SEASON: Rainy season and during snowmelt (put-in road snowed in through the winter). The Cascade is usually runnable well into July during a normal snowmelt year.
TAKEOUT: From Highway 20 in Marblemount drive 0.7 miles east on Cascade River Rd. Turn right to the Cascade-Rockport Bridge and the "gauge". The take-out is just upstream on river left. An alternative take-out is available 2 miles upstream at a pullout on river right.
PUTIN: Return to Cascade River Road and drive 8.3 miles to the Marble Creek Campground. Turn right down the campground road where you'll find a put-in. An alternate put-in is at a pull-out at mile 5.4 where you can access the river below the big drops for a class IV run.
SHUTTLE: One Car Shuttle Possibilities-4 stars. If you use the pullout 2 miles upstream of the bridge you stand a very good chance of catching a ride. The weekends during the summer would obviously improve your chances. A bike would be relatively easy as well.
DESCRIPTION: Located just outside of the North Cascades National Park, the Cascade flows through one of the most beautiful areas in the nation. The Cascade River provides some of the best continuous whitewater in the state. While none of the individual drops on the Cascade are overly difficult, the continuous nature of the run makes it suitable for advanced boaters. A high water run on the Cascade provides one of the best class V big water runs in the state. Lower water runs also give paddlers a great, albeit slower, class IV-V run over countless ledges and through numerous boulder gardens.
Starts With a Bang is the first hint of whitewater on the run. This is a long, big and pushy drop that could be scouted from river right at the top of the drop. Or, another option is to catch the large eddy on the right midway through the rapid and scout from there. Catching this eddy requires that you move towards the right bank throughout the initial wave train and catch the eddy immediately below a huge boulder. There are lines on the left and right side of the river. The middle has a sizable hole. The rapid keeps up as the river makes a bend to right. Catch one of the eddies on the left. These eddies are here even at high water. This is a good spot to scout Bridge Drop. There is no pool or noticeable lull in the action between Starts With a Bang and Bridge Drop. So, make your own decision on whether to scout this entire sequence beforehand. The charcter of this section varies widely with river level and deserves much respect. The holes become larger and the water becomes more continuous--if you are new to the run get out and scout! This is a very difficult rapid to perform a rescue in.
Bridge Drop is another long rapid that for more than 20 years contained the remains of the Lookout Creek Bridge which washed into the river during a storm event. While the massive steel girders are now gone, this drop remains a demanding class V rapid.
Continuous III-IV and the occasional log jam keeps you busy for a bit until you reach the next horizon line. Premium has a great boof in the center of the river while the right side contains some good waves. Get to the river left shore to scout the next drop. This is known as Monster and it is junky as hell. If the water level is right you can find an acceptable route down the left side. The right side is runnable, yet there is little glory in that line. There is a large hole backed up by a rock with the majority of the outflow dropping into a narrow slot. The bottom of this drop contains some big holes as well that can all be punched. Take some time to peek at the gorgeous waterfall coming in on river left below the rapid.
From Monster down the Cascade becomes one long rapid until the takeout. It is just one long series of wave trains and holes. None of these drops are harder than class IV and all can be scouted from your boat. However, if in doubt, scout. There are some great surfing waves in this stretch. Very few of these spots have eddy service, though. You'll be grinnin' from ear to ear until you see the large retaining wall above the river on the right. You can take the short hike downstream of the wall to the road here or you can continue down another two miles of gravel bars to the bridge.
OTHER OPTIONS: If the Cascade is too high then Bacon Creek is an acceptable alternative. There are nearby runs in the N. Fork Stillaguamish basin as well as in the Sauk basin. I have been able to get on the Cascade and Robe Canyon in one day. Yet, there is a fair amount of time involved in that process. If the Cascade is too low there is a possible option. Granite Creek could be well worth your drive if it is not too late in the summer.
Alternate put-in access at Cascade River Road mile 5.4 for those who want to put in below Monster and just run the class IV+ rapids.
An alternate take-out near the end of the whitewater 2 miles up the Cascade River Road.
Here's some video of Cascade around 1600 cfs. I walked Monster, everything else was good (and big): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=svs1dwSWcuw
Clean as of May 1st 2020. Entrance to monster had changed a bit. There is a nice boof on the left side of the entrance now.
Ran this at <600 cfs. Bridge Drop barely went, and it definitely involved pinballing near the bottom. It goes, but wouldn't want to do the run again at this flow
run is clean...no wood to speak of. 1 and 1/3 screen was 1500 cfs. good level.
1.5 screens showing on Cascade is roughly equivalent to 1100 cfs
On SAT 7/1 around noon about 7/8 of a screen was showing and the discharge was 1770 cfs.
7/2/06 Wood blocking the entrance to Monster, so be careful on the drop just before. Also, gauging off the hatchery screens may underestimate the flow. 1 screen was showing, but Pete thought the run was higher than usual.
Mark Corsentino reports issues with parking at the put-in as of June 2004: I have a Golden Eagle Passport, and like the NW Forest Pass, it is supposed to allow you parking at all trailheads and day use areas in National Forest Land. The Ranger told me that it was not recognized and I needed to pay $6. So I paid to avoid creating a bad rep with the boating community. I
6 months ago
by Adam Attarian
Excerpts from the River Management Plan Covering Recreation
There is now a realtime gauge for this
river. The information below represents the old way of
Check it out when Bacon Creek is above
600cfs or so and Newhalem Creek is
over 200 cfs . Historically there was a USGS
gauge on the Cascade (stn. 12182500,
1908-1978, 172 sq. mi.). The paddler's visual
gauge for the Cascade is at the Cascade-
Rockport Bridge. The gauge is located
immediately downstream of the bridge at the fish
intake screens (photo). It is a non-
traditional gauging system. However, this is what
paddlers have been using for years.
You can try contacting the
Marblemount Hatchery (360-873-4241) for the
water level as they clean the screens daily.
Permits are not required for this reach.
We have no additional detail on this route.
Use the map below to calculate how
to arrive to the main town from your zipcode.
Starts With a Bang
C.J. Arnold SWB Second Pitch 2
C.J. Arnold SWB Second Pitch
Gary T. SWB Entrance
Ryan Cole SWB Entrance
Bridge Drop debris removal
Cutting up the old bridge
Bridge Drop from above
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American Whitewater. Don't worry about multiple submissions from other witnesses, as our safety
editors will turn multiple witness reports into a single unified accident report.
This past fall, Skagit County completed work to remove hazardous debris from Bridge Drop rapid on the Cascade River.
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