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  Washington Kayak Club
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Our Local Cedar River, Lots of Wood

Published on 2/7/2015
 By Mike Grijalva
The Cedar River can be accessed in the “Landsburg”area, where gates are hung for the Spring Slalom Race, held each year by our race division of the WKC. This is an excellent place to practice, in a short but challenging class 2 section, complete with surf waves. The Issaquah/Hobart/Ravensdale rd. crosses the river here and there is plenty of parking and access to a hiking/bike trail that runs mostly along the river, from here to Renton. This point is 22 river miles upstream from the mouth of the river where it enters lake Washington, beside the Renton airport and a Boeing plant. The river can be run the full 22 miles, and there are several access points to break the length into smaller sections.

The upper section, mile 22 down to the hwy-169/hwy-18 bridges covers 7 miles, and is mostly class 1 with a few class 2 rapids, but many areas where piles of trees are a concern. I never take a pure novice into this section because the wood demands good boat control in corners where a novice might not make the move, and be at risk of entrapment in branches and logs. But for intermediate and experienced boaters, this section is lovely and about half of it is in woods without view of houses. You need 400cfs or more for this section, due to its rocky nature.

Downstream of Hwy 18, the next mile is currently closed to boaters due to a landslide that put several trees in the river, and there is still risk of further slide activity. From a hwy-169 bridge below that, then past Cedar Grove Rd, another access point, down thru the lower river, the character of the river is moving water with a few class 1 rapids, but still more trees and logjams. This is where you enter a zone where King Co. has placed several log features to protect the banks, and many of these have root wads sticking out into the current, which creates danger.

The River Safety Council has been advising the county to stop using this design for years, but Fish and Wildlife, and Tribal fisheries experts still think this design makes good fish habitat, and keep requesting it be used. Beware of root wads out in the current, and some of the worst are in a “Cedar Rapids” zone (photo) with small drops that lead right into a man-made log obstruction with roots sticking out. This area is announced by a sign that tells you to get out and walk around. The idea that more wood is needed in this river for salmon habitat seemed absurd to me, so we conducted a survey of wood in the river. With the help of Kathy Haggerty and Andy Gross, I floated the river in November of 2014 and counted the wood in contact with the water. In about 17 miles we saw 484 trees and 27 log-jams(more trees than you can count) in the river.

The summer flows in this dam controlled river are turned down to around 200cfs, and the lower river is a favorite for tubers, and is good training ground for new paddlers. Wood is apparent every 50-100yds, but you have some room, and time to move past it. The Fall salmon season brings Sockeye and Chinook salmon up the river starting in September, and the clear shallow water makes it great fun to float the lower river and see the fish. Be sure to try this float at that time of year, as it is one of the peak experiences of the Northwest.

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