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Difficulty III-IV+
Length 2 Miles
Flow Range 350 - 3000 CFS
Flow Rate as of: 26 minutes ago 627 [CFS]
Reach Info Last Updated 12/21/2005 9:05 pm

River Description

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.

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 the river.

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 blind corners.

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.

Rapid Descriptions

Last Nasty

Class - IV+ Mile - 0

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.


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Bob M
3 years ago

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.

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meryl douglas
17 years ago

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.

Gage Descriptions

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 paddlers.

Directions Description

We have no additional detail on this route. Use the map below to calculate how to arrive to the main town from your zipcode.

Date Flow Result Factor  
2015-04-26 Medium Fatality Cold Water Read More



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Sultan River (WA) Summer Release Update

Thomas O'Keefe

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. 

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Sultan River (WA) access closures in response to security concerns

John Gangemi

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 September 11th.


Andy R. Bridge


Revision #Revision DateAuthorComment
1192901 12/21/05 Andy R. Bridge last nasty mapped