Satsop, Middle Fork, Washington, US
|Usual Difficulty||III+(IV) (for normal flows)|
|Avg. Gradient||69 fpm|
SEASON: November to May after heavy rainfall.
LOGISTICS: This is a long shuttle, and although the roads are good, snow can sometimes restrict access at the highest point on the route which is 1500'. A high clearance vehicle is recommended. The best way to do this river is by setting a drop shuttle. To get to the take-out, head towards Shelton, WA and from Highway 101 mile 347.0 turn onto Dayton-Matlock Road headed west towards Matlock. Stay on this road for 15.2 miles (past a lake circled with vacation homes) to Matlock and there turn right onto West Beeville Road (this is at milepost 16.9). Stay on the main road for 5.0 miles miles (you'll pass farms) and then turn right at the T junction onto Kelley Road. From here it's 1.5 miles to an intersection where 5 forest roads come together. Turn left onto FR 2341. You'll start to parrallel the river (Fools Canyon section) and in 1.3 miles you'll be at the bridge across Baker Creek. This is the take-out. In theory you could continue upstream on FR 2341 to reach the put-in, but it goes up over the ridge (2500') and this route is snowed in for most of the paddling season. The standard shuttle is to head 1.3 miles back to the forest road intersection, but this time head straight (southeast) through the gate onto the Simpson 800 road. Stay on this road for 6.6 miles and then turn left onto FR 2341. Take this road down towards Vance Creek (you'll cross it in 3.4 miles) and then back up the hill to FR 23 (another 1.3 miles). Turn left on FR 23 and in 1.6 miles turn left on FR 2350. Stay on this road to the put-in. FR 2350 parrallels Vance Creek and heads gradually uphill where in 8.8 miles you eventually meet FR 2341 again (this is where you would come out if you continued upstream on FR 2341 from the take-out). FR 2350 drops back downhill again and in another 2.2 miles you'll reach a bridge across Walter Creek, a small tributary stream for the Middle Fork Satsop. Put-in on the downstream river left side of this bridge. It's about 100 yards to the confluence. It always a good idea to check road conditions on this one. Current information on FR 2341 and FR 2350 can be obtained from the Olympic National Forest web site (check rec reports for Hood Canal District - South) or call 360-877-5254. Current information on the Simpson 800 Road can be obtained by calling 360-426-3381
This run is a bit of a mixed bag and is more adventure than great whitewater run. First, it's a long shuttle requiring an early start unless you happen to be in the area. Then you'll probably have to deal with quite a lot of wood. Most of it is easy to portage but in an effort to minimize your carries, you'll likely be trying to make class IV lines through wood hazards in rapids that would only offer class II excitement. Although the run is scenic there are other runs in the area with more impressive geology, but if you've done the Humptulips Narrows too many times and you're looking for something new, bring your rope and a bit of patience. There are some beautiful rapids and scenic waterfalls on this run.
The put-in is on Walter Creek and you can bounce your way down this narrow tributary to the confluence with the Middle Satsop. The mainstem isn't much bigger than the creek so this starts out as a small volume run. If the you find yourself pinballing your way down, the good news is there are additional side tributaries that bring in additional flow. The bad news is it will be a couple miles before you start to notice. This first section is best after heavy rains have brought flows up enough to cover these upper boulder garden rapids.
You will also encounter some significant wood in the first couple miles. You'll probably be able to skirt around most it but there will likely be a couple of portages in the first section where the braided channel serves up some class II rapids. Things begin to improve as you move downstream and you start to see more bedrock. Small boulder gardens keep things interesting (photo), and then a couple of big boulders have constricted the channel and collected a good-sized log jam (photo, as of Dec 2002). Below here things begin to pick up a bit more, but as you start to notice full-size trees growing in the middle of the channel you're approaching a major debris dam (photo, as of Dec 2002). Hundreds of logs have blocked the river and gravels have backed up behind it creating a 30' drop where the river plunges through the log jam. There is a good portage on the left and rope will help with lowering the boats down.
After the portage you'll soon be to Faith Healer. This is where the run starts to get fun. You'll come to a horizon line with a large mid-stream boulder. If you hop out to the right you can see most of the rapid but about 5' of the end is blocked from view. Beyond you can see a good recovery stretch (view looking downstream, video looking upstream). Korb calls this a class IV in his book but it's more of a III+ that you can't fully scout. The only concern might be wood as there is really not much to worry about in the part you can't see.
For the remainder of the run you'll be treated to several class II/III rapids over bedrock ledges as you travel through a scenic canyon (photo). Dozens of incredible waterfalls in all different forms cascade in from the sides. If you could put in at the top of Faith Healer this would be a great intermediate run. As it is, the first half makes the run a bit less appealing. As Korb says in his guidebook, "This wonderful trip, that has quickly become one of my favorites, makes you pay the price for it."
Once you reach the take-out at Baker Creek you'll notice that the pace picks up immediately downstream as the river plunges into Fool's Canyon. If you've scouted it out beforehand there are some great drops in there (class IV/V), but be cautious as portaging and scouting at river level is difficult.
lat/long approximated by Tiger map server
for additional information see
A comprehensive guide to 75 river runs on Washington's beautiful Olympic Peninsula.