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).
The high bridge at the northern end of Burma Road provides access on the downstream river left side of the bridge.
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.
The low bridge at the southern end of Burma Road provides access on the downstream river right side of the bridge.
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.
Hole on river right usptream of the footbridge.
A large rock on river right that develops a big hole at higher flows.
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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Monse Boat Launch
Burma Road Access
Bill on the Methow
Methow River scenery
Cars as Rip Rap
Ken on the Methow
Finishing Off Roadside Attraction
Hole at Footbridge
Looking Up At Corner Rapids
Entering Corner Rapids
Rapids Upstream of Methow
Rafting down the Methow
Methow Black Canyon
Black Canyon in Fall
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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.
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.
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