Sauk - 1 - Bedal Campground to Whitechuck River (Upper)

Sauk, Washington, US


1 - Bedal Campground to Whitechuck River (Upper)

Usual Difficulty II-III (for normal flows)
Length 8.3 Miles
Avg. Gradient 37 fpm

Upper Sauk

Upper Sauk
Photo of Victor Kress by Thomas O'Keefe В© taken 07/05/04 @ 835 cfs

Gauge Information

Name Range Difficulty Updated Level
usgs-12186000 1000 - 5000 cfs II-III 01h11m 1030 cfs (running)

River Description

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.

Additional Information:

  • Bennett, J. and T. Bennett. 1997. A guide to the whitewater rivers of Washington, second edition. Swiftwater Publishing. Portland, OR.
  • North, Douglass A. 1999. Washington Whitewater. Mountaineers. Seattle, WA.
  • Darrington Ranger District - USFS Mt. Baker - Snoqualmie National Forest website

StreamTeam Status: Not Verified
Last Updated: 2015-08-05 21:17:32


Rapid Summary

Mile Rapid Name Class Features (Legend)
-31.9Rocky RoadIII

Rapid Descriptions

User Comments

Users can submit comments.
March 27 2014 (1571 days ago)
woerthinny (156323)
I floated this section yesterday in a 16' SOAR inflatable. 1,000 cfs is definitely right on the
cusp of being unrunnable for all vessels. None of the channels we chose had strainers, but at
higher levels some of the trees/logs we passed under would come into play. It really was a
beautiful stretch of river, just a lot of work dodging rocks and dragging the boat occasionally.

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Associated Projects

  • Skagit Wild and Scenic (WA)
    Public access, riparian protection, and effective resource stewardship are all important to management of the Skagit Wild and Scenic River.