FUN FACT: Good class III run with camping and hiking nearby
SEASON: After some good winter rains and through the early summer (October through July). The run tends to be flashy in the range of levels of interest to boaters. Flow can change dramatically over the course of a day and levels that look good in the morning can be a totally different story by afternoon.
PUT-IN: Just upstream of Wiley Creek Campground at a pull-out where you can find good river access. You can put in any place upstream to lengthen the run with more class II action. Red Bridge campground is another possible access point.
TAKEOUT: Verlot Campground is one good access point. If you want to cut off some of the class II at the end you can also take out at the Mountain Loop Highway bridge across the Silliguamish just east of Verlot campground.
SHUTTLE: Follow Mountain Loop Highway as it parallels the river.
This is a good class III run with fairly continuous action and a lot of good spots to practice technique. It's a good run for those just making the jump to class III whitewater.
Depending on how far you go upstream, the run starts out with good class II whitewater. The rapids are not difficult but there is a lot of wood on this run and there are several points where solid boat handling skills are critical to stay out of trouble.
As you approach Wiley Creek (a small stream that empties into the river from river right) the pace begins to pick up a bit with some more challenging slalom style boulder gardens. The real class III action arrives with Wiley Creek Rapid. You can recognize the entrance by the distinct S bend which ends in a large pool up against the side of the road (this spot is easily recognized from theroad and can be scouted on your way to the put-in).
The river picks up speed as it plunges through the boulder field and resistant bedrock of Wiley Creek Rapid. Although the rapid is generally considered a straight forward class III+, those looking for more of a challenge can create their own slalom course through the rapid to spice things up a bit (once you start climbing above 6' on the gauge this rapid does approach class IV as some more significant holes begin to form). You can find a user friendly playspot on river left at the end of the last drop. It's particularly good spot for those just building their confidence and trying out their first moves.
A short distance downstream the river once again passes through a series of boulders and ledges similiar in character to Wiley Creek Rapid. With good water, the rest of the run consists of II & III rapids until you reach the Mountain Loop Highway bridge. About 1/4 upstream from the Mt. Loop bridge, there used to be a very large logjam, which washed out in 2011. There are still remnants of logs in the river here, so be aware. There is a steep class 3+ rapid just above this spot. At higher levels you may find a sneak line down the left of this rapid. You can identify the approch to this rapid when you see a few houses on river left. After the Mt. Loop Highway bridge, the pace slows a bit, but there are still a couple good holes to surprise you. Watch for a few homes on river right before you reach the takeout at Verlot Campground.
for additional information see: Bennett, J. and T. Bennett. 1997. A guide to the whitewater rivers of Washington, second edition. Swiftwater Publishing. Portland, OR.
Ran this May 12th, 2019. There's still wood in the last major rapid above the bridge. If you're a Class III boater, it's worth a quick glance when setting shuttle from the bridge, All the wood is at the bottom right of the rapid with a considerable amount of current impacting wood. A good R. to L. move and you're in the river L. eddy and away from the hazard.
Floated this section on 6/3/12 on my 14ft cataraft. River at 6.5ft and I would consider this a minimum for large rafts unless you like bouncing off rocks in the rapids below Wiley Creek. 3.5-4hr float at this flow. One logjam above Wiley Creek nearly spans the river so we portaged around it, otherwise no log issues.
Ran the SF Stilly on 5/1/2011 from about halfway between Wiley Creek and the Red Bridge down to Verlot Camp. There are two log jams just above Wiley Creek that require portaging, though each is a short and easy portage. Still, I'd recommend putting in as close to Wiley Creek as you can to avoid them (and the flat water above). The gauge was at 5.3 feet, which was just barely enough. It was pretty rocky and technical at that level, and I'd really recommend at least 5.5 as a lower level. We didn't run aground anywhere, but we came close, and certainly hit and slid over a ton of rocks at such low water.
Overall-- had a blast. The run was more fun than expected, and there was a lot of fun and action.
One last note-- the big log jam near the end has been broken up over the winter, and there are no longer any major obstructions near the end of the run.
I'd like to add a variation to Tom's 'fun and clean' comment. As Joe mentioned in his warning, there's a class III 'screaming left hand turn' type rapid with a logjam backing it up just before the bridge takeout. Not a hard move, but a horrible place to flip. Boaters without solid boat-handling skills should scout this one.
Log described below upstream of Wiley Creek rapid is still there--an easy portage around the left or squeeze under. Otherwise the run is clean and good fun at 7'.
I am not sure if this gauge is correct. However on 01-Feb-04 we ran this section at 7.38ft on the gauge and I would not hesitate to run this at a level higher. We ran dry a few times and others we had to almost walk. I would recommend this at around 8ft
Keep in mind that if the section above this one is easily runnable, this section will be on the high side. In other words, if you decide to combine the upper and middle runs, be prepared for a challenging day.
Also, be aware the Wiley Creek Rapid isn't just the stuff you can see from the road. When you are scouting, you are seeing the end of a very long rapid. The one below it is even longer.
When you make it through these two rapids, it's a real rush, because you know you have really accomplished something.
10 years ago
by David Elliott
11 years ago
by Joe Sauve
USGS gauge. This gauge has not been correlated to discharge, but you can get the stage height.
Anything close to 5' is starting to get too low, below 5.5' the run is fun, but very technical with lots of places to get pinned.
6.0' is a good medium level for kayaks.
6.5' is about minimum for larger rafts.
The river can be run above the recommended levels, but it becomes very fast and some of the rapids are class 4.
Permits are not required for this reach.
We have no additional detail on this route.
Use the map below to calculate how
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Rachael below Wiley Creek
Wiley Creek Rapid
Snowplow on the SF Stilly
Red Bridge Access on the SF Stilly
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