Difficulty II-III
Length 17 Miles
Gauge CALAWAH RIVER NEAR FORKS, WA
Flow Range 2000 - 4000 CFS
Flow Rate as of: 23 hours ago 83.3 [CFS]
Reach Info Last Updated 05/18/2019 6:00 pm

River Description


The Calawah is a low elevation drainage and flows for whitewater boating depend on winter rains. Storms coming in off the Pacific can send the river to floodstage overnight while an advancing cold front can make flows drop out of the range just as quickly.
 
The river has faced a history of intense logging, but a new generation of forestry regulations has resulted in greater protection of riverside forests and water quality is now generally exceptional on this river. Sightings of salmon, steelhead, and eagles are common on this run.
 
While the entire 17 miles is likely too long for a day trip, this river can be broken up into several sections. The first 2.5 miles from Hyas Creek to Klahine Campground is the most scenic flowing through Olympic National Forest with emerald pools separated by class II to II+ whitewater.
 
About a mile downstream of Klahine Campground, as you enter state-managed forest land, the Calawah drops through the best section of whitewater with approximately a mile of high quality class III boulder garden rapids ending with "Island Rapid" which is run down the right. 
 
As you reach the confluence with the North Fork Calawah, the action tapers off again but offers more class II whitewater. As a few riverside homes come into view on river left you know you are reaching the Highway 101 bridge access.
 
Below the Highway 101 bridge the river flows through commercial timberlands. While the class II rapids are enough to make drift boat fishermen nervous, whitewater kayakers should not have too much trouble. Some fun play awaits as the river joins the Bogachiel. Floating on the Bogachiel just over 3 miles brings you to the Wilson Boat ramp and the lowermost take-out.
 
Logistics:
 
For a put-in, a number of access points are available along Forest Road 29 which parallels the upper part of this run on river right. To find this road head about a mile north of Forks and at Highway 101 mile 193.3 turn east on to Forest Road 29.
 
Driving up Forest Road 29 you will get a view of the river at the North Fork confluence at mile 3.6 that provides for a visual check on levels. Klahanie Campground is at mile 5.4 on this road and this is the put-in access described in the Korb guidebook, however the campground is typically closed during the winter boating season. At mile 6.0 up the road, Forest Road 2932 (Elk Ridge Road) turns off to the south and the bridge here provides a potential access point. At mile 8.0 on Forest Road 29 you will reach the Hyas Creek confluence which is the traditional take-out for the Sitkum and South Fork Calawah runs. The access is at a dispersed site at a gravel bar with great river access just downstream of where Hyas Creek joins the Calawah.
 
You have a couple different options for a take-out. One option is at the Highway 101 boat ramp. At the Highway 101 bridge mile 192.3 where the bridge crosses the Calawah, turn into the Washington State Department of Fish and Wildlife access on the upstream river left side of the bridge.
 
Another option is at the Wilson Boat Ramp downstream of where the Calawah joins the Bogachiel. To reach this access, head down La Push Road which turns off from Highway 101 at mile 193.2 just north of Forks. Head 5.5 miles down this road and turn left on Wilson Road. Follow this road 0.7 miles to the boat ramp (WDFW parking permit required).
 
You can obtain current road information from the USFS Pacific Ranger District in Forks (360)374-6522.
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Rapid Descriptions

FR 2932 Bridge Access

Class - N/A Mile - -13.1

Klahanie Campground

Class - N/A Mile - -12.7
Rapid Thumbnail Missing

Class III Start

Class - III Mile - -11.5

The begining of a great section of class III boulder garden rapids.

Island Rapid

Class - III+ Mile - -10.5

Highway 101 Bridge

Class - N/A Mile - -6.5
Rapid Thumbnail Missing

A WDFW access with parking and boat ramp.

Comments

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Thomas O'Keefe
|
1 year ago

Good high water option. We ran over the Thanksgiving 2017 holiday and found the run clean with no hazards. The class III section is all too short but it is fun around 4000 cfs.

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Thomas O'Keefe
|
2 years ago

Ran it at 4200 cfs (with the gage on the rise). Still good features at the higher flow. Swift current but nothing more than class III+. The best whitewater is between the campground and the North Fork confluence. A few legacy old-growth sitka spruce along the way.

Gage Descriptions

The Calwah now has a realtime gauge. Flows are approximate based on only a couple of data points. You can get down the river as low as 500 cfs but expect to bump and grind a few times. High water runs are certainly possible for experienced paddlers. You can get a good visual on flows by driving the shuttle road particularly as you drive past the North Fork confluence.

Directions Description


We have no additional detail on this route. Use the map below to calculate how to arrive to the main town from your zipcode.

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News

article main photo

Addressing Road Problems in Olympic National Forest (WA)

1/18/2003
Thomas O'Keefe

The extensive road network in Olympic National Forest has deteriorated over the last few years with the reduction in logging intensity and corresponding lack of routine maintenance. The road failures have resulted in destruction of aquatic habitat and reduced access. Repair work and decommissioning has begun with the introduction of a new road management plan in fall 2002.

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Matt Muir

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Thomas O'Keefe

Revisions

Revision #Revision DateAuthorComment
1191864 12/02/03 n/a n/a
1205498 11/30/15 Thomas O'Keefe minor edits
1205495 11/30/15 Thomas O'Keefe description edits
1205499 11/30/15 Thomas O'Keefe photo added
1206984 11/03/16 Thomas O'Keefe copy edits
1212405 05/18/19 Thomas O'Keefe updated image position
1212026 04/24/19 Thomas O'Keefe updated image position