Cedar River (WA) Landsburg Access Rules
For those who have ventured to Landsburg, where the Issaquah-Hobart road crosses the Cedar River, you may have noticed some changes to the area and to the river. Landsburg is the put-in for 22 miles of class I-II whitewater down to Lake Washington in Renton (AW page). However, the most common take-out is Maple Valley. Below here, just below the Jones Street bridge, is a huge death-trap log jam. Hike across the soccer field at the county park there and check it out! Upstream of Landsburg lies the City of Seattle watershed and access is denied to all in order to minimize pollution to the City's drinking water supply. Boaters tend to park on river right downstream of the bridge at Landsburg (east of Hobart a few miles). This is King County property and the start of the King County trail that was once was an old railroad grade. It is used by hikers, mountain bikers and horseback riders. Upstream of the bridge is City property including a 3.8 acre rural park with picnic tables and shelter and portable toilets which is open May to Sept. For many years, local slalom racers have maintained practice gates just upstream and downstream of the bridge. It's an area where one can put-in below the bridge and recirculate some 20 gates.
The changes to the river here are due to commitments the City made to improve fish habitat in order to meet Endangered Species Act regulations. This was the Cedar River Watershed Habitat Conservation Plan (HCP) that was signed in April 2000. The commitment involves the construction of a fish ladder, new fish screens on the water supply intake, modifications to the dam spillway, removing the low-head dam above the bridge (Lake Youngs Aqueduct crossing), and building a fish sorting facility; all to give Chinook, Coho and Steelhead access to more than 17 miles of high quality habitat. The project also includes minor public access improvements, including a pedestrian trail, a viewing platform and a more efficient layout for parking. (site photo 1, site photo 2).
In addition, in an unrelated project, the City of Renton was required by the State Department of Fish and Wildlife to conduct mitigation for dredging they did down at the mouth of the river. Their mitigation was to improve spawning habitat for salmon in the upper part of the river where it's most important. They have been and will continue to dump 1,000 cubic yards of clean gravel below the bridge annually. Boaters had input to ensure that where the gravel was placed would not negatively impact the existing slalom training site.
Both of these projects have resulted in benefits to paddlers. The gravel project has created what looks to some folks, like a ramp for boaters! It's actually a road they will use once a year to get the gravel to the river (photo). The gravel bar along river right has improved access for hanging gates. I'm not sure what the fish think. You'll have to ask them!
The removal of the low-head dam is an obvious benefit to paddlers. Several members of WKC and local slalom racers worked closely with the contractor to ensure that the riverbed changes were not just a series of dangerous weirs across the river complete with rootwads, but instead were more naturally placed rocks and boulders to create hydraulic features that both boaters and fish like. I haven't seen it at higher flows yet, but so far it's a vast improvement both aesthetically and for paddling. (When I asked the fish, they nodded a vigorous affirmative yes!) There will continue to be construction in the area, including creating fish viewing sites and stabilizing th stream banks until May 2003. Matt Davidson has been working with SPU's Public Education Program Specialist for the Cedar and Tolt River Watershed Projects to come up with an access plan that works for slalom paddlers, protects the riparian habitat, and the City of Seattle's new Fish Passage project. We need to remember that this is a fisheries enhancement project, not a river access project, although we will try our best to continue to work with the City and fisheries personnel to secure hopefully more and better access. Our best strategy is to be patient and continue to maintain a cooperative and collaborative relationship with the City and fish folks. The following are the current official rules for all types of paddlers..... ..please abide by them and ensure all others do also. To do otherwise may mean that paddlers may lose all access to the river above the bridge.
Cedar River at Landsburg - rules for paddlers (check the League of Northwest Whitewater Racers web site for any updates)
- The pool of water just upstream of the aqueduct (above the old weir) is off limits to all paddlers at all times due to fish which are still hanging out there doing their spawning thing.
- Paddlers are not allowed to access the river upstream of the bridge on river-right due to re-vegetation efforts.
- The rapids just below the aqueduct are open to Slalom and recreational paddling but must be accessed ONLY from river left. The general public is currently not allowed on river left at all. This ensures that we avoid any confrontations between people who come to view fish and paddlers dragging and/or carrying their boats and trying to put-in. (you might not see many folks there now, but in the fall, the place was packed with viewers! Those fish are pretty impressive to watch!).
- Paddlers are to put-in below the bridge at the normal gravel ramp and paddle up under the bridge
- Paddlers are allowed to access the new enhanced upper rapids by getting out on river-left just upstream of the bridge and walking up the river-left bank to just below the Aqueduct Concrete Structure (just below the river-left concrete platform that has a steel railing)
- There is a good eddy next to a plunge of water down from the "Aqueduct - Spawning Pool". Put-in here! As it turns out, it is way easier and safer to walk up river left than river right anyway.