This photo needs editing.
Difficulty II-III+
Length 8.9 Miles
Flow Range 1500 - 15000 CFS
Flow Rate as of: 24 minutes ago 4350 [CFS] 👍
Reach Info Last Updated 12/07/2013 5:59 am

River Description


Throughout the year. Dam release modulates the annual hydrograph, but weekly hydrographs are closely tied to power demand. Seattle City Light works to operate their dams in a manner that is protective of the rich fishery resources of the Skagit River.

Fun Fact

Consistent dam release flows along a beautiful river


In the 1970's Seattle City Light pushed for construction of a 108 MW hydropower project at Copper Creek that would have inundated this section of river. As opposition from environmental groups, fishermen, whitewater boaters, and tribes increased however the Seattle City Council decided to shelve the project in August 1981. This section remains free flowing but unlike the section just downstream it is not protected under the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act.

The Skagit River is a great place for advanced beginners to go and learn from an experienced paddler. If you don't have a solid brace swims are just about always guaranteed, but the big wave trains in S-Bends are fun and it's normally not too much trouble to pick up the yard sale at the end (the waves could be a fun surfing spot if you're not busy chasing swimmers).

The run starts at the putin with easy class II rapids. It's a good section for practice with strong eddy lines and occasoinal wave trains. The excitement of the run comes with the S-Bends, a series of three distinct rapids separated by short stretches of flatwater in between. The big wave trains can be either exciting or terrorizing for first-time paddlers. They normally rate class III. They become bigger and faster with higher water levels (> 6000 cfs), but it would be hard to call them anything more difficult than III+. There is a hole that could cause trouble near the middle of the rapid, but otherwise they flush straight through. The S Bends can be scouted from the road near mile 114.

The river calms down considerably after leaving the S bends and continues along at any easy pace to the takeout.


Goodell Creek Campground at mile 119.4 on Highway 20. There is a boat launch and information sign at the downstream end of the campground. Be sure to leave room for rafters to access the launch by parking cars outside the campground on the dirt road. For those who are curious as to what lies upstream, the parking area for the Gorge Powerhouse is at Highway 20 mile 120.9 but there is no formal river access.

At mile 111.7 on Highway 20 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. Leave room for others including commercial rafting groups that use the takeout. If you have a large group, extra vehicles should be parked at the put-in.

Highway 20 parellels the run.

Rapid Descriptions

Stetattle Creek Rapid

Class - II+ Mile - -99.8

A rapid in Diablo just downstream of the dam and before Gorge Reservoir at Gorge Lake Campground. The rapid is formed from the outwash of Stetattle Creek and provides a good site for training and instruction.

Goodell Rapids

Class - II Mile - -92.3
Rapid Thumbnail Missing

S Bends

Class - III Mile - -86.9


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Corey McCartney
2 months ago

He means a diagonal wave, sometimes called a "lateral," at a 45° angle from the bank as opposed to 90°. The crux seems to be the lateral wave that sits just below the tongue leading into the wave train on the first S-Bend drop, trying to flip you back and left. Just power through it.

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J.R. Surbaugh
9 years ago

So by saying "diagonal wave" do you mean "hay-stack wave" (a triangular and glossy standing-wave typically foaming a little/ breaking at the top) ? Or do you mean "curlers / curling waves" folding in on each other (creating a diamond shaped munchy hole) ?

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David Elliott
17 years ago

For most people, the key to the S-Bends is to watch out for the first diagonal wave on the right, and paddle into it. Once you're through that, the rest of the rapid is fun.

The hole after the second bend is huge, but you don't have to run it - there's plenty of room to the right, and the rapid below it is a lot of fun.

Question: Has anyone tried Goodell Creek from the group campground down to the put-in? It looks like possible fun, but we weren't sure it was free of logs.

Gage Descriptions

Also available through the NOAA hotline 206-526-8530).

Directions Description

We have no additional detail on this route. Use the map below to calculate how to arrive to the main town from your zipcode.

No Accident Reports



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Skagit River, WA - TAKE ACTION

Thomas O'Keefe

For the past three years North Cascades National Park has been working to revise the management plan for the Ross Lake National Recreation Area, which includes the lands and rivers along Highway 20 in the North Cascades. As part of this planning effort American Whitewater formally requested a review of rivers that may be eligible for Wild and Scenic designation.

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Skagit Wild and Scenic Scoping

Thomas O'Keefe

The Park Service held two public meetings this past month and solicited scoping comments on the subject of whether to recommend the Skagit River upstream of Copper Creek as a candidate for protection under the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act. While the Park Service is in the process of reviewing comments, it is not too late to weigh in. It is important for the Park Service to hear from the paddling community and those who enjoy the recreational opportunities this river offers.

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Action Alert: Protect a Free-Flowing Skagit River

Thomas O'Keefe

North Cascades National Park is currently revising the management plan for the Ross Lake National Recreation Area, which includes the Skagit River. As part of the planning effort the Park Service has considered a request by American Whitewater to conduct a study on the eligibility and suitability of the Skagit River for protection under the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act. While the downstream section of the Skagit, which is popular for eagle floats, is designated as Wild and Scenic, what many paddlers do not know is that the well-known whitewater run upstream is not currently designated.


Thomas O'Keefe


Revision #Revision DateAuthorComment
1202890 12/07/13 Thomas O'Keefe rapid edits
1192000 09/16/08 Thomas O'Keefe n/a
1197124 01/18/10 Thomas O'Keefe minor edits