SEASON: March through July during spring melt
High quality class 3+ creeking with incredible scenery through old-growth forest. In some years the river has considerable wood hazards requiring portages but in other years it is cleaner. Get a recent report or give yourself plenty of time to scout and portage if necessary. As Korb states, "it will seem like more than three miles."
The run includes a short canyon section and finishes off with a fun class IV rapid, "Mousetrap", that can be viewed by hiking up from the bottom. Once you reach the bridge you can take-out on river right or continue on downstream on the lower run which adds another couple hours.
LOGISTICS: From Highway 101 mile 267.4 take Palo Alto Road south through farmlands and into the foothills of the Olympics. This road is paved all the way and in 8.0 miles the road splits with FR 2860 heading off to the left and FR 2880 heading to the right and down to Dungeness Forks Campground. Follow FR 2880 1.0 miles down to the Dungeness River. You will come to a bridge just upstream of the Gray Wolf confluence at Dungeness Forks Campground (one of the nicer Forest Service campgrounds in the Olympics). The take-out is on river right upstream of the bridge or you can continue on downstream on the lower run.
To reach the put-in, you can no longer use the route described by Korb due to the fact that segment of FR 2860 that went along river right has been decommissioned. Instead continue upstream on river left from the take-out bridge on FR 2880 and then in about a mile turn left on FR 2870. Follow this headed up hill a couple miles to the junction with FR 2860 and turn left to head back down towards the river following the road a little over a mile to a trailhead and a gated road. From here it is less than a half a mile hike down the road to the put-in at the bridge across the river near the confluence with Gold Creek (if you head through the forest straight to the river from the trailhead, the river disappears into hidden gorge that is upstream of the segment described in Korb's guide). Be sure to check road conditions on the Olympic National Forest web site as roads can be snowed in during the winter (FR 2870 is on a bench high above the river at 2200' elevation).
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8/01/2020 Ran this at 260 cfs at the gauge (downstream), and it almost had enough water. All the drops had water in the landing. Beautiful Run with great rapids, 2 huge log jams that do not look like they will be going anywhere. Total of 13 mandatory portages; needs a huge flood to clear out the multi layer river wide trees. Would be an amazing creek run without all the trees. Continuous technical class 3/4 run. 360 cfs would probably be a better flow, yet too much water and the trees will be a true hazard.
Completed the upper combined with the lower June 7, 2008. Would say flows were medium lowish. FR 2860 is no longer signed, so once joining up with FR 2870 continue until the next major intersection. Make a left and head down hill (this is 2860). There will be a parking area with a gate. The Gold Creek bridge is approximately 0.25 mile hike down from the gate. The upper contains a large amount of wood requiring many scouts/portages in the first 2 miles. The rapids are high quality class 3+ creeking when runnable and the scenery is incredible. Very primal environment with soaring trees everywhere. Mouse Trap (class 4) is unrunnable due to a large amount wood lodged at its base. This is visible from the takeout. If you go, plan on a long day. Not recommended for large groups or high water in its current state.
A comprehensive guide to 75 river runs on Washington's beautiful Olympic Peninsula.
Look for flows around 350 cfs.
Check the downstream gauge on the Dungeness. This
section above the Gray Wolf confluence is about
half the discharge reported by the Dungeness
Permits are not required for this reach.
We have no additional detail on this route.
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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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