SEASON: Falls rains and spring snow melt. Put in can be snowed in during the coldest months but you can always drag your boat.
FUN FACT: Plenty of action packed into a short run
LOGISTICS: From Highway 2 mile 35.6 turn north up the North Fork Road (becomes FR 63) at the Mt. Index Cafe. Continue up the road to mile 9.1 and turn west onto FR 6330. This road immediately crosses the North Fork Skykomish and the bridge serves as one potential take-out for this run. The access on downstream river right is best. To reach the put-in, continue up the road a couple hundred yards and take your first right. This road parrallels Silver Creek and comes to an end near mile 1.5. A high clearance vehicle is mandatory for this shuttle. Start hiking once you reach the end of the road. It takes about 30 minutes to reach the put-in. You'll cross an old landslide but there is a decent trail that gives you some good looks at the creek, and then once you pass the landslide you'll be back on the old roadbed. Continue on across a small stream (a temporary footbridge has been constructed here) and then a second slightly larger stream with an old wooden bridge. The Triple Drop sequence is between these two bridges. Continue another few hundred yards up to the waterfall (best seen by climbing down to the river). Find a put-in to run the waterfall or put-in someplace between it and the wooden bridge. Make sure you bring your rope for this put-in. If you have short winter days a run from here down to the bridge across the North Fork will make for a full day. During the spring, you might continue on the North Fork down to Trout Creek.
Although this is a short run by distance it can be a full-day adventure especially during the winter when you have short days. Scouting always takes a long time especially if few in your group have done the run before.
You can start the run with a fun 18' waterfall. The trick here is getting down to a put- in. The creek continues through a narrow bedrock gorge and then plunges through a rapid that can be a little grungy at low water and has a meaty hole at high water. Those who don't run the waterfall often just put-in below this drop which is a short distance upstream from the tributary stream crossed by the old wooden bridge. There is one good rapid before you arrive at the lip of the Triple Drop sequence, aka Huey, Duey, and Lewey (video). These drops are a ton of fun and as long as there is no wood you can run them pretty much down the center, grabbing eddies on your way. The first one can develop a hole at higher water (boof left) but otherwise the drops are clean and there is a big recovery pool at the bottom.
Fun rapids continue down to the section that parrallels the landslide. Along the landslide, two drops stand out as more challenging than the rest. You can scout them on the hike in but just remember they are bigger than they look from above. Both are generally run along the left side. If things are going well you can continue on downstream but this is also an easy place to exit the river if you've had your fill or flows are at the lower limit. Drops in the lower section develop some pin potential at lower flows, and at any flow there are several drops with class V hazards.
The action continues as you proceed downstream with lots of technical rapids (video of characteristic rapid). This section always has some big wood so use caution and expect to make a couple of portages. There are some more fun ledge drops and chutes between boulders before you reach the next significant drop on the run. You'll recognize it by the large house-sized boulder perched up on the bank on river right. The portage route is along the right or you can run it down the left hand side. It's a tricky line--first a hole up against a boulder on the left, then a couple ledges with some power at their base, and finally a class IV run out--so scout it out carefully and expect to take a few minutes.
After you pass this drop you've come through the hardest drops on the run, but don't let you guard down as there are still a several good ledges and a few meaty holes, especially at higher flows. There are also at least a couple more places that you'll want to scout, and make sure you keep your eyes open for wood hazards. When you finally start to leave the big boulders behind you'll get to a section with a few hundred yards of great open continuous class IV. As cabins come into view you know you're nearing the confluence with the North Fork. You have one final fun little drop as you plunge onto the North Fork and then you'll find yourself right at the top of El Nino. Just below El Nino, you'll be at the FR 6330 Bridge. Take-out on river right or continue your run down the North Fork Sky.
Video Guide to the Run
lat/long approximated by Tiger map server
for additional information see
For those willing to shoulder your boat, Silver Creek looks good all the way up to Mineral City, mostly Class III-IV if I remember right, 4 miles up the trail. There are two waterfalls immediately below the bridge where the trail crosses the creek, one is about 10 feet, the other is about 20 feet. They can both be skipped by putting in at the Mineral City site, about 200 yards downstream, where the trail fords a creek.
11 years ago
by Thomas O'Keefe
The virtual gauge for this run provides
approximate flow based on the relative area of
the basin and the Skykomish at Goldbar gauge downstream.
The river, specifically the upper section,
becomes runnable around 3500 cfs on this
gauge, but something around 5000-6000 cfs is
optimal especially if you want to run the lower
section. You can run this creek higher, but a
few of the holes start getting a bit meaty once
you're up around 8000 cfs. The Goldbar gauge
is also available through the NOAA hotline
206-526-8530. At the lower range of flows the
lower section is too low and at the higher
range of flows the ledges in the first half
become a bit more meaty while the lower
section becomes significantly cleaner. Just
keep in mind that although the drops clean up,
the lower section has plenty of power and in
many ways is more challenging than the top
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.
Cut and Fry
Huey, Duey and Lewey
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Last week President Bush signed a bill making Wild Sky the first new wilderness area in Washington State in more than a quarter century. The new wilderness includes the headwaters of several whitewater runs including the North Fork Skykomish, Silver Creek, Rapid, and Beckler.
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