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Difficulty IV-V
Length 12 Miles
Gauge Lost River
Flow Range 650 - 1200 CFS
Flow Rate as of: 13 hours ago 0 [CFS]
Reach Info Last Updated 05/31/2009 5:35 pm

River Description


FUN FACT: Wilderness trip right here in Washington State.

SEASON: Spring snow melt

CAMPING: There are numerous good camping sites throughout the run although you need to be careful about camping at the base of the very active tallus slopes. The best camping is at the lake about 1/3 of the way down the run and there is also some good camping near Eureka Creek. For the first night there are campgrounds and dispersed camp sites along Eightmile Creek road and some good backcountry campsites where the trail first meets Drake Creek on your way to the put-in.

LOGISTICS: To reach the take-out take highway 20 to mile179.6 and turn north on Lost River Road (FR 5400). This road crosses the Methow and curves to the left upstream. You'll reach the take-out bridge across the Lost 7.1 miles up this road. To reach the put-in, return to Highway 20, proceed east to mile 192.6 in the town of Winthrop, and turn north on West Chewuch Road (next to the town ball field and across from the FS visitor center). Continue on this road for 9.5 miles and then turn left on FR 5130 (Eightmile Creek Road) to Billy Goat trailhead. Follow the road 16.7 miles to the end at the trailhead. The hike in begins here. A topo map is helpful to monitor your progress, and you might want to bring a basic repair kit for your boat. As you start climbing take the first left fork and make your way up the #477 trail to Eightmile Pass (you'll be treated to impressive views down the valley). After approximately 500' of climbing the downhill begins. It's a great trail from this point down to Drake Creek and you'll make good time, but at Drake Creek the work begins. Instead of crossing the bridge at Drake Creek you'll continue down an old unmainted trail (#459) that parrallels river left. You'll have to pass over numerous downed trees and a couple of long and steep tallus slopes (photo ). Bring good footware for making your way through the vegetation and over the sharp rocks (which are very hard on boats--if you decide to drag then consider bringing a disposable plastic skid plate to protect your kayak). The last mile and a half is very slow hiking. Expect to spend 5-6 hours on the hike in. Check out road conditions for FR 5130 and access to the Billy Goat trailhead on the Okanogon National Forest site (under the virtual vistor center link) or call the visitor center in Winthrop at 509-996-4000. Because the route to the put-in is infrequently traveled, the visitor center does not always have accurate information, especially early in the season. If you're coming from the west side of the Cascades you'll probably want to make sure you have a full tank of gas before heading over the pass. Gas station hours are limited in Mazama and Winthrop if you're trying to run shuttle the night before you hike in.

DESCRIPTION:

This river cuts through an impressive gorge (photo, video ), with peaks rising over 8000 feet on either side, in the heart of a remote wilderness area in the Okanogan National Forest. Only a handful of kayakers venture through this remote canyon which has no hiking trails or other land access. With a long shuttle, a 5-6 hour hike in, and an 8-9 hour kayak run, most make a trip to the Lost River a weekend adventure. An excellent strategy is to run your shuttle Friday night, hike in early Saturday morning, paddle a few hours on Saturday, and then paddle out on Sunday (photo at put-in).

While the whitewater on this run can be paddled by most advanced paddlers keep in mind the fact that entering the gorge is very physically demanding, log hazards and high water can create extremely dangerous conditions, and loosing a boat could be a real problem as there are no practical exits from the gorge until you reach Eureka Creek. Solid class IV+ paddling skills are mandatory to successfully negotiate this run. If you do run into trouble it's probably possible to scramble down most of the way on river right until you reach the Eureka Creek bridge and the trail that parrallels the river from this point down to the take-out bridge.

The run starts out below the confluence with Drake Creek with big pink granite cliffs towering above the far side of the river. Trees line the banks and you can expect to make half a dozen tree portages in the first mile or two. Then the gradient starts to pick up a bit with some fun class III and the first couple of class IV drops (video). Rapids on this run are formed when the very active tallus slopes supply rock to the river bed.

