Difficulty IV-V
Length 27 Miles
Gauge STEHEKIN RIVER AT STEHEKIN, WA
Flow Range 2000 - 4000 CFS
Flow Rate as of: 4 hours ago 870 [CFS]
Reach Info Last Updated 05/18/2019 6:02 pm

River Description


 

Bridge Creek is a classic Washington multi-day wilderness run (25 miles) through the North Cascades Wilderness area.  The only deterrent of this run is the difficult logistics associated to make it happen.

 
Gear up at the Bridge Creek Trailhead parking lot and hike 3.25 south on the PCT to the Fireweed Campground.  This put-in is a compromise between having just enough water to float a kayak and lack of trees to not make safety and tree portaging a hassle.  In the beginning you will be looking for the deep flow while keeping an eye downstream for the wayward tree.  While the flow will not be ideal, it will be better than hiking with a loaded boat.
 
Once you reach the South Fork Bridge Creek tributary that runs on river left you begin to have a small rapid here and there to break up the duldrum of downriver travel.  Soon the North Fork Bridge creek flows in on river right and now you have adequate flow.  
 
Right below the confluence you encounter the 25 foot sieved out waterfall.  Portage river right by either going up and over or by lining boats at water level with a stern and bow line.  The up and over will require rope work both up and down and lining will require risk of working in front of the sieve, choose your poison.
 
Once below the falls, Bridge creek steepens up and the rapids get good all the way to the confluence with Stehekin requiring an occasional scout.
 
At the Stehekin, the flow once again increases and the first rapid after the confluence has a punchy hole at the bottom.  As you pick your way down the Stehekin, you will soon come to a bridge.  This marks the start of the Tumwater Gorge section.  If you are not up for the Gorge, carry your boat river right down the Stehekin Valley Road about 1 mile to the High Bridge campground.  
 
Put-in at the High Bridge is difficult, instead go to the High Bridge campground and look for a trail with switch backs marked with a water sign.  This will put you river right above the High Bridge.  You might want to walk to the High Bridge to scout the line under the bridge before descending to water level.
 
From the High Side Bridge, the hard stuff is over and there are a few splashy rapids which quickly subside.  Once on the lake, look for the dock and dwellings on the left shore about 1 mile across.  This is where you will meet the ferry.
 
Tumwater Canyon
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Tumwater is a difficult canyon with little margin for error.  If you are considering it, spend as much time as needed to scout the complete canyon from above.  Even after scouting the lines from above don't be afraid to also scout from river level once in the gorge.  The most difficult rapid in the upper part can be portaged easily river left.  The crux rapid lies exactly where the gorge becomes impassable.  It has a nasty pour over on the right followed by multiple river wide holes.  If you do get to this point and it becomes too much, there is an egress out of the canyon river right by going upstream and following the cliff line to the top.  Footing is questionable and difficult but has been accomplished with a loaded boat, for those less sure-footed rope work will be necessary.  Only recommended for EXPERT boaters!!
 
Logistics
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Ferry Info
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Chelan lake from the town of Stehekin to the town of Chelan is about 48 miles which makes paddling across the lake only for those that like to suffer.  
 
A ferry service is provided by Lady of the Lake ( 888-682-4584).  
They have a small ferry that leaves Stehekin at 12:00 noon and a large ferry that leaves Stehekin at 2pm.  The small ferry is faster but will not take kayaks.  The large ferry will take kayaks.  
 
Stehekin 12pm to Chelan 2:45 Cost: $37.00 - small ferry
Stehekin 2pm to Chelan 6pm Cost: $24.00 - large ferry
 
The Lady of the Lake reservation office will only reserve space for 3 kayaks a day.  There is room for more if the other passengers do not have much luggage but it would be a gamble. When you call to make reservations for your kayak they will ask for dimensions, length, width, height, cost for a standard 9 foot boat should be $15 - $20 and around $30 for a Sea Kayak so make sure they are charging you appropriately.  Typically dimensions for a 9 foot kayak are in the ballpark of 108 inches long x 15 inches height x 24 inches wide.
 
You will need to buy a one way ticket from Stehekin for you and one for your kayak.  Recommend purchasing in advance.  You can also purchase both on the Stehekin dock with CASH only with a availability on a first come first serve basis.
 
Lady of the Lake has a fenced in paid parking area in Chelan (about $9 night) to safely park a vehicle which can be only be purchased during office hours.
 
Another takeout option is to drive to Fields Point Landing, another stopping point for the ferry.  The drive from Chelan to Fields Point takes about 25 minutes one way (50 minutes round trip) and the ferry ride from Fields Point to Chelan is 1 hour 15 minutes.
 
Wilderness Permit
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Wilderness permits (free), needed for camping can be obtained from two places:
Wilderness Information Center - 7280 Ranger Station Rd., Marblemount, WA 98267  - 360-854-7245
Methow Valley Ranger District - 24 West Chewuch Road Winthrop, WA 98862 - 509-996-4003
The permit is based on where you will camp.  If they are full, they will direct you to another camp spot.  You can "self" register during off hours and weekends.  When you self register, there will be a list of full camp spots, you fill out the form and drop it into the box.  You can not self register once they open.  On busy days, if you arrive when the ranger station opens (7am) there can be a long line of individuals getting a permit.
 
For camp names see map:
 
Shuttle
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Shuttle from Chelan to Bridge creek Trailhead takes about 2 hours
 
Approximate Times:
We had a group of three very experiences multiday wilderness kayakers and I would consider these aggressive times so plan accordingly to make your shuttle.
Hike-in: 2 hours
Bridge Creek ( Fireweed Campground ) to Stehekin Confluence: 4.5 hours
Stehekin/Bridge Creek to first bridge: 1 hour
Scout Tumwater Gorge: 2.5 hours
Tumwater Gorge: 1.5 hours
High Bridge to town of Stehekin: 2.5 hours
 
GPS Coordinates
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Start Hike - 45.505008,-120.719038
Start Paddling - 48.467491, -120.722197 
Stop Paddling - 48.309316, -120.657778
Chelan Vehicle Parking - 47.836052, -120.037946
Alternate Fields Point Landing Vehicle Parking - 47.972181, -120.213677

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Jon Crain

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Jacob Cruser

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1208028 07/14/17 Jon Crain n/a
1208029 07/14/17 Jon Crain
1212025 04/24/19 Jacob Cruser updated image position
1208030 07/14/17 Jon Crain
1210142 07/24/18 Jacob Cruser Added Description - from Joseph Hatcher
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1210144 07/24/18 Jacob Cruser map
1212407 05/18/19 Jacob Cruser updated image position