Snoqualmie, Middle Fork, Washington, US
|Usual Difficulty||II-III(IV) (for normal flows)|
|Avg. Gradient||60 fpm|
|Max Gradient||120 fpm|
|MIDDLE FORK SNOQUALMIE RIVER NEAR TANNER, WA|
|usgs-12141300||800 - 1800 cfs||II-III(IV)||00h45m||979 cfs (running)|
LOGISTICS: To get to the river take exit 33 off I-90 and head north towards the truck stop. The Middle Fork Road (FR 56) turns off the right within a half mile or so. Start your trip odometer and watch for milepost signs. At mile 11.5 you will reach a large parking area just downstream from the confluence with the Taylor River. This is the main trailhead for the trail that runs along river left and there is a foot bridge across the river and a good access. Continuing on to mile 12, you will cross the Taylor River and within 100 yards the Middle Fork Road turns off to the right and heads up a short hill (it's easy to miss this turnoff as the spur road, which looks like the main road and continues straight, comes to a gated dead end). From this point on the road is in very poor condition. You could conceivably make it in a car, but a high clearance vehicle is strongly recommended. At road mile 14.8 you will see a small pull-out marked by large rocks and a trail that leads about 100 yards into the river. This is a short scenic class II run or an alternate put-in for the Upper Middle. To reach the Dingford Creek trailhead, continue on to the pull- out at road mile 18.6 (just before the road bridge across Dingford Creek). From this pull-out there is a short trail down to a footbridge across the Middle Fork which provides one potential access point. Continue up to Middle Fork Road mile 19.6. Here you'll find a small campsite on the left side of the road and a short drive down to the river on your right. This makes a good access point near the mouth of Wildcat Creek which enters on river left. It takes over an hour to drive to this point from the start of the Middle Fork Road.
This section of the Middle Fork does not appear in any of the guidebooks and it's a bit of a mixed bag with long braided sections but there are some fun class IV rapids if you're willing to make the effort to check them out. This section can be divided into 3 smaller section and starts downstream of the Upper Upper Middle.
Goldmyer to Wildcat Creek, 3.5 miles, 70 feet/mile
After leaving the steep drops of the Upper Upper behind, the river settles down onto the valley floor. This section does not contain any legitimate whitewater; it starts with a short class III section and turns into flat portage hell. The river consists of flat braided sections with difficult portages and you will spend more time walking than boating. The longest distance between must portages is 100 yards, and you'll find it easier to just hike to the road and walk.
Wildcat Creek to Dingford Creek, 1.1 miles, 120 feet/mile
This is a short section of only about a mile in length, but there is some great continuous class IV+ whitewater. Most of the action consists of tight technical boulder gardens with short class III recovery stretches in between. Much of the river is read and run although there are a few spots that require you to get out and make a log check and at least one ledge early on that looks like a little nasty (especially at lower flow) and is a potential portage. To get an idea of what to expect on this section walk down to the river from the Dingford Creek trailhead (about 5 minutes) and take a look at the rapid upstream of the bridge. This rapid is characteristic of the drops in this section. If it looks fun and at a good level then the rest of the run will provide more of the same. You can get down this section and have a good time at flows as low as 800 cfs on the Middle Fork Snoqualmie gauge.
Right after the put in you will come up on the Wildcat confluence (photo) and Wildcat Rapids (photo). This section presents a few short drops and a large boulder garden followed up with some class III recovery areas (photo, video). The next rapid, Lost Key, comes up quick. It starts as you descend into the canyon and should be scouted. Although there may be a sneak at higher levels, the main route through Lost Key has a nasty pin slot that you will want to portage. As you enter the rapid, and work through the first moves youÂll see two drops ahead, the first can be run center right (photo 1, photo 2). The second, although it looks inviting should not be run due to the large undercut just below the sight line (view from above, view from below).
After Lost Key rapids, things turn into a great read and run III/IV boulder gardens (photo). Keep a keen eye out for sieves and wood. The end of this section is the Dingford creek confluence with a long slow drop (photo ), and the section ends just around the bend at the final rapid; Dingford Creek bridge drop (photo, video).
Dingford Creek to Taylor River, 5.7 miles, 40 feet/mile
This section starts with great read and run class III with recovery sections for about two miles. After these sections, it gets much calmer and becomes class II+ water with a section that includes numerous portages. The river becomes enjoyable again for the last couple miles above the Taylor River confluence and this section is definitely worth checking out on sunny days in spring as you will be treated to stunning views of Mt. Garfield (photo). The best way to enjoy this section is probably by taking in these last two miles as a start for the Upper Middle run which adds another fun rapid to this run with the rapid located at the Taylor River confluence.
From the Taylor confluence, the river continues as the Upper Middle run.
with contributions from Paul Harris and Tom O'Keefe