Vance Creek, Washington, US
|Usual Difficulty||IV (for normal flows)|
|Avg. Gradient||120 fpm|
|SOUTH FORK SKOKOMISH RIVER NEAR UNION, WA|
|usgs-12060500||1050 - 3600 cfs||IV||00h40m||318 cfs (too low)|
SEASON: November to May with heavy rainfall.
FUN FACT: Great run when things are pumping. A fallback option when other runs are too high.
ACCESS: At Highway 101 mile 339.5 turn west on to Skokomish Valley Road. Follow this road 5.7 miles until a turnoff up the hill to the right on FR 23. Follow it 2.6 miles and turn left on FR 2341. This will wind down the hill 1.3 miles to the takeout bridge across the creek. To reach the put-in head back up to FR 23 and continue west for another 1.7 miles to the FR 2350 turnoff (you'll see a triangular-shaped grass strip here). FR 2350 winds along the ridge high above the river. It's 3.8 miles to a small and somewhat overgrown pull-out that marks the trail down the put-in (if you reach the turn-off for spur road 120 then you've gone a little bit too far). It's an old road grade that cuts down through the forest a couple hundred yards. As evidence of the road disappears head to your right down a steep gully. It's a muddy and steep scramble down to the river that will require some rope. Check road conditions on the Olympic National Forest website (below). See Korb's book for the story of locating this put-in where he says, "you'll probably do some whining about the put-in, but trust me it's the best access to this fine run".
The put-in described appears to be the only practical access to this creek until you reach the take-out bridge so once you're down on the creek you're committed. The rapids are mostly straight-forward and fairly user friendly but you need to constantly be on your toes for wood hazards. Korb describes a low-water run (250 cfs) where they tried an alternate put-in further upstream, but they encountered a 10' falls leading into a 35' waterfall that was impossible to scout from above and nearly impossible to portage.
The river starts out with some grungy rapids and a few big strainers, but just as you're starting to wonder if the run is going to get any better the pace starts to pick and the drops clean-up. Most of the river is read-and-run although you'll find several places where at least one person will need to get out and check for wood around blind-corners. Although logging up on the ridges continues at a frenzied pace, there are some big old- growth trees along the river that provide a constant supply of wood to the creek. While much of the run is continuous class III+ with several good class IV sections, the log hazards and remote nature of the run requires that boaters have solid class IV paddling skills. The best whitewater ends as you pass under the high railroad bridge and through the last main rapid just downstream. It's only a few short paddle strokes to the take-out. Video footage of typical drop on the run.
lat/long very approximate by tiger map server and have not been verified in the field
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