Mike Hoover gears up at the base of Cooper Falls.
The Cooper "River" is a great creek run in the Cle Elum drainage northeast of Ellensburg, WA. This short run packs an incredible array of ledges and slides into a spectacular granite gorge with some nice boulder gardens for variety. This run is available at minimal flow at times you'd never suspect -- in fact, a friend ran it for the first time New Year's Day 2005.
We had pretty low flows this weekend, but still found clean lines and classic moves in this canyon. There is a bit of wood, but we had no portages and Norm's Resort was clean.
The trip begins with a short hike down to the base of Cooper Falls. It's always fun to look for the line on this one. It's there, really. I'll point it out to you and setup video ...
Steve, approaching the first horizon line.
The run starts off with a very manageable first 100 feet. Then the first horizon line appears, a fun slide usually run right. There's also a piton rock right, so choose your line carefully.
David runs the first drop.
Shortly below this slide is a fun ledge, better run left.
David runs the second ledge.
Shaun above Norm's Resort.
This ledge leads quickly into Norm's Resort a signature Cooper drop. At these flows, the hole wasn't meaty, but you could see how thumping it could get with more volume. This is simply fantastic canyon scenery as well with steep walls and weathered trees.
Fish touring Norm's Resort.
It's just not a day on the water if David doesn't pin. Just below Norm's.
Now, I hate to tease David, but seriously ... how do you complete bury a boat in 100 cfs?
Shaun braces for his life in an early drop.
Below Norm's Resort there are some logs suspended over a class III boulder garden, which is your landmark for the most technical ledge drop on the Cooper. This ledge is best run right, 3 feet off the right wall.
David braces for his life on a classic Cooper ledge.
Shaun follows suit with a fantastic save.
This is where my memory gets a bit fuzzy, so these drops may be out of order. Here's my best guess at ordering the rest of the drops. There's just a great collection of ledges on this run. We ran three or four laps, so I've tried to get a shot of each of the major drops and keep them in order, but may not have succeeded.
This ledge is shallow on the right, run center but moving right to avoid the rock pile.
Fish ledge dropping.
Shaun loves ELF creekin!
This ledge ... well, I don't even remember it. Looks a lot more fun than what I'm doing right now though!
Steve cleans it up.
Shaun still loves ELF creekin.
The author runs another classic ledge
Shaun drops the same ledge.
Fish ledge hopping.
Somewhere in this lower section is a short flat stretch of beautiful canyon, with a tiny surf wave at low flow.
Fish attempts the standing side surf. Predictable results.
In this section, there's a fast straightforward drop that ends in a sticky hole. Look for a low angle slanting bedrock slab on the right, and punch the hole right. It get stickier the farther left you go.
Fish busts through the stickiest hole on the run.
Shaun braces through a tailstand on the same hole.
Just below this sticky hole, I seem to remember, comes Shark's Tooth, the signature boulder garden on this run. A technical entry on the right leads to a great s-turn move in a steep, congested boulder field, with drop ending in perhaps the narrowest canyon on the run.
Fish in Shark's Tooth.
Somewhere in here is a the biggest slide on the Cooper. This is best run left, but some more creative lines can be found to the right.
Fish, boat scouting on the Cooper.
Steve lines up for the slide.
David, committed to the gnar.
Shaun styles the slide.
When you see an L-shaped ledge, you know you're getting close to the end of the run. We found a line running right to left, but at higher water, far left may well work. This is the last ledge above Wall of Voodoo.
The author runs the final ledge.
Below this ledge comes Wall of Voodoo, another signature Cooper drop. Good eddies exist at the top, after some III boogie. Here, the river pours off a bedrock dome, offering a left side line into a backed up hole with some pin rocks, or a right side slide that takes you quickly towards an overhanding rock. We opted for right, but ... not everyone made the entry. Hilarity ensued.
First up: Shaun. Looking good in the entry, but pulled too far left.
Next comes David, with similar results.
I took my turn exploring the left line ...
... but made the line the next lap.
Fish doesn't know what the big deal is ... just go right, sucka!
We loved running laps on this gem. We took out below Wall of Voodoo to avoid some mank leading to the lower takeout. This made for fast shuttle and was less than 3 minutes from our river-side campsite. What more can you ask for?