Sauk, Washington, US
|Usual Difficulty||III+(IV) (for normal flows)|
|Avg. Gradient||45 fpm|
|SAUK RIVER NEAR SAUK, WA|
|usgs-12189500||2000 - 12000 cfs||III+(IV)||00h57m||8190 cfs (running)|
Season: Can be run with winter rains when the freezing level is not too low. A consistent performer through the spring snow melt and into early summer.
The Sauk provides good continuous class III action with a couple of drops that may push class IV. The main hazards are trees which extend out from the banks, a couple large holes that can swallow inattentive paddlers, and at higher water long swims are a possibility. This is an excellent intermediate run that also provides some fun waves and play spots for more advanced paddlers.
Starting at the confluence with the Whitechuck, the river starts off through a number of class III rapids separated by short recovery pools (which become smaller as the discharge increases). There are numerous catch-them-on-the-fly surf waves.
The one rapid that is somewhat challenging to boat scout is Jaws. It comes approximately 2 miles into the trip where some large boulders create a couple holes and large waves toward river right (photo 1 , photo 2). This drop can push class IV although the route through is fairly straightforward and at higher water it's an easy sneak around the left. The drop can be scouted from an island on river right, but its a bit of a project and experienced boaters should be able to boat scout. Just downstream you'll come upon another island (you'll see the road as you approach) and the preferred river left channel takes you through Whirlpool (photo 1 , photo 2). Those looking for a little action can run the meat on river left while those looking for the conservative line can cut hard to the right. You can see Whirlpool from the road.
Below Whirpool the river calms down slightly. You will find the same good class III rapids and several great surfing waves, but rapids are just a bit less continuous.
Once you reach Clear Creek, paddle a short distance up the creek to the bridge and the takeout. Those looking for some added excitement and a peak at a beautiful gorge can paddle and scramble up the creek and around the corner to a fun III+ rapid. Those in rafts typically continue on downstream to Bachman Park or the bridge in Darrington.
Many paddlers, especially rafts, combine this section with the next four mile section downstream which ends at the bridge in Darrington (see run description and logistics which also includes information on Bachman Park access). The more challenging rapids however end near the confluence with Clear Creek making this a convenient take-out option. To reach it, take the Mountain Loop Highway (FR 20) southeast approximately two miles out of Darrington and you will enter the Mt. Baker - Snoqualmie National Forest. Within another mile you will pass Clear Creek Campground and then reach the Clear Creek bridge (at Mountain Loop Highway mile 50.6). There is a pullout on the west side of the bridge which serves as a good take-out. To reach the put-in continue up the river. At the pull-out at milepost 47 you can scout Whirpool which will give you an idea of the level of difficulty on this run.
To reach the put-in, continue up to the bridge where the Mountain Loop Highway crosses the Sauk (road mile 44.9) and the cross the Sauk River Bridge at road mile 44.9. A short distance after this, turn left and cross the Whitechuck River on the new bridge. There is a large parking lot with bathrooms just downstream of the boat launch. There is not much room at the launch, so please be considerate of others and prepare your boats in the parking lot before taking them to the launch.
For current conditions, you can call the Darrington Ranger District (360-436-1155) or check the current conditions report.
lat/long approximated by Tiger map server
Blasting underway for new Whitechuck River Bridge
July 17, 2008
Letter to Mount Baker - National Forest regarding impacts of October 2003 floods.