Pilchuck Creek, Washington, US
|Usual Difficulty||IV (for normal flows)|
|Avg. Gradient||60 fpm|
|Pilchuck Cr. @ Bridge 626|
|wadoe-05D070||800 - 4500 cfs||IV||05h40m||304 cfs (too low)|
SEASON: Winter rains.
LOGISTICS: Paddlers meet at the Highway 9 Bridge just north of Arlington at Highway 9 mile 34.9 to check the gauge and coordinate shuttle. If you're going to tack on the middle run too then this is the take-out, but if you're just doing the upper start heading up river. From the Highway 9 Bridge, drive 0.3 miles north on Highway 9 and turn right onto Finn Settlement Rd. (labeled as 44th Ave NE in the Gazetteer). Drive 4.5 miles along this road until you come to a Y. To reach the take-out (also the put-in for the middle section) turn right at the Y. From this point you used to be able to drive 0.9 miles to the logging road bridge across the river, but the WA DNR has gated this road and you'll now have to hike out if you want to use this access. To reach the put-in, turn left at the Y and head 0.9 miles to Lake Cavanaugh Road. Head right and continue another 4 miles up the road where the river runs right up againt the road. There is a spot for a couple of cars at a small pull-out.
The upper section of Pilchuck Creek adds some fun class III/IV rapids that can become very pushy and continuous at high flows with the action building up to the most challenging drops which are 1.5 to 2.0 miles into the run. At high water this section can push class V as holes start to appear and quick moves around wood hazards are required. The upper section is a bit more continuous than the middle section, but the character is mostly boulder gardens through a second-growth forest. There is an old logging road that runs along much of the run so although you can boat scout the run, getting out on shore is not as difficult as in the bedrock canyon downstream. Drops on this upper section are a bit bony with medium flows. Higher flows are generally best for this run.
The most challenging drop occurs near over halfway into the run where a large boulder sticks out from river right and the river plunges over a 5' ledge drop. It's run river right near the boulder. Another good drop follows a short distance downstream before the action begins to taper off a bit. It's a short distance to the take-out bridge (pull out upstream river right).
Those looking for more action continue downstream and paddle the middle section which is best-known for Pilchuck Falls. Paddling the upper and middle sections together can make for a great day with 10 miles of paddling.
See description for Pilchuck Creek, Middle Section.