After a couple miles of fun class III/IV you'll arrive at the lake (photo). The lake formed where a massive rock slide blocked the river just upstream of the mouth of Auburn Creek. It's an awe inspiring place with impressive bedrock walls that tower above you. There is also some nice camping to be had here at the head of the lake.

The river explodes from the lake outlet in a series of cascades that drops approximately 70 feet (photo 1, photo 2). At ideal water levels you might be able to find a line but it would require a demanding sequence of class V+ moves with a loaded boat. The portage requires a scramble over boulders and loose tallus.

Below this rapid the fun begins with some good technical class IV+ rapids and continuous stretches of class III/IV water in between (video). Logs are a constant hazard so use caution and don't proceed down any blind corners. Watch out for the holes as there are a couple along this stretch that can give you trouble.

Once you pass Monument Creek, the flow picks up even more and you'll have continuous class IV all the way to Eureka Creek (photo, video 1, video 2, video 3). Keep your eyes open for log hazards but for the most part you can just boogie your way down the most enjoyable section of the run.

Once you pass Eureka Creek the gradient decreases and the river takes on an alluvial character with wider braided channels and more log jams. You'll probably need to portage up to half a dozen times between here and the take-out bridge although you get one more little short section of constrained channel near the end.

for additional information see

  • Gary Korb's description in, Bennett, J. and T. Bennett. 1997. A guide to the whitewater rivers of Washington, second edition. Swiftwater Publishing. Portland, OR.
  • Lost River page on the WA Boater site

 

Rapid Descriptions

Comments

Summary of Gauge Readings

The real trick to this run is figuring out what the flow will be doing over the course of 3 days. Ideally you'll probably want flows around 800-1100 cfs. The river has been described as class V with no eddies as flows approach 2000 cfs which is not a comforting thought considering some of the wood hazards. If you can pick a time when discharge is steady or dropping slightly from around 1000 cfs you should be good to go. The lower half from Monument Creek down can be enjoyed at flows as low as 500 cfs but this would likely make the top half scrapey. The virtual gauge is an estimate based on the watershed area of the Lost (146 sq. miles) relative to the watershed area represented by the Methow at Mazama gauge (373 sq. miles). Bennett's book says to look for flows around 10,000 cfs on the Methow at Pateros, but this gauge is much further down in the drainage and not a reliable indicator of flows on the Lost. There is a staff gauge on river right at the downstream side of the take-out bridge. A level of 9.1 feet corresponds to approximately 850 cfs and 8.7 feet corresponds to approximately 500 cfs (information from the stage rating curve will be listed here when it becomes available).

Gauge NameReadingTimeComment
Lost River
AW Gauge Info
0 cfs 13h00m n/a
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Directions Description


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News

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TAKE ACTION: Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest Plan Open for Comment

2011-09-15 20:53:00-04
Thomas O'Keefe

The Forest Service is developing a new Forest Plan for the Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest and has released a Proposed Action. The Forest Service is accepting public comment on this plan that will guide management for the next decade or more. 

article main photo

TAKE ACTION: Protect Methow Headwaters

2017-01-31 13:20:00-05
Thomas O'Keefe

The Bureau of Land Management is currently accepting public comment on a proposal to protect the Methow Headwaters from an industrial-scale copper mine above the town of Mazama. The proposed mine would negatively impact the incredible opportunities for outdoor recreation in the Methow Valley. A strong show of public support will be required to secure protection for this river valley.

article main photo

Take Action to Protect Methow Headwaters

2017-10-17 16:06:00-04
Thomas O'Keefe

The Methow Valley, located in the foothills of the North Cascades, is one of the Northwest's most popular recreation destinations. It is surrounded by public lands that provide year-around opportunities for outdoor recreation including whitewater paddling on rivers like the Methow, Lost, and Chewuch. A current threat to the valley and the recreational opportunities available is a proposed large-scale copper mine in the heart of the valley. The Forest Service has requested input on a proposed action to declare the Methow Headwaters off-limits to any new mining activities while Congressional leaders work on a permanent solution to protect this landscape.
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Thomas O'Keefe