Difficulty V+
Length 2 Miles
Flow Range 200 - 350 CFS
Flow Rate as of: 22 minutes ago 26.9 [CFS]
Reach Info Last Updated 05/18/2019 6:01 pm

River Description

SEASON: November to June dependent on water withdrawal for Port Townsend (diversion dam at Tunnel Creek). Best after heavy rain or a good snowmelt.

LOGISTICS: Although the upper section ends at the large bend near Rainbow Campground, paddlers continue on through the lower run and take out river right at the pull-out at Highway 101 mile 296.9. To reach the put-in head north from the take-out on Highway 101 about half a mile and turn west on to FR 3039 (Penny Creek Rd.). Take this 1.4 miles and then turn left on to FR 3057. In 1.8 miles head left again on to Spur Road 40. Follow this road 2.3 miles to a spot where you can find river access. Check road reports under Recereation, Current Conditions, Hood Canal North, on the USFS Olympic National Forest web site


The run starts out with a short class II warm-up, but once you drop over the first 16 foot, double-ledge falls--Casserly's Cascade--you are committed to the gorge. This drop was named in memory of Justin Casserly who made the first descent in the late 90's (Justin drowned while paddling in Mexico). Logs can make sections of the gorge unrunnable so get the latest beta or scout carefully. The run consists of several class IV and V drops in a vertical-walled canyon. As you paddle past the trail access from Rainbow Campground the run continues on the Lower Big Quilcene. Pictures and a trip report can be found in Dan Halsey's account published in the Jan/Feb 1999 issue of American Whitewater.

lat/long very approximate by tiger map server

for additional information see:

  • Halsey, Dan. Jan/Feb 1999. Sun Induced Craziness on the Olympic Peninsula: Tackling the Big Q. American Whitewater Journal. Vol. 39(1):36-41.
  • Korb, G. 1997. A paddlers guide to the Olympic Peninsula. third edition.
  • local expert: Gary Korb & Carol Volk, 4930 Geiger Road, Port Orchard, WA 98366, 206-876-6780
  • Hood Canal Ranger District, South - USFS Olympic National Forest web site

Rapid Descriptions


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Thomas O'Keefe
18 years ago

Information provided by Ryan Allen:

I ran the Big Q again this summer (2001) and found that it was fairly clean of logs, definitly less wood than when I was in there a couple of winters ago. We only portaged one drop which was one of the last rapids in the gorge it had about a 10-15 foot steep slide on river left. The runout of the drop has a log about two feet over the water that you maybe able to roll under but it looks boney. The portage is easy over some rocks and wood in the middle of the river and you can put in and run a slot that puts you right below the wood.

Gage Descriptions

Check the DOE realtime gauge. Look for flows of 300 cfs or above. There is a USGS gauge on this river (stn. 12052210, 1994-, 49.4 sq. mi.) now available on-line. You can get an estimate of Quilcene discharge from the University of Washington's Hydrometeorological Modeling and Forecast Group page.

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.

No Accident Reports



article main photo

Addressing Road Problems in Olympic National Forest (WA)

Thomas O'Keefe

The extensive road network in Olympic National Forest has deteriorated over the last few years with the reduction in logging intensity and corresponding lack of routine maintenance. The road failures have resulted in destruction of aquatic habitat and reduced access. Repair work and decommissioning has begun with the introduction of a new road management plan in fall 2002.


Thomas O'Keefe


Matt Muir


Revision #Revision DateAuthorComment
1205214 08/05/15 Thomas O'Keefe access updated
1212406 05/18/19 Thomas O'Keefe updated image position
1212021 04/24/19 Thomas O'Keefe updated image position
1202220 05/19/13 Thomas O'Keefe copy edits
1193104 01/29/06 n/a n/a
1203721 10/14/14 Thomas O'Keefe photos added