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Skykomish River Access Updates

Posted: 07/09/2012
By: Thomas O'Keefe

Planning is underway for two access issues on the Skykomish River: environmental review is in progress for restoration of the Index-Galena Road along the North Fork of the Skykomish River and a public comment period is open for a formalized access point at Cable Drop on the South Fork Skykomish.

North Fork Skykomish River Access and Relocation of the Index-Galena Road
On the North Fork of the Skykomish River the road remains washed out between mile 6.4 and 6.9, but other repairs have been made and vehicle access is currently available between Drumbeater and the Take-out at mile 6.9 (just downstream of the Minefield) if one drives up the Beckler and over Jack's Pass.
Earlier this year American Whitewater attended the scoping meetings for the proposed repair between mile 6.4 and 6.9 and filed comments (read our comments, view map of project area). This repair is a major project that will take a couple years and requires rerouting the road outside of the channel migration zone, but it will restore access to the run from the downstream end (i.e. coming up from Index) and reduce long-term maintenance issues.
Paddlers may remember that there were two common take-outs used. One was Trout Creek at mile 6.1 and the other was the dispersed camp site at mile 6.9. Outdoor Adventure Center recently purchased the land at Trout Creek (it was privately owned) and they have indicated a willingness to allow non-commercial use by permission. Our goal is to retain the public access point at mile 6.9 as another alternative and retain the segment of the historic road prism that accesses this site.
Responses to comments have recently been posted by Snohomish County and the issue of the future of the access point at mile 6.9 features prominently in the issues to be evaluated as part of the environmental analysis. The response specifically states, "the analysis will include an evaluation of the potential for recreation access in proximity to the roadway washout near Milepost 6.9."
Of concern to American Whitewater, we received an email from Snohomish County on July 3rd that a "barricade has been placed across Index-Galena Road at Mile Post 9.0 to prevent vehicles from proceeding west into the damaged area." Such a barricade would be in the vicinity of El Nino Rapid (near the Silver Creek Bridge) and once again limit access to the take-out for an indefinite period time. In asking for clarification on this point, Snohomish County responded that "public works is still deciding on where to install the gate or some type of barrier." One issue of concern was damage to restoration plantings and an implication that it may have been caused by "dragging boats through the planting." A site inspection revealed that this is unlikely due to the fact that a route through the planting area is longer, less direct, and only accessible by a marginally runnable side channel with poor access from the river. We will continue the dialogue with the Forest Service and Snohomish County to seek clarity on the management issues driving the decision process on where to close the road and make sure that staff are fully aware of the value of this reach for whitewater recreation.
Paddlers can learn more about the project and contact Snohomish County at any time: contact information at the bottom of the county's project webpage.
Cable Drop Access
After many years of discussion regarding the need to improve the user-built trail at Cable Drop and provide a public access to the South Fork of the Skykomish River, the Forest Service has initiated the environmental review process for the project. The purpose of the project is improve, repair and realign existing trail and improve, expand, grade and surface the existing parking area, ingress and egress for the Cable Drop river access site to the South Fork Skykomish River from Mt. Index Road 6020. Specifically the proposed action entails improving and expanding the parking lot, installing a restroom and information signage at the parking lot, building a new section of trail, and rehabilitating existing sections of trail and adding boat rails to address drainage and erosion issues. The new trail will head directly from the parking lot down towards the river and will be widened to 5' with cedar rails to slide rafts down to the river. 
More details on the project can be found on the Forest Service website: Cable Drop Access Project.
Individuals can comment on the project by submitting written or electronic comments to Rachel Lipsky by July 31, 2012. Comments can be sent by mail or hand delivered to Snoqualmie Ranger District, Attention: Rachel Lipsky, 902 SE North Bend Way, Building 1, North Bend, WA, 98045. Comments may also be sent by fax to (425) 888-1910, or by email to

Thomas O'Keefe

3537 NE 87th St.

Seattle, WA 98115

Phone: 425-417-9012
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