LOGISTICS: The put-in for this run at the railroad bridge is also a popular take-out for the main run on the Skykomish. Parking can be found along the tracks just west of the railroad bridge over the Skykomish (Highway 2 mile 32.5). There is a parking area on the north side of Highway 2 with enough space for half dozen cars (a few more if you get creative). There have been occasional problems with break-ins to shuttle vehicles. For those who want to add a couple miles of class III, but don't want to run Boulder Drop, you can put in right below Boulder Drop near Highway 2 mile 34 (parking along the shoulder on the north side of the Highway). The take-out is the public access at Highway 2 mile 30.4, just east of the Highway 2 bridge across the river.
This run can be paddled as a continuation of the main Skykomish run and that option is popular with rafters or those who do not wish to hike up the hill at the railroad bridge. Another popular option for those who want some additional class III is to put in right below Boulder Drop and just do the seond half of the main run--this option is commonly referred to as Boulder Run.
For many, however, the railroad bridge is the start of a good beginner kayak run popular with locals who have done a couple Powerhouse trips on the Snoqualmie or the Yo-Yo section of the Green, or those who simply just want a mellow float down the river with a few nice rapids.
The most challenging part of this run can be working your way down the muddy slope at the railroad bridge. Put in wherever you like along river left taking in as much of Railroad Bridge rapid as you like. Everything you'll encounter downstream will be a bit easier than this rapid.
The next rapid downstream is Fisherman's and depending on levels this will be a bit of a boulder garden or a wave train that pushes class III. You should be able to boat scout your way through although first-time beginners might want to pull out for a look on the left.
The river continues with some more fun class II rapids that are great for practice and instruction, and in about a mile and a half you'll encounter Proctor Creek rapid which is the second rapid on this stretch to push class III. Most should be able to boat scout or follow the lead of a more experienced paddler. The run continues with a few more class II rapids before the last one that ends right at the Highway 2 bridge (you'll be able to see this rapid on your drive to the river if you look towards the north when you cross the bridge). The take-out is in the eddy on river left at a nice convenient beach.
At big eddy the parking fee is $5 per day (there is a pay station), but you
are exempt from the fee if you have a yellow Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) vehicle use permit. sticker.
Rafted this route on April 20th 2015, continuing down to the Sultan
River confluence (~another 8 miles of mellower but really pretty Class I water, described http://www.americanwhitewater.org/content/River/detail/id/2210/). Flow was 2950. We did the trip by packraft. Once we
were in the water (e.g., not counting the setup time), the trip took 3.5 hours for the ~10 miles,
with us paddling most of the time (we needed to make it to Sultan in time to get one of our party
to the airport). This section itself only took some 40-45 minutes to complete. =====
For the put-in, we parked at the highway pullout next to the railway bridge, just as described here. This
was a Monday, so we were the only car there. It was a sunny day, so the walk down to the river
was not muddy at all, and no problem with the super-portable packrafts. For takeout, since we wanted to raft all the way to Sultan, we left a car there at a parking lot that required the Discover Pass (though, note that we did not see a place to purchase one, if we hadn't had ours). For those who want to take out at Big Eddy, which is the official stop of this route, there is a fee box (and I think it was also Discover Pass) ===== The first 2.5 miles (the section of river described here) was good fun, lots of class II rapids that soaked us when splashing us, but did not seem to be much risk for overturning the packrafts (not sure about a kayak -- packrafts are generally much more stable).
While we didn't necessarily *want* to swim, there were no fallen trees or log jams anywhere, so
even if we had overturned, it didn't look too dangerous.===== From Big Eddy, the river mellowed. The views of
the mountains were excellent, and the river flows through a remote section that only comes towards
the road and civilization near Gold Bar and Sultan. See my trip report at http://www.americanwhitewater.org/content/River/detail/id/2210/ for more information on that section.
Stand Up Paddle Board'ed this yesterday at 3500cfs Broke my paddle on the second half for a little less control.
Check out my two runs here.
Run 1: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9TJV0QYja1U
Run 2 (broken Paddle): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DwVTOuBebhc
USGS gauge at Goldbar. (also available through the NOAA hotline 206-526-8530). Although you can certainly paddle this section much higher than 4000 cfs, it starts to become a bit less suitable as a beginner training ground. The rapids don't become significantly more hazardous as levels rise, but the current is faster and rescues can become more challenging. Those with a strong roll and good boat control skills shouldn't have much problem up to 10,000 cfs at which point features start to wash out.
Permits are not required for this reach.
We have no additional detail on this route.
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