Skykomish, N. Fork - 2. Bear Creek (Drumbeater) to South Fork confluence

Skykomish, N. Fork, Washington, US


2. Bear Creek (Drumbeater) to South Fork confluence

Usual Difficulty IV (for normal flows)
Length 12.5 Miles
Avg. Gradient 72 fpm
Max Gradient 130 fpm

North Fork Skykomish

North Fork Skykomish
Photo of Russ Reed by Thomas O'Keefe В©

Gauge Information

Name Range Difficulty Updated Level
Skykomish N. Fork at Index
virtual-6260 2250 - 4500 cfs IV 01h12m 414 cfs (too low)

River Description

SEASON: November rains and spring snowmelt

FUN FACT: One of the most diverse afternoon river trips starting with a short technical canyon and ending with a broader river with some power.

ACCESS: From Highway 2 mile 35.6 turn north up the North Fork Road (becomes FR 63) at the Mt. Index Cafe. For a longer run, one potential access point for a take-out is at the Index Bridge 1 mile up the road (upstream river right). There is another public parcel at mile 2.4 that is owned by State Parks and may one day be developed into a day use site (at levels above 4000 cfs at Goldbar this is a decent put-in for a run continuing on down to the Railroad Bridge on the main Sky). To reach the more commonly used takeout (privately owned by Outdoor Adventure Center and available for use with permission) continue to mile 6.1 and a takeout at the Trout Creek Bridge (elevation 840'). An alternative take-out on Forest Service land is available at a pull-out upstream at mile 6.9. You'll pass a turn-off for Forest Road 6330 at mile 9.1 that crosses the river. If you want to scout El Nino, it is a couple hundred yards upstream of this turn-off. Continue on FR 63. You'll find a lower put-in near mile 10.9 where the river closely parallels the road (if you're putting in here you'll probably want to launch downstream of Rooster Tail). Continue on FR 63, 0.5 miles past the Troublesome Creek Bridge to mile 11.7 and the put-in to the upper canyon section at Drumbeater (elevation 1335'). You'll be able to see the canyon through the trees past this bridge and there is a short trail once you get to a point where the river starts to become less visible. There is shoulder space for a couple cars. Check road conditions with Mt. Baker - Snoqulamie National Forest; follow link to the forest road conditions report under the recreation link. Note that in the December 2006 storm the road washed out in several places and for the foreseeable future the only access up around the Beckler.

DESCRIPTION: The North Fork offers a diverse range of paddling experiences over a relatively short reach of river. The run starts with a IV+ canyon. The typical put-in is at the pool below Drumbeater. The last pitch of Drumbeater is fairly straightforward, but don't make the mistake of putting in too high. A terminal hydraulic near the middle of the rapid has been the start of a very bad day for paddlers fool hardy enough to attempt it.

The crux rapid, Let's Make a Deal, comes near the end of the canyon. Paddlers have a choice of several slots between a series of boulders lined up across the channel. It is common to see wood blocking at least one of the slots so it's wise to scout or get a wood report. The far left slot is often the easiest to boat scout. After Let's Make a Deal the river opens up and you pass through a boulder garden with the road to your right.

As you parallel the road, the next horizon line marks Rooster Tail. Rooster Tail changed substantially during the 2006 floods and is an entirely different rapid. Pull out along the road (where the bank has been armored with rocks to protect the road) and continue along the trail through the woods to scout or portage the rapid. Paddlers that make it over the first pitch come through shining, but those who have trouble at the top compound their troubles as they continue through the rapid.

After Rooster Tail the river calms down a notch to class IV and the rest of the run can be boat scouted. The main hazards are occasional trees and a few rapids that contain some significant holes.

The next major rapid is El Nino which starts shortly after the confluence with Silver Creek which enters from river right. El Nino can be easily scouted from the road and the typical route hugs river left along the road. There is a great surfing wave at the bottom of El Nino on river right.

After El Nino, the river picks up a notch in power although the rapids don't get any more difficult. There are three rapids with some big but mostly friendly holes called the Minefield. Potential takeouts begin to appear on river left and most use the access at Trout Creek.

