Sol Duc, N. Fork, Washington, US
|Usual Difficulty||IV (for normal flows)|
|Avg. Gradient||85 fpm|
FUN FACT: Whitewater through old-growth forest.
SEASON: Winter rain storms. Generally best when rivers are moderately high.
ACCESS: At mile 219.2 on Highway 101 take Soleduck Hot Springs Road south into Olympic National Park. The takeout can be reached at mile 4.2. You need to walk across the vegetated strip between Soleduck Hot Springs Road and FS 2918 to get to the bridge, but it's a short hike with boats (the two roads are connected at mile 3.6, but it's gated). To reach the put-in continue up the road past Salmon Cascade to mile 8.3 where you'll find the North Fork trail head. It's a 1.2 mile hike to the put-in on a good hiking trail. It starts out as a climb up the ridge, but then it's downhill into the North Fork drainage. Note that Soleduck Hot Springs road is typically closed with the first big snow and left closed until plowing at Hurricane Ridge stops. Check with Olympic National Park for the latest conditions. They usually know the situation at the Resource Information Center in Forks 360-374-7566.
The best part of this run is the opportunity to paddle through old-growth forest. This is one of the most accessible wilderness runs on the Olympic Peninsula providing you with a glimpse of what these forests were a century ago. The downside, however, is the whitewater really is not all that great. Most of the run is fairly continuous class III to III+, but there are several large channel-spanning logs that create hazards requiring class IV moves to safely negotiate them. The hazard to enjoyment ratio is thus a bit higher than some of the other nearby runs and there are no real distinct drops or technical boulder gardens on the run. The best whitewater comes near the end as the gradient picks up a bit, but the bridge comes into view all too quickly and you're dumped onto the main stem. From here you'll find yourself on the final section of the Upper Sol Duc run. Despite the lack of whitewater features on the North Fork, it's still a neat experience to boat through the ancient forest, and if you've done all the other nearby runs and are looking for a bit of adventure you may find this one worth checking out.
lat/long approximated by Tiger map server
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