rapid from the gravel bar on the left. There are a couple decent seal-launch options on the left and right if you want to portage the rapid. It also looks possibly to portage the entire bottom gorge on the left but it will be some work.

Broken Paddle has also changed and is now more difficult to miss the sticky hole on the left. Still easy to portage on the right.

The first ledge on the run is also gone now making this rapid much easier.

The run begins with about a half mile of Class 2 followed by a Class 3+ rapid with swirling currents directly below the road bridge. If this rapid looks and feels big, be ready for some excitement downstream. Just downstream of the bridge the river drops over two riverwide ledges. The first ledge develops a sticky hydraulic at high flows but can be run with momentum on the left or by boofing on the right. The second ledge has two narrow slots that could be dangerous for swimmers. Scout both ledges on the right. After several fun Class 3-4 rapids in a beautiful gorge, the walls peel back as boaters approach Superbowl. Superbowl consists of a steep slide into a big hole. Trying to miss the hole can be difficult so make sure you have some speed. Scout/portage on the left.

A short boulder garden separates Superbowl from the next big rapid, Picnic. This long Class 5 rapid begins with a difficult boulder slalom and finishes with a plunge through several large holes. The current tends to push boaters into the left wall at the bottom but there is a good recovery pool below the rapid. Kayaks and canoes can sneak the entrance with difficulty by carrying boats down the left bank and sliding into the river from a large boulder. The gorge walls at the bottom of the rapid make portaging impractical so plan on running this rapid. Just around the corner is the last big rapid, Broken Paddle. The hole at the bottom of this rapid is deceptively sticky so scout carefully from the right.

After a couple more fun rapids the canyon becomes more open and the river flattens out for the last couple miles. One interesting note: Just above the take-out the river becomes braided as it weaves its way through the remnants of a large flood which shifted the river channel. Picking the best channel through this maze is difficult but the right channel seems to be the clearest.

The riverwide ledge shortly below the road bridge, Superbowl, Picnic and Broken Paddle should be scouted. Hiking out from the river would be very difficult in places.

How to get there
Take-out (GPS: 46o21.901'N, 123o33.244'W)
From Longview, WA, travel west on Hwy. 4 for about 35 miles and turn north on Fossil Creek Road just before the bridge over the Grays River. The take-out is at a sharp bend in the road where the river comes into sight.

Put-in (GPS: 46o21.901'N, 123o28.693'W)
To reach the put-in continue north on Fossil Creek Road another 5 miles and put-in just above the confluence with the South Fork about a 1/4 mile after crossing the river.

Grays River
Generally speaking you want at least 1000 cfs on this gauge although the Grays seems to do pretty well at lower flows. I've run it as low as 800cfs and it seemed fine although Picnic and Superbowl were harder at low flows.

More Info
Check out Jason's description of this run.