Upper Kalama River
(1 mile downstream of Langdon Cr. to 1 mile upstream of Gobar Cr.) The upper section of the Kalama River is a beautiful run with lots of fun, clean Class 3-3+ rapids and one short Class 4 rapid. Most of this section is away from the road so there is a pristine feel to the river as it makes it's way through several nice gorges. Unfortunately, the roads that access this section of the Kalama are currently restricted to vehicle traffic by Weyerhauser most of the year with only a small window in the fall for realistic boating access. Despite the restrictions (or because of them), the Upper Kalama should be on every intermediate boater's must do list.
The upper most section of river is mostly shallow boulder gardens that run alongside the road. At low flows I'm not sure this section is worth doing particularly considering the length and quality of the main run. However, for those inclined, the upper section moves along quickly and can make for a longer day of paddling.
From the second road bridge put-in, the river moves away from the road and short pools separate the rapids. Most of the rapids can be adequately scouted from your boat and consist of big waves and a few holes to maneuver around. There are a few calm sections with nice scenery as well.
After paddlers pass under the bridge near Jack's Cr., be on the lookout for the most significant rapid on the run, Double Drop. It's about 1.5 miles below the bridge and is just after a sharp right turn in the river with a large eddy on the left before the turn. Just after the turn the river enters a short gorge and narrows to about 20' wide as the river plunges through a powerful hole. At low flows, the hole is easily punched anywhere. After the pinch, the river splits around a mid-stream boulder before entering the pool at the bottom of the rapid.
After Double Drop, good rapids are interspersed with calm sections all the way to the take-out.
Double Drop can be difficult to scout. Use caution and stop in the eddy before the corner which is an easier spot to exit your boat.
How to get there
View Upper Kalama in a larger map
Take-outTo reach the take-out, take exit 32 from Interstate 5 (Kalama River Road) and follow upstream 17.3 miles to a bridge on the right shortly after the Weyerhauser gate. (see map)
To reach the put-in continue upstream on the main road for another 10.5 miles to a bridge on the right. There is an alternate put-in 3 more miles upstream.
None currently exists on the Kalama River but adequate flows can be estimated using either the Toutle gauge or the EF Lewis gauge. Generally, the Toutle River above 2000cfs and the EF Lewis above 800cfs will mean good water levels on the Kalama. I would guess that the Kalama is about half of the Toutle flow and about the same as the EF Lewis but this is based on only a few trips so take this info with a grain of salt. The Kalama tends to hold water fairly well so should have adequate water even when other rivers are low.