Season: Can be run with winter rains when the freezing level is not too low. A consistent performer through the spring snow melt and into early summer.
While this section may not merit its own unique description, there is a bit of a break in the geomorphology of the river just upstream of Clear Creek. You will notice a change in the whitewater as bedrock and boulder garden rapids taper off and the alluvial gravel bar rapids begin. There are however a couple good boulder gardens between Clear Creek and Darrington. Many paddle this reach as a continuation of the Middle Sauk, or as the start to the Lower Sauk. There's still plenty here though to paddle this as a short run by itself.
At moderate flows the rapids in this section are mostly class II/III although high water can makes things challenging. Although the river banks are still forested, you will begin to see more cabins as you leave the National Forest. Once you see the cabins on river left you will enter a fun rapid. If you're planning to take-out here, keep your eyes open for Bachman Park which is a small strip of public river access between the cabins that's not entirely obvious from the river. Just downstream of this park you will enter Bachman Drop a fun class III rapid, and the most significant drop on this section.
Although you will encounter a couple more class II rapids, the rapids taper finishing with one final distinct feature where the river flows into a bedrock wall on river right. Paddle around the corner and take-out at the boat ramp on the downstream river left side of the Sauk Praire Bridge. From this point downstream the river opens up further and flows through class II gravel bar rapids (see the Lower Sauk).
There are a few different access points along this stretch providing you with opportunities to customize your run. Many just put-in higher up on the Middle Sauk, especially if you're rafting, where the Whitechuck access serves as the traditional put-in.
Darrington Mill Access at Sauk Praire Bridge (River Mile 21.3)
On the north side of Darrington at mile Highway 530 mile 49.3 turn east on Sauk Praire Road (near the Darrington Ranger District Station). Follow this road 0.3 miles past the Hampton Lumber Mill to the bridge across the river. There is a boat ramp on the downstream river left side of the bridge. The lumber company has asked boaters not to park here along their access road. Park in the small lot on the upstream river left side of the bridge.
Backman County Park (River Mile 24.5)
This access is accessible for rafts and kayaks and can serve as either a put-in or take-out. Head south out of Darrington on the Mountain Loop Highway and just outside of town (1.4 miles) at road mile 52.1 turn north on Clear Creek Road and follow it 0.6 miles to the park. This access is accessible for rafts and kayaks and can serve as either a put-in or take-out. It's easy to miss from the river but you can recognize it by several cabins along river left in the vicinity of the park.
Clear Creek (River Mile 25.3)
This access is southeast out of Darrington on the Mountain Loop Highway and just inside the National Forest. Shortly after passing Clear Creek Campground you will reach the Clear Creek bridge at highway mile 50.6. There is a pullout on the west side of the bridge and a ramp down to the creek that provides access to the river.
From Darrington, head 1.4 miles out on the Mountain Loop Highway and then turn onto Clear Creek Road. It is 0.6 mile to this county park that provides river access.
Be sure to find the correct take out. The description listed here for this section of the river is incorrect. It says that a good take out is the clear creek bridge by the clear creek campground. This is the take out for the III+(IV) section. If you want the class II section, the bridge is the put-in, not the take out.
They have recently fixed the bridge across the Whitechuck, so the traditional put-in near the old Whitechuck campground is now useable.
Excerpts from the River Management Plan Covering Recreation
The Sauk at Sauk gauge is typically
used for this run. The flow on this stretch will actually
be approximately 1/2 the discharge displayed on this
gauge. During early summer snowmelt you can still
have a great day on this run at 2000 cfs on the gauge,
but with winter rain you're going to want a bit more.
The run is generally considered ideal at flows between
5000 and 10,000 cfs.
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.
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American Whitewater. Don't worry about multiple submissions from other witnesses, as our safety
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American Whitewater joins a coalition in unveiling a new "Destination Darrington" map as Highway 530 opens to all traffic this weekend restoring access to recreational opportunities along the Sauk and Suiattle Rivers.The colorful brochure map spotlights recreational opportunities around Darrington and local businesses.
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