Sauk, Washington, US
|Usual Difficulty||II-III (for normal flows)|
|Avg. Gradient||37 fpm|
|SAUK RIVER AB WHITE CHUCK RIVER NR DARRINGTON, WA|
|usgs-12186000||1000 - 5000 cfs||II-III||01h09m||3300 cfs (running)|
This is a good beginner run but be sure to go with experienced paddlers and make sure you have good boat control skills. Wood hazards can be significant and may require some precise manuvering. This run is also one of the most scenic trips through the Mt. Baker - Snoqualmie National Forest, flowing through magestic riparian forests in a beautiful river valley–it stands out as a true gem of the Wild and Scenic River system.
The run starts out on the lower section of the North Fork Sauk before soon joining the confluence with the South Fork a couple minutes downstream of the Bedal Campground. The river starts of with lively class II rapids. The best rapids on the run are in the first four miles where the river cuts a course through class II/III gravel bar rapids interrupted by occassional boulders. Although you will encounter a couple sections of bedrock, most of the river freely migrates across the floodplain contributing a constant supply of wood as the river carves new channels through sections of forest.
Once the rapids taper off, the river meanders back and forth across the floodplain but still continues along at a good pace. On a clear day, you will have great views back up the valley and into the Glacier Peak Wilderness. High above the valley on river right you will pass by Pugh Mountain and if the river is at a medium flow you will find several gravel bar beaches that make great lunch stops or a campsite for an overnight trip. Bring your firepan and practice Leave No Trace Camping. Overnight use seems to be increasing and boaters have reported increased evidence of impacts.
This section of river finishes off with the best rapid of the trip at Rocky Road, a fun class III drop just upstream of the Mountain Loop Highway bridge. You will recognize the approach by a gaging station on river right. Within a short distance of passing the gage, the river enters a short section of bedrock-constrained channel with several boulders that create a fun technical drop.
You can take-out after running Rocky Road or continue your trip downstream on the Middle Sauk and enjoy one of the longest whitewater trips in the Western Cascades.
The take-out is at the White Chuck boat launch. To reach this access, head out of Darrington on the Mountain Loop Highway (FR 20). Less than 10 miles out of town you will reach the Sauk River Bridge at road mile 44.9. A short distance after this, turn left and cross the White Chuck River on the new bridge. There is a large parking lot with bathrooms just downstream of the boat launch.
To reach the put-in continue up the Mountain Loop Highway. The pavement soon ends, but continue on to mile 37.4 (just past the turn-off for the North Fork Sauk Road) and turn into the Bedal Campground. Follow the road within the campground down to the boat launch between campsites 11 and 12. Once you have dropped your gear, take your car back out the campground entrance and park in the boater lot on the other side of the road. If the campground is closed you can always access the river from the downstream river right side of the bridge across the North Fork that is adjacent to the boater parking lot. American Whitewater worked with the Forest Service to identify an access site that did not involve walking through someone's campsite and designating a place to park.
For current conditions, you can call the Darrington Ranger District (360-436-1155) and ask about road conditions or check the current conditions report.
|Mile||Rapid Name||Class||Features (Legend)|
Letter to Mount Baker - National Forest regarding impacts of October 2003 floods.
Excerpts from the River Management Plan Covering Recreation
Letter from American Whitewater expressing our interest in formalizing the Bedal River Access.
A review of strengths, weakeness, opportunities, and threats to enhancing river access.