Nooksack, Middle Fork - Clearwater Creek to Heisters Creek

Nooksack, Middle Fork, Washington, US


Clearwater Creek to Heisters Creek

Usual Difficulty V (for normal flows)
Length 4.5 Miles
Avg. Gradient 156 fpm


Photo of Wade Pruitt by Hale Hanaway

Gauge Information

Name Range Difficulty Updated Level
usgs-12208000 350 - 700 cfs V 00h15m 315 cfs (too low)

River Description

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 half way put in at the dam (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 to the diversion dam.

For the upper put-in, keep driving past the dam 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.

DESCRIPTION: From the upper put-in, the Upper Middle Fork provides a brief warm up till Clearwater Creek comes in on the right. From Clearwater Creek to the diversion dam, 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. If you don't know when the dam is coming, be extra cautious. The dam is run depending on whether or not the city is diverting and depending on flows, but there are parts of the dam you don't want to get sucked over regardless of conditions. If the dam is not to your liking, portage on the left.

Once you've left the eddy below the dam, you'll be committed to the gorge. 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 my favorite on the trip! The next major rapid is S-Turn. This is marked by a landslide coming in from the right. I'm not going to describe it since the rapid changes so much, but scout on the right. The latest rendition of S-Turn has been the hardest yet. One more ledge after S-Turn is the last rapid in the Gorge, Super Boof. Super Boof used to be a fun straight forward boof down the center slot, but an old growth fir that fell in from the right cliff gives the rapid some serious consequence. Luckily a fixed line coming in from the cliff on the right gives the option of a scout and or portage.

After Super Boof, the gorge opens up and the rapids get easier, except for Cheese Grater. A surprise rapid that comes when the river makes a turn to the left. At low water I usually walk this one on the left, because a missed line on the right and you're going to lose some skin.

For another nearby run check out Clearwater Creek.

StreamTeam Status: Verified
Last Updated: 2003-12-08 01:14:50


Rapid Descriptions

icon of message No rapids entered. If you know names, and locations of the rapids please contact and advise the StreamTeam member for this run.

User Comments

Users can submit comments.
March 1 2005 (4888 days ago)
Hale HanawayDetails
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.

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Associated Projects

  • Nooksack Stewardship (WA)
    Public access, hydropower development, and resource stewardship are all ongoing issues on this river system.