This is a great run with a long season that has been enjoyed by river cruisers for over half a century. Wolf Bauer, founder of the Washington Kayak Club and a co-founder of American Whitewater, recognized the spectacular conservation opportunity of this free-flowing river and it was protected as part of Washington's first Wild and Scenic River designation in 1978.
The low elevation of this run means you can enjoy the river throughout the winter after rain and the season can extend well into summer on snowmelt when other nearby rivers are getting too low. Most of the run flows through private and state land--the Boundary Bridge roughly marks the boundary of the National Forest which is upstream of the bridge--but the river corridor is undeveloped and protected as a Wild and Scenic River. The river banks have been logged in the past but recovered nicely in the decades since and it is now one of the most scenic river tours in Western Washington.
Winter storms and an unconstrianed floodplain means this river is continually transporting large trees through the system. Be prepared for wood to be in play anywhere along the run as massive log jams can build up over years and then suddenly disappear in a high water event with the pieces reassembling downstream. For the most part the river is wide enought that channel-spanning log jams are unlikely but there are a few sections where the river is more braided and wood can block a particular route.
The run has lots of good class II-III whitewater and some fun play spots here and there. If you're looking for an endless supply of big wave trains check this run out after a healthy winter rain or after several days of hot weather just after peak flows on the Sauk have passed. Two distinct class III rapids of note include Coyote Crossing followed by Hurricane. Coyote Crossing is one of the most scenic sections of the run where tall trees tower above the river on both banks. Hurricane is the longest rapid on the run.
The run ends as the Suiattle joins the Sauk River and it's a five minute float from the confluence down to the take-out just below the Highway 530 Bridge on river left.
While most enjoy this run as a day trip (approximately 2 hours on high flows or 4 hours on lower flows), you could also add a portion of the run upstream of this one to your trip and even do it as an overnight. If you do camp on the river please follow good leave-no-trace practices and keep it clean for the next group.
Follow Highway 530 about 15 minutes north out of Darrington to the bridge across the Sauk River at Highway 530 mile 56.1. The take-out is on the Sauk River on the downstream river left side of this bridge.
To reach the put-in head east across the bridge and at Highway 530 mile 56.5 and within sight of the bridge take the turn-off for Suiattle River Road (FR 26). Continue on this road to mile 10.0 and turn on to FR 25 which dips down to the river at bridge crossing. This is the Boundary Bridge (aka Rat Trap Bridge) which is the put-in for the run. The Forest Service has an easement that extends 33' on either side from the centerline from the bridge. Despite the no trespassing signs you may see on the trees, you can access the river on the upstream river right side of the bridge and still be well within this public easement. Parking is very limited here however and the parcels immeidately upstream and downstream of the bridge are private property. For the most recent road and river information check the Mt. Baker Snoqualmie National Forest web site (check forest road conditions for Darrington District), or call the Darrington Ranger District at (360) 436-1155 .
Identified as a potential access point in the river management plan but currently undeveloped.
As of July 2007, the road is open with a detour around the washout at mile 6. At higher flows, there are no problems with logs - the bottom section is surprisingly clean and has very few braids. At lower flows, there may be some blocked channels in the first couple of miles, but you should have plenty of warning.
The put-in at Rat Trap Bridge is now completely different from the photo. Logs piled up at the far end of what is left of the bridge, and pushed the channel to the right. The put-in is now at the base of the bridge on river right. Note that in the summer there are people who use the bridge for camping (at least until the commercial groups annoy them enough to wisen them up).
Ran this section 9/4/2006. A lot of fun with an IK but
wouldn't suggest using a hard shell due to shallow
water. All but one feature had lines clear of wood and
easy to boat scout except one: When you see a land
slide on river left (trees laying down on the hill) get
out and scout. A log blocks the only entrance deep
enough to run the upper portion of the rapid. We
portaged and put in just above the main part of the
drop. The last few miles are butt-scootchin' with a lot
of paddling. Definitely worth the trip. *Sauk at Sauk
was 1300 cfs*.
2 years ago
by John Kelly
3 years ago
by David Elliott
Excerpts from the River Management Plan Covering Recreation
Letter to Mount Baker - National Forest regarding impacts of October 2003 floods.
A review of strengths, weakeness, opportunities, and threats to enhancing river access.
A gage existed on the Suiattle for a time but has since been defunded. Since it is a tributary to the Sauk you can get an idea of what the flows are by checking the Sauk at Sauk gauge downstream of the confluence. Although the Suiattle represents approximately 40% of the flows on this gauge, the relationship changes over the course of the water year. Because the Suiattle is fed by glacier melt in late summer it will contribute a greater percentage of the flow to the Sauk during the summer months and somewhat less through the winter and early spring. You can estimate this relative contribution by also checking the Sauk above Whitechuck gauge which is upstream of the confluence with the Suiattle.
Permits are not required for this reach.
We have no additional detail on this route.
Use the map below to calculate how
to arrive to the main town from your zipcode.
Boundary Bridge Access
Tenas Creek Access
View Downstream from Boundary Bridge
If someone gets hurt on a river, or you read about a whitewater-related injury, please report it to
American Whitewater. Don't worry about multiple submissions from other witnesses, as our safety
editors will turn multiple witness reports into a single unified accident report.
American Whitewater joins a coalition in unveiling a new "Destination Darrington" map as Highway 530 opens to all traffic this weekend restoring access to recreational opportunities along the Sauk and Suiattle Rivers.The colorful brochure map spotlights recreational opportunities around Darrington and local businesses.
The Forest Service recently completed work on a new access point on the lower Sauk River. This is part of a series of proposed projects of interest to boaters, made possible as part of the hydro reliensing agreement for the City of Seattle's hydropower dams on the Skagit River system.
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