Icicle Creek, Washington, US
|Usual Difficulty||IV-V(V+) (for normal flows)|
|Avg. Gradient||125 fpm|
|Max Gradient||180 fpm|
|ICICLE CREEK ABOVE SNOW CREEK NEAR LEAVENWORTH, WA|
|usgs-12458000||700 - 2000 cfs||IV-V(V+)||01h09m||392 cfs (too low)|
From Highway 2 mile 99.1 (the west end of Leavenworth) turn on to Icicle Creek Road. There are several access points along this road. Popular access points include Eight Mile Campground (at mile 7), Bridge Campground (at mile 8.4), and Johnny Creek Campground (at mile 11.2). There are additional pullouts anywhere between Snow Creek Trailhead (mile 4.1) and Ida Creek (mile 12.6) that can be used as access, but avoid the private land.
The Middle Icicle Creek run is a classic expert creek, really more of a river, pioneered in the 1960's but with challenging sections that have been tackled more recently. Beautiful granite boulders, impressive alpine scenery, and great riverside camping make this a run locals consider lucky to have in their back yard, while those on their Pacific Northwest road trips make it a scheduled stop. The Icicle Creek Road parallels the length of this run and most of the land along the river is publically owned so you have several options for accessing the river and putting together a run appropriate for your set of skills and the time available. Camping is also plentiful along this river at one of several National Forest campgrounds but during the spring boating season, paddlers, rock climbers, and mountain bikers all call this valley their outdoor playground making this a very busy place (Memorial Day weekend can be particularly crowded).
Although the traditional dividing point between the Upper and Middle run is Ida Creek, most put in at Johnny Creek Campground to skip some of the class III warm up. Those looking for maximum adrenaline also run the section below Eight Mile Campground as a run by itself.
From Johnny Creek Campground the river builds to class IV and just as the intensity starts to pick up you're at the first major horizon line. Roadside Attraction is a series of ledges than can be scouted from the road (mile 9.8). The typical line is to hit the first one on river right and then take the rest straight down the center. From river level, it's an easy scout or portage along river right. Look good for the spectators who will notice you from the road and stop to watch.
Just below this drop, the river picks up in intensity for about half a mile of constant class IV+ action. You should be able to boat scout this section. Keep your eyes open for wood hazards and avoid (or crash through) the holes. This section ends where the river tapers offf slightly and you come upon a large midstream boulder and an obvious horizon line. Get out to scout one of the bigger drops on this section.
This significant rapid, Limbo, can be scouted from the road at mile 9.2. A large chunk of bedrock extends up between the road and the river and there is a little drive that cuts off the main road and loops around it. At river level you can get out on river left and jog down the road for a look. If there are no wood hazards, the typical line is to take the river right chute at the top and then work your way over to the left hand side of the river (the consequences of staying right will be obvious as the river kind of sieves out over there). The drop often collects wood and there are several pin hazards, but if you hit your lines you'll make it look easy. At the higher range of flows some big hydraulics can develop in this drop.
A short distance below this drop the river tapers off to class II/III for the short paddle down to Bridge Creek Campground. At the downstream end of Bridge Creek Campground the river squeezes past a large bedrock wall (river right) and some large boulders. This drop is challenging V+ (Bennett rates it a VI) with a very high hazard potential--it's got it all: big hole at the top, boulder sieves, and plenty of pin potential. It has been run, but most portage on the left.
Past this drop, the river bounces through more class IV+ rapids interrupted by the more challenging Richochet, class V+. Many take-out at Eightmile as things start to kick up another notch with some solid V whitewater. If you continue downstream, you've entered the Bonus Rounds. Here the gradient increases through a short section just over 2 miles in length at about 180 feet per mile (keep in mind however that this no small volume creek). You can see a lot of this section from the road but not all of it. There is more private land once you pass Eightmile so you have to be a bit more selective in your river access. Expect to take your time portaging and probably scouting as there's plenty of action from here down to Snow Creek Falls, an unrunnable sequence of massive boulders and sieves created that owe some of their legacy to road building activity.