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The Lower Chehalis is a beautiful canyoned class III run that gets frequented by Lower Mainland BC paddlers after a good rain or in snowmelt. Ideally you can put on a tributary, The Statlu if there is enough water and paddle some class III- IV- in a narrower river bed before a gorgeous confluence. The lower can be friendly big water at higher levels or a bouldery low water run with a zillion fun eddies to catch.

When the Satlu gets too low and it’s not super worth a hike in to paddle the lower on its own, the Upper Chehalis comes in and a makes for a day long adventure on a class IV- V section that feels a little exploratory if no one has been before, long access road, portages, lowering boats, scary ferries, waterfalls, it has it all. This section can also come in with summer rain which can render it a rare summer “warm” water lap.

This year I got on the Upper Chehalis for the first time on a gorgeous bluebird day. You put in on Chehalis Lake, where I would love to spend the night next time I go and paddle hardly at all before portaging around a massive log jam. As I was told before I went – if the logjam is not there, bail. There is a class V immediately below it, from what we could see 2 boxed in holes in a narrow canyon where you would want to nail your boof. By the time we got around the logjam, lowering our boats and ourselves down a 20’ slot it didn’t make a lot of sense for anyone to consider running it. If you wanted to consider it, scout from river left from above the logjam, otherwise portage right.

There is some nice warm up and then lots of fun turnstyley boulder gardens, a weir hole that is runnable in a few places and then as you go under the road bridge the gradient increases. It is also an option to put in here just above the weir hole. As it picks up it still continues fairly read and run, though it is worth popping out in a few places to check for wood where you cannot see. The canyon is fairly deep, the river narrow, the water blue and it is an enchanting valley to spend a day in.

After a very sharp turn in the river the second class V rapid comes into view with a clear horizon line. The top is runnable or portable on the left and then you have to ferry across to scout again or portage the rest. While the consequence of the scary ferry is the rapid, it is a very straightforward move with plenty of time when the water is not cranking. The lower section of the rapid was not runnable when we were there due to wood. Below the class IV is a 10’ waterfall followed by more fun little boofs and boulder gardens before you come to the confluence with the Statlu and the river canyon gets wider and less steep. This is a great place for a picnic to celebrate your trip down the upper and oogle at the magic of river confluences.

From here enjoy a mellow float out or boogie down the the takeout in 40 minutes or so of paddling.