From the upper put-in, the Upper Middle Fork provides a brief warm up until Clearwater Creek comes in on the right. From Clearwater Creek to the former diversion dam site and the entrance to the gorge, the Upper Middle is almost one continuous rapid. Two or three times, the rapids culminate in class V moves, but everything in between is constant class IV to IV+. When the water is high, this section gets considerably harder.
The entrance to the gorge is at the former site of the Middle Fork Nooksack Dam where a bridge crosses teh river. The Gorge is actually a notch easier than the upper middle, but the two hundred foot vertical walls are going to make it a little more intimidating. The first rapid below the bridge is Ice Box Paradise. This is the obvious rapid seen from the bridge with the hole on the right next to an undercut grotto. It doesn't look like much from the bridge, but don't worry, it'll be bigger from the seat of your boat. At higher water a sneak route cleans up on the left. The next drop is Leap of Faith. This is just around the corner from what can be seen from the bridge. At Leap of Faith the gorge walls come down to about ten feet apart as the whole river drops down a chute into the netherworld. Luckily the rapid is easily run center right, but for first timers this can be a scary experience. A few more fun ledges in the heart of the gorge lead to Hawaii Five-0. Scout and run Hawaii Five-O on the right. It's a highlight for many. The next major rapid is S-Turn. This is marked by a landslide coming in from the right. The rapid changes from year to year so be sure to scout on the right. One more ledge after S-Turn is the last rapid in the Gorge, Super Boof. If it's clean, Super Boof is a fun straight forward boof down the center slot. An old-growth fir that fell in from the right cliff a few years ago created serious consequences. A fixed line coming in from the cliff on the right has provided the option of a scout and or portage.
After Super Boof, the gorge opens up and the rapids get easier, except for Cheese Grater. This is a surprise rapid that comes when the river makes a turn to the left. At low water walking it on the left is a standard option because a missed line on the right means you're going to lose some skin.
LOGISTICS: The take-out is on the river left side of the only bridge that crosses the Middle Fork of the Nooksack on Mosquito Lake Rd. To Reach the halfway put-in at the former dam site (more commonly used), head North on Mosquito Lake Road, and take your first right on the unmarked Middle Fork of the Nooksack Road (FR 38). Drive upstream to mile 2.6 and a locked gate on the right. Park here and hike down across the bridge to the former dam site and entrance to the gorge.
For the upper put-in, keep driving past turn-off a couple miles and over the bridge at Clearwater Creek to a Y in the Road. Go right at the Y, to a bridge with a locked gate over the Middle Fork. Put in here.
For another nearby run check out Clearwater Creek.
Since the floods this last thaknsgiving the middle fork has changed again.
All of the rapids have cleaned up with the exception of Hawaii five O. Scouting would be a good idea here.
S-bends no longer has the annoying pourover rock and has a nice snake like tongue through it. The log at super boof has shifted and is further downstream making it less of a consequence. Unfourtunately the 8 foot by 8 foot root ball is only hanging on by a small tree on the cliff wall. I am sure one group of paddelers will find it in the center stream someday.
1 month ago
by Thomas O'Keefe
1 year ago
by Lummi Restoration
Overview of opportunities to address impacts of dams that impact salmon and navigation.
Letter inquiry regarding opportunity for input on modifications to the Middle Fork Nooksack Diversion.
Inquiry regarding status of modifications to the Middle Fork Diversion Dam.
Complete Recreation Plan Document with Appendices.
Summary of Recreation Plan.
Letter of support for the Middle Fork Nooksack Fish Passage Project that would remove the dam on the river.
The upper half is best at the higher range of flows and even above 600 cfs. The lower canyon section is typically run at the lower end of the range of flows. The run is done at higher and lower flows all the time, but these flows are best for a first time down.
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.
Engineered log jam locations downstream of Mosquito Lake Road bridge
Middle Fork Nooksack @4500 cfs
Rapid just below Island drop.
1st rapid below Clearwater creek
1st Rapid below Clearwater creek
Log after Super Boof
If someone gets hurt on a river, or you read about a whitewater-related injury, please report it to
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Several dams in Washington State have known issues impacting fishery resources or river-based recreation. Some represent partial or complete barriers to fish passage that should be addressed; additionally impacts to geomorphology degrade habitat for fishery resources at many of these dams. In other cases the primary impact of the dam is on river-based recreation where the dam represents a hazard to navigation or public safety. Some of these dams may be candidates for removal while others could be modified to eliminate or reduce impacts. Several successful dam removals are also included in this story map.
The Washington Department of Natural Resources is embarking on a new planning project that will guide recreation on DNR-managed lands in the Nooksack River and Whatcom Lake watersheds for the next 10-15 years. The effort will kick off with two public open houses that will be scheduled for January.
Following a two and a half year process, the Upper Nooksack River Recreation Plan, has been finalized. This new, comprehensive plan will help guide the management of recreation and natural resources along the upper Nooksack River system in Washington state. The plan recognizes and supports the economic and health benefits of recreation, along with protection and restoration of the natural and cultural values of the upper river basin.
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