Skagit, Washington, US
|Usual Difficulty||I-II (for normal flows)|
|SKAGIT RIVER AT MARBLEMOUNT, WA|
|usgs-12181000||1500 - 12000 cfs||I-II||00h42m||5310 cfs (running)|
Throughout the year. Dam release modulates the annual hydrograph, but weekly hydrographs are closely tied to power demand. These dams are maintained by Seattle City Light who has been a leader in operating their dams in a fish friendly manner.
Popular run for winter eagle viewing.
Downstream of Copper Creek the Skagit is a float trip more popular with steelhead fishermen than whitewater paddlers, but recreational boaters are drawn to this section each year between December and February for eagle watching. With one of the highest concentrations of overwintering eagles in the US, the short section of river between Marblemount and Rockport can be home to over 500 eagles during the peak of the season in mid January. The best days to see the eagles up close are when it's overcast and the birds can be found perched on riverside trees. On sunny days eagles can be seen soaring high overhead.
Although one can use the access at Copper Creek for a longer trip, the most popular section is between Marblemount and Rockport which runs through the Skagit River Bald Eagle Natural Area, a preserve of approximately 10,000 acres made possible through the efforts of the Nature Conservancy who made the original acquisitions in 1976. This section between Marblemount and Rockport is also the most interesting with a complex channel that weaves around a couple of islands and past some gravel bars that become eagle feeding stations in the early morning hours. During the eagle season paddlers are asked to launch between 11 am and noon so as not to disturb the eagles during their morning feeding time, and landing on shore or gravel bars is also discouraged.
There are only a couple rapids and short wave trains that may reach the lower end of class II, but you still need solid skills to avoid the log jams that line the banks in a couple places.
There are a couple different access points for the lower Skagit depending on what you're looking for. Options are listed in order heading upstream from the Rockport take-out.
River Mile 67.7 (Rockport, Howard Miller Steelhead Park)
The most popular take-out for the Skagit Eagle float is at Howard Miller Steelhead Park in Rockport downstream river right of the Highway 530 bridge. To reach this access from Highway 20 mile 97.7, turn right at the Rockport General Store onto Highway 530 which heads toward the Sauk Valley. In 1/4 mile, before you cross the bridge over the Skagit, turn right into the park. There are restrooms, a boat ramp, camping, and folks providing interpretive information on the Eagles. The Skagit River Bald Eagle Interpretive Center is located just up the street from the park at the Rockport Fire Hall on Alfred Street (one block south of Highway 20 at milepost 97.3).
River Mile 71.0 (Milepost 100 Rest Area)
Milepost 100 Rest Area, located just off the highway at the Sutter Creek confluence, provides a good viewing spot for those who aren't boating. Alternatively, if you arrive early this is the best place to watch eagles if you have arrived before the 11 am launch time. There is a convenient river access here.
River Mile 78.2 (Marblemount Access)
This access is the primary put-in for Eagle floats. In the town of Marblemount at Highway 20 mile 106, the road makes a hard 90 degree bend. Instead of following the main highway, continue straight across the bridge over the Skagit River following the sign for the fish hatchery. Cross the river and 1/4 mile from town you'll reach the Marblemount public access on the downstream river left side of the bridge.
River Mile 84.1 (Copper Creek Access)
This alternate access is more often used as a take-out for the whitewater section on the Skagit. It can be used as a put-in although the river between here and Marblemount is a little less interesting and there won't be as many eagles. To reach this access continue upstream on Highway 20 to mile 111.7 where there is a dirt road (NPS Road 213) leading south to the river (it's just before you reach the Ross Lake Recreation Area sign). Follow the dirt road and take the left fork to a takeout about 200 yards from the highway. Parking options are limited here. If you have a large group, extra vehicles should be parked at the other access point you're using.
|Mile||Rapid Name||Class||Features (Legend)|
|-78.2||Marblemount River Access||N/A|
|-71.0||Milepost 100 Rest Area||N/A|
This river access just upstream of the confluence with the Cascade River has ample parking and a good launch area on the downstream river left side of the bridge. It is the standard starting point for eagle floats on the Skagit River.
The access at the Milepost 100 Rest Area is just downstream of Cascadia Farm and the Illabot Creek confluence. It provides an alternate access point at the confluence of Sutter Creek.