FUN FACT: Something different
ACCESS: The take-out is at the Menzel Lake Rd. Bridge across the
river just south of Granite Falls. Parking is limited but there is some space
along a dead-end street that parallels the river on upstream river right. To
reach the put-in, it's mostly a hike. Drive 0.8 miles north from the take-out
bridge and turn east onto a forest road. Within a hundred yards you'll need
to park and start walking (expect to meet a crowd of ATV riders). Bennett
describes a put-in 5.5 miles up this road just upstream of the Boulder
Creek confluence in his guidebook, but the rapids above the canyon are a
bit trashy and most won't find them worth the walk. If you can ever get a
vehicle in then you may want to boat this section down to the canyon. To
reach the lower put-in above the canyon study the topo map (1:25000
scale) carefully (the stream network doesn't exactly match what's printed
in the Gazeeteer and you would not want to end up just below the canyon).
From the put-in, you'll pass close to the river twice (where the river comes
right up to the edge of the road) and then cross the first major trib at
Worthy Creek. From here continue on to the next spot where you can see
the river. The river will be further down the ravine at this third spot and you
can just see the end of the canyon upstream. Continue on along the
canyon (although it will be difficult to see any of the river) past another
major trib (smaller than Worthy Creek though) and at this point you should
be about 4 miles along on your hike. Another major road cuts off to the left,
but if you continue on a short distance you should find a less developed
jeep trail that cuts down to the right. Although there may be some
bushwacking this should take you to within about 0.3 miles of the start of
SHUTTLE: Either hike or arrange a shuttle with one of the locals on
The Pilchuck River (a Snohomish trib), not to be confused with more
popular Pilchuck Creek (a Stilliguamish trib) to the north, can be a bit of a
mixed bag: the put-in road is closed to vehicles so it requires a walk in;
while the river itself offers a beautiful wilderness-like settting in places,
the buzz of ATV's on the trail to the put-in is a near constant reminder that
it's not; and while the run has some great rapids, most class IV paddlers
will wish there were more and tentative class III paddlers will find the
canyon to be a little much (video of put-in road). Despite these shortcomings, it's a beautiful river and the
run makes a good adventure when you're looking to do something
different. Although good intermediate paddlers (class III/IV) should be
able to handle this run, just be aware of log hazards that can increase the
danger factor and occur anywhere along the run.
From Boulder Creek the river pounds through class III- boulder
gardens and cobble bars. While this section might be fun at the higher
range of flows, it can get a little boney and you'll probably find some wood
to portage. The gradient is consistent and there are no good breaks
creating defined rapids, and overall it's a bit trashy.
A short distance below the confluence with Kelly Creek the river cuts
through a beautiful bedrock gorge. The rapids in this canyon section are
all too short, but are the highlight of the run. The first rapid is a maze of
medium-size boulders requiring class IV moves to negotiate. At the lower
range of flows (900 cfs is about the limit on this one) there are a couple
good options for working your way through and at the higher range of
flows the slots become wider (video looking upstream at 900 cfs). The river takes a short pause and then
cuts a course through an even longer class IV rapid. After a sequence of
two ledges and after negotiating several smaller boulders the river winds
around the right side of a large mid-stream boulder and then hops over
two more fun ledges (video looking upstream at the lower end of this drop). Stay alert for wood and
what could be a nasty sieve on river left at some levels. A short distance
after this lower rapid the canyon begins to open up and you'll see the road
From here the river meanders back and forth across the valley floor
as you negotiate several cobble bars and smaller boulder gardens that
are mostly class II. Just as you're thinking that the whitewater is over, the
river hits a couple of nice gradient breaks for some fun class II/III drops.
After three or four of these the river pools up behind a dam. It's about 15'
high and you'll see the distinct horizon line and concrete dam house on
river right (video of dam). Take out on river left and portage.
Ran on 3/3/2017. ATVs can no longer get up this old road due to washouts. The first one is just over a mile in. So if you are running this run, you are hiking in. Nick Borelli and Steve Munk hiked in with Pack boats...flow about 1200 cfs and rising. The dam is a deathtrap...don't even think about it. Easy portage left.
Overview of opportunities to address impacts of dams that impact salmon and navigation.
USGS gauge Pilchuck near
Snohomish. This gauge is a ways
downstream, but it should get you in
Permits are not required for this reach.
We have no additional detail on this route.
Use the map below to calculate how
to arrive to the main town from your zipcode.
Hiking to the put-in
Pilchuck Canyon 2
Pilchuck River Dam
Pilchuck River Canyon
If someone gets hurt on a river, or you read about a whitewater-related injury, please report it to
American Whitewater. Don't worry about multiple submissions from other witnesses, as our safety
editors will turn multiple witness reports into a single unified accident report.
Several dams in Washington State have known issues impacting fishery resources or river-based recreation. Some represent partial or complete barriers to fish passage that should be addressed; additionally impacts to geomorphology degrade habitat for fishery resources at many of these dams. In other cases the primary impact of the dam is on river-based recreation where the dam represents a hazard to navigation or public safety. Some of these dams may be candidates for removal while others could be modified to eliminate or reduce impacts. Several successful dam removals are also included in this story map.
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