Difficulty III
Length 16.4 Miles
Flow Range 1000 - 10000 CFS
Flow Rate as of: 1 hour ago 1270 [CFS]
Reach Info Last Updated 06/01/2019 12:23 am

River Description

The Methow is a bigwater snow melt run with its headwaters in the peaks of the North Cascades. The river features plenty of waves and holes particularly at Black Canyon Rapids, the highlight of the run. The run can easily be broken up into two separate runs as the first half is a class II+ run from McFarland down to the Burma Road Bridge. The seond half features several great class III rapids from the Burma Road Bridge down to Pateros.

McFarland Creek Access to Burma Road Bridge, Class II+, 8.2 miles

This section begins with several big bouncy class II rapids dispersed over the first couple miles. If you want to shorten the warmp up there are alternate access points just upstream of the town of Methow where Highway 153 crosses the river (put-in under the bridge on downstream river left). Another access point is Lightening Pine Camgpround, a private campground on river left across the river from the town of Methow where boaters sometimes camp and utilize the private launch.

Continuing past the town of Methow, which is not readily visible from the river, the Methow comes back along the highway and you will pass a great playspot for the kayakers on river right. Locals or those passing through on a road trip sometimes enjoy this as a fun park-and-play spot. Engle's Slide is a named rapid less than half a mile downstream of the play spot that is an easier class III rapid.

More fun class II rapids continue down to the Burma Road Bridge across the Methow a couple miles downstream which marks the midway point of the run and a potential access point.

Burma Road Bridge to Pateros, Class III, 8.2 miles

This is the classic Black Canyon section of the Methow featuring some wonderful class III action.

The first major rapid on this section is the class IV Black Canyon Rapids just after you pass the confluence with Black Canyon Creek and the river takes a slight bend to the left where a high canyon wall rises up from river left. Avoid the Black Hole on river left near the start of the rapid and the next hole downstream on river right by starting center-right and then moving into the wave train down the left once you pass the Black Hole.

Staircase and Corner Rapids are fun class III rapids that come within the next mile and are relatively easy to read and run. Stay alert as you approach a footbridge as a big hole forms behind a boulder to the right of center.

The next class III rapids are Roadside Attraction, appropriately named as you parallel the highway. Next is Bridge Rapid which comes after you pass under the next Highway 153 bridge. Both are relatively straightforward to run down the main flow.

Finally comes Meteriorite, a large boulder that can form a hole at the highest flows. You will soon be at the take-out as the flow tapers off upon nearing the Columbia River confluence.

Logistics: The put-in at McFarland is a convenient WDFW access site (requires a parking permit) on the upstream river left side of the Highway 153 Bridge at mile marker 14.1. Intermediate access at Burma Road is at mile 8.4 on Highway 153. You can scout Black Canyon rapids on the shuttle from Highway 153 mile 6.8. An take-out is available at Highway 153 mile 1.1 or if you want facilities you can continue down to the WDFW access site at mile 0.7 (requires a parking permit).

Rapid Descriptions

Burma Road, Upper Access

Class - N/A Mile - -14.8

The high bridge at the northern end of Burma Road provides access on the downstream river left side of the bridge.


Class - II+ Mile - -12.2

Fun little play wave on river right just downstream of the town of Methow where the river comes up against the road and a footbridge is visible.

Engle's Slide

Class - III Mile - -11.9
Rapid Thumbnail Missing

Burma Road, Lower Access

Class - N/A Mile - -9.7

The low bridge at the southern end of Burma Road provides access on the downstream river right side of the bridge.

Black Canyon Rapids

Class - III+ Mile - -8.1

Avoid the Black Hole on river left near the start of the rapid and the next hole downstream on river right by starting center-right and then moving into the wave train down the left once you pass the Black Hole.


Class - III Mile - -7.7

Corner Rapids

Class - III Mile - -7.3


Class - II Mile - -6.4

Hole on river right usptream of the footbridge.

Roadside Attraction

Class - III Mile - -5.9

Bridge Rapids

Class - III Mile - -5.3


Class - II Mile - -4.7

A large rock on river right that develops a big hole at higher flows.


default user thumbnail
Karen Hensley
16 years ago

This run is always done by Paddle Trails Canoe Club as 2 runs. The first run is II+ putting in at McFarland Creek Access about 5 or 6 miles North of the town of Methow on highway 153. Take out at the concrete bridge, about 3 miles south of the town of Methow, where Burma Road crosses the river to the East side of the highway. You can park either on the west siide of Highway 153, or drive across the bridge and park on Burma Road. This run is great for canoes and kayaks, and a pleasant float for rafts at 1,100 CFS.

The second run is the Class III part and puts in at the Burma Road Concrete bridge and goes down to the top of the backwater near Pateros. You will see the parking on the left of the highway. This is known as the "Black Canyon" run. Rafts will enjoy more excitement on this section at or above 2,000 CFS, but we have enjoyed tamer rafting as low as 1600. Canoes and kayaks can paddle and will enjoy this section much lower. At 750 cfs the Black Canyon forms a narrow chute, which is still canoeable.

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article main photo

Take Action to Protect Methow Headwaters

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.
article main photo

TAKE ACTION: Protect Methow Headwaters

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

Methow Headwaters Protection Act of 2016 Introduced

Thomas O'Keefe

Senator Murray and Senator Cantwell introduced the Methow Headwaters Protection Act of 2016 to protect Washington’s Methow River from the impacts of industrial-scale mining. The bill supports the efforts of recreational interests, civic and business leaders, farmers and ranchers, and Methow residents to safeguard the lands and waters of the Methow Valley and protect them permanently from mining.


Thomas O'Keefe


Gregory Knab


Revision #Revision DateAuthorComment
1200440 07/23/11 Thomas O'Keefe photo update
1204675 05/31/15 Thomas O'Keefe edits to description
1212592 06/01/19 Thomas O'Keefe updated image position
1212056 04/27/19 Thomas O'Keefe updated image position
1204677 06/01/15 Thomas O'Keefe description updated
1191959 07/12/04 Gregory Knab n/a
1202239 05/22/13 Thomas O'Keefe photos added