Index-Galena Road Providing North Fork Skykomish Access Repaired! (WA)
Nearly 20 years ago, the Index-Galena Road which provides access to the North Fork Skykomish River sustained heavy damage in a high water event that washed away portions of the road between milepost 6 and 7. At the time, the North Fork Skykomish was one of the most popular whitewater runs in the North Cascades of Washington State known for its outstanding recreational and aesthetic values. The Mt. Baker - Snoqualmie National Forest Plan notes that the North Fork Skykomish receives high recreation use, much of which, “is oriented toward river activity,” and that the river is one of Washington State’s most, “continuously challenging whitewater rafting and kayaking runs, with 11 miles of class III or IV river.”
While an alternate route over Jacks Pass between the North Fork and Beckler watersheds was available, it was typically snowed in for much of the winter boating season and through the early spring boating season. By the time Jacks Pass melted out in the spring the river was typically on the descending limb of the seasonal hydrograph with a limited number of viable boating days left.
American Whitewater directly engaged in the planning effort to rebuild the road, advocating for a more durable long-term solution that involved relocating the road out of the channel migration zone, and helped support efforts to secure funds to implement the project. Funding came mostly from the federal government; state and county funds were also used. In our trips to Washington DC representing the interests of the whitewater boating community we had many opportunities to highlight the importance of this road along with others that provide critical access for outdoor recreation. Specific to the interests of the whitewater boating community, we advocated for retaining a portion of the old road alignment at mile 6.9 to serve as a public access point for recreational users enjoying the river. This access need was included in the plan in direct response to comments filed by American Whitewater and several members of the whitewater community who engaged.
The onset of fall rains coincided with the opening of the new road this past weekend and whitewater boaters have been among the first recreational users to get out and enjoy the restored access. We are pleased that the sustained efforts of our members and many partners helped keep this project on track. We thank Snohomish County for a continued commitment to this project, despite a number of setbacks along the way that resulted in a longer timeline than we all expected.