Boaters who want to make a longer day or those who want to put-in here for a less challenging class III run can continue from Trout Creek down to Index or even on to the South Fork confluence for another six miles of whitewater (use caution and check in with locals for current beta as there have been log jams in this section requiring a portage). On this stretch, the Index Bridge is one potential access point that is also a put-in for those running the main stem of the Skykomish. Below the bridge, the river continues for another mile and a half with more good class II and III rapids, including Llama Ledges, before joining with the South Fork Skykomish.

for additional information see:

StreamTeam Status: Not Verified
Last Updated: 2015-08-05 21:20:50


Rapid Summary

Mile Rapid Name Class Features (Legend)
0.7Let's Make a DealIV+Photo
0.9Rooster TailIV+Photo
2.6El NinoIVVideo
5.0Access PointN/AAccess
5.8Trout CreekN/ATakeout Access
11.1Index BridgeAccess
11.6LLama LedgesIIIAccess Photo
12.5South Fork confluence

Rapid Descriptions

Drumbeater (Class 5.0)

North Fork Skykomish

North Fork Skykomish
Photo of Russ Reed by Thomas O'Keefe В©

Let's Make a Deal (Class IV+, Mile 0.7)

Let's Make a Deal

Let's Make a Deal
Photo by Thomas O'Keefe В©

Rooster Tail (Class IV+, Mile 0.9)

Rooster Tail

Rooster Tail
Photo of Mike Rausch by Thomas O'Keefe В© taken 04/28/01 @ 2330 cfs (est)

El Nino (Class IV, Mile 2.6)
Click Here For Video

Minefield (Class III+, Mile 4.5)


Photo of Jack Kennedy by Thomas O'Keefe В©

Access Point (Class N/A, Mile 5.0)

Public access at road mile 6.9.

Trout Creek (Class N/A, Mile 5.8)

Private land providing access at Trout Creek is owned by Outdoor Adventure Center and may be used with permission.

LLama Ledges (Class III, Mile 11.6)

Skyfest Slalom

Skyfest Slalom
Photo of Tom Applewhite and Mike Lunenschloss by Thomas O'Keefe В© taken 07/10/01 @ 700 cfs (est)

User Comments

Users can submit comments.
March 10 2016 (864 days ago)
Carla MinerDetails
Hi - Used to paddle north fork sky alot. Now I hike with dogs since no one around due to road
closures. Anyhow I was there yesterday and saw that a cable crossing had been taken out this winter
and now the 1.5" thick cable is down in the middle of river with a downstream downward angle. May
be difficult to see so I thought worth reporting. Trees anchoring the North end of cable were
washed out so now it is in the air on river left bank but angles down into water as it drapes
across river gravel bar on River Right. This cable crossing was appx. 1-2 miles downstream of the
bridge that you would take to get to Silver Creek / Mineral City Ghost town. Please post a warning
if you agree worthwhile. Sincerely, Norm Haynes
December 18 2007 (3869 days ago)
Thomas O'KeefeDetails
During storms in December 2006 the Index Galena Road providing access to the North Fork Skykomish
River was damaged in 8 separate locations with severe damage that washed away the entire road at
several of these sites. The road is closed to the public from mile 6.4 to mile 14. The traditional
take-out at Trout Creek is located at mile 6.1 and the put-in at Drumbbeater is at mile 11.7. The
washouts near the take-out (at mile 6.4 and 6.9) represent the most significant damage and the
county anticipates it will take 5-10 years to complete engineering, secure federal funding for
repairs, complete the work, and open the road for public use. As an alternative access you can
drive up the Beckler and over Jack Pass approaching the put-in from the upstream end (the county
has arranged for plowing this road as resources allow). The road however is gated at mile 14.
Private cabin owners have a key to the gate but this is not open to the public. In addition a new
slide at mile 13 that occurred during December 2007 storms now blocks the road preventing access
even by cabin owners. Some paddlers have put in at the gate at mile 14 (although the gate is
sometimes left open it can be closed at any time). The put-in at mile 14 adds approximately 2.3
miles on the run including a class II section and a portage at Bear Creek Falls and Drumbbeater (be
sure you can recognize these).
November 15 2006 (4267 days ago)
Michael HornerDetails
The road is closed at Trout Creek.
November 10 2006 (4272 days ago)
Michael HornerDetails
11/11/2006 PLEASE NOTE: the gauge is reportedly off! A very experienced oarsman who knows the Sky
intimately reported that 6500ish felt like 9000ish. The difference will be exponential with higher
November 14 2003 (5364 days ago)
Thomas O'KeefeDetails
As of 11NOV the North Fork was good to go and relatively free of hazards from Drumbeater down to
Trout Creek. Slots through Let's Make a Deal were clean of wood. Rapids downstream of El Nino have
changed and there are a couple new surprise holes.

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Associated Projects

  • Skykomish Stewardship (WA)
    AW is actively engaged in the conservation of the Skykomish River and its tributaries and advocacy for public access.


Calendar Control Date:
Calendar by Date by Title

May 2016

6:08 pm -6:08 pm est

6:08 pm -6:08 pm est


SkyFest Index,WA runs 07/04/13 - 05/08/16
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