SEASON: Throughout the year. Most dependable during the months of rain (November-April)
FUN FACT: A good winter boating trip when you're looking for an alternative to the Sky.
PUT-IN: Powerhouse, river right: Turn north off Highway 2 onto Old Owen Road.
This is the first major road west of the Highway 2 bridge across the Sultan River (an Arco gas station
and Dan's Pizza and Pasta mark this corner). Follow Old Own Road 0.5 miles to a right hand turn onto
Reiner Road. Follow this 3.2 miles to Lake Chaplain Road which turns off to the right. Pass through the
gate (open 6 am to 6 pm daily, except when the Homeland Security threat level is orange or above) and
follow the road 1.3 miles to a grassy pullout on the right hand side. Powerlines running down towards
the river and some large transformers mark the spot. Park at the pullout and hike your boat a short
distance down the road to the new bridge across from the powerhouse. During summer 2004 the PUD
constructed a trail to the river for paddlers and fishermen to use.
Horseshoe Bend, river right: Continue past the pullout for the Powerhouse access and
continue another 1.4 miles on Lake Chaplain Road until you see a gravel gated road on your right. Hike
down this road 1 mile and look for a vague trail down to the river on your right. The last part is a bit
steep. If you can look over and see Marsh Creek Falls you just passed it.
For two years while the river right access was closed during weekends, paddlers used
the river left access. Now that river right access has been restored, the Snohomish PUD has asked
paddlers to use that side, but if you find that gate closed for any reason there is an access on river left.
Just east of the town of Sultan (Highway 2 mile 23.1) turn north up Sultan Basin Road towards the
Sultan Basin Recreation Area. Follow this road 2 miles and turn left on 116th St. SE. In 0.5 miles you will
reach the gate to the powerhouse road (it's closed every day at 3 pm so make sure you have your car
out by then). Continue another 1.2 miles to a point where a couple of dirt roads turn off the main road
and there's a sign for another gate. Take the second of two dirt roads that turn off to the right and
follow it 0.3 miles to a T junction. Turn left at this junction and continue 0.2 miles to a parking spot.
From this point head down towards the river and put-in just upstream of the powerhouse.
TAKEOUT: Fishing access in Sultan. On the east side of the Highway
2 bridge across the Sultan take the first street into the town of Sultan. Take
a left headed towards the direction of the river. When you get to First Street
follow it north as it parallels the river. As you pass out of town, slightly less
than a mile down First Street, Trout Farm Road turns off to the left. Follow
this 1.3 miles to a well marked fishing access point on the Sultan River.
Park in the gravel parking area near the road and walk down a dirt road to
SHUTTLE: A short distance in river miles, but not a quick bike shuttle
due to the fact that access for the put-in and takeout are on opposite sides
of the river and the only public bridge is where Highway 2 crosses the river.
DESCRIPTION: While technical creek runs higher up in the basin sit waiting for the spring snow
melt, the Sultan can be enjoyed through the winter. It offers a more technical paddling experience for
those who are looking for an alternative to another Sky trip.
Most trips start at the Powerhouse, but this run can be extended by two miles upstream
making a great 4 mile run if the gauge below the Diversion is reading at least 300cfs. This
is the Horseshoe Bend section easily reached by continuing up the Chaplain Lake Road and taking a
hike. See shuttle details above. The Horseshoe Bend section puts in right below Marsh Creek Falls and
features a beautiful short gorge with numerous Class 3 rapids.
Once you're at the Powerhouse, the river tightens up a bit and plunges through a couple
of technical class III+ drops. The most significant drop, Last Nasty, comes early in the run after passing
through the first few drops. It's marked by a large eddy on river left, a rock wall on the left, and a large
boulder near the center of the channel at a spot where the river takes a slight bend to the right.
Last Nasty can most easily be scouted or portaged on river right
(although the eddy at the top of the drop on river left looks inviting scouting
from this side requires some spiderman moves). The rapid itself requires
a right, left, right set of moves with opportunities for skilled boaters to eddy
out in between the sequence of drops and holes that need to be
negotiated. It's worth a scout to pick your line and check for wood around
After Last Nasty the river continues with more technical class III+
drops similiar to the ones at the start of the run. There are a number of
nice surfing waves and a couple of good pop up spots.
Once the river flattens out and homes start to appear you are nearing the end of the run.
The takeout appears shortly. Andy Bridge lives at the takeout in Sultan so feel free to call him regarding
this river or if you need a shuttle partner. 360-793-4144.
Last Nasty can most easily be scouted or portaged on river right (although the eddy at the top of the drop on river left looks inviting scouting from this side requires some spiderman moves). The rapid itself requires a right, left, right set of moves with opportunities for skilled boaters to eddy out in between the sequence of drops and holes that need to be negotiated. It's worth a scout to pick your line and check for wood around blind corners.
For people new to this run. The description to the put in above is accurate. I'd suggest not using the information/map in the "directions" tab at the very top.
The City of Everett keeps the Lake Chaplain
Road gate locked at orange or above level
terrorist alerts. Call them at 425-257-8200 to
ask and/or complain about the gate. The 116th
street gate (controlled by the powerhouse)
was open Tues. 3/25/03 but I don't know their
policy. Their # is 425-347-5549.
Check the Sultan gauge
below Powerplant. This run is at an optimum
level around 1000 cfs. The canyon can be run as low
as 350 cfs. Since flows are determined by powerhouse
operations, you can try calling the powerhouse at
425-783-5549 (Try Barry Chrisman at extension 4 or
his direct line which is 425-783-8804) if you want
current information on what flows might be. The folks
there have been great about providing information for
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.
Last Nasty boat rescue
Last Nasty swim
Last Nasty, last half
Final drop of last nasty
Mid run unnamed rapid
2nd move at last nasty
Kit on first drop of last nasty
Mat on First Drop / Last Nasty
Top half of Last Nasty
Powerhouse Access Trail
Main Drop of Last Nasty (Small File)
Main Drop of Last Nasty
Sultan Powerplant access
Last Nasty, entrance
Last Nasty, final ledge
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.
At American Whitewater we are always seeking opportunities to restore rivers while also enhancing recreational opportunities. Sometimes our initial ideas can be refined and improved upon and we recently had that experience on the Sultan River. We consistently received feedback from the paddling paddling community: “we have an abundance of boating options during winter storms and spring snow melt; can’t we get an opportunity to enjoy the Sultan in the summer?” We sat down with the utility and took at look at the water budget. Ultimately we determined that instead of keeping water in our water budget to supplement natural flows in the dark winter months, we could take that water and use it to provide another opportunity in late summer. We sat down with resource agencies that manage fishery resources, the utility, and the Tulalip Tribe to see if we could make it work. After a few meetings and discussions we came to consensus that we could provide another opportunity in August—a time of year when boating opportunities in the Skykomish watershed are limited. The opportunity comes with a few caveats, the most significant being that we need sufficient water in the reservoir. The whitewater boating opportunities don’t use much water and provide an ecological benefit but the water is also used for drinking water so that will be a consideration. Ultimately however we believe we will be able to provide this new summer opportunity in most years.
On April 19, American Whitewater
staff conducted a site visit to the Sultan
River in Washington State to address
closures that have effectively prevented
access to this river. These closures
are in direct response to security
concerns in the aftermath of
Log into the American Whitewater website and you can contribute to river descriptions,
flow and access tips, and maps associated with runs you've done. You can even add new
runs to the inventory!