Sullivan Creek is a Class V blue water stream flowing from the corner of WA, ID, and BC. Sullivan is shrouded in cedars and tucked in an imposing dark gorge, and the watershed supports rare animals like mountain caribou, grizzly bears, lynx, bull trout, mountain whitefish, and genetically pure redband trout. Think of it as a little piece of British Columbia dipping down into Eastern Washington.
Check out a video of a fall descent of the Sullivan Creek Gorge, with a bit of information on our work in the watershed.
Sullivan Lake is drawn down each fall resulting in ideal boating conditions starting sometime in early to mid September, continuing 24/7 through October, and often extending into November. American Whitewater negotiated enhancements to the historical drawdown releases including starting a month earlier, targeting 3 weekends for optimal boating flows, and the installation of new online stream gages.
This is a great Class IV-V run only 100 miles from Spokane. It can be run almost year round and is runnable when most everything else in the area is dry. Most of the major obstacles have been cleared, but scouting is highly advised, as the Gorge is truly Class V and consequences of a missed line can be severe. There is a good scouting/portage trail along the left side of the gorge.
This section has been destroyed by floods. Rocks have been re-arranged making many drops unrunnable. Not worth the effort.
Request to evaluate Sullivan Creek as a Wild and Scenic River
Sullivan Creek can be paddled during two timeframes: spring during natural snowmelt flows, and fall during releases from Sullivan Lake via Outlet Creek. Based on the 2013 surrender order for the hydropower project (negotiated in part by AW), there was a cold water pipe installed to reduce stream temperatures in lower Sullivan Creek. We negotiated a flow schedule that offers terific paddling opportunities and that puts the river's ecology first, followed by recreational and economic considerations.
The Schedule: Starting the day following Labor Day, flows will be increased as quickly as possible to reach target paddling flows (200 or 225 cfs) but shall be limited by temperature limits, reservoir drawdown goals, and a limit of no more than 80cfs increase per day. Watch the gage starting the first week of September, and you will see it climb to a boatable flow and level off, often in early to mid September but in some year-types boatable flows might not occur until October. The fall release will continue until sometime in early November. Also, flows will be managed to provide at least three optimal whitewater paddling weekends in September and October. These releases will be posted online one week in advance.
There are two stream gages: the first is on Sullivan just upstream of the Confluence with Outlet Creek, and the other is on Outlet Creek just upstream of the same confluence. The Sullivan Creek gage measures natural streamflows in Sullivan Creek. The Outlet Creek gage measures the dam release from Sullivan Lake, which flows down Outlet Creek (confusingly, Sullivan Lake is not on Sullivan Creek). The graph you see below reflects the sum of these two gages, in other words the total flow in Sullivan Creek downstream of the confluence with Outlet Creek. Note that the North Fork of Sullivan will provide some added flow, especially in the spring, that does not register on these gages.
Permits are not required for this reach.
We have no additional detail on this route.
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First gorge rapid
Steve over Itchy
James Cleans "The Tooth"
If someone gets hurt on a river, or you read about a whitewater-related injury, please report it to
American Whitewater. Don't worry about multiple submissions from other witnesses, as our safety
editors will turn multiple witness reports into a single unified accident report.
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.
Excavators are in place at Mill Pond Dam on Northeastern Washington's Sullivan Creek, poised to begin chipping away at the 50-foot tall dam on Tuesday, September 12th, 2017. Removing the concrete dam, and an older log-crib dam under the reservoir is expected to take a couple months. American Whitewater played a significant role in negotiating this dam removal, and we are excited to watch the progress this fall.
Sullivan Creek is a beautiful advanced/expert level creek that tumbles out of the lush Selkirk Range in the remote northeastern corner of Washington State. American Whitewater worked with the power company and other local stakeholders to improve the fall drawdown water releases from Sullivan Lake for whitewater paddling, economic value, and ecological considerations. Drawdown releases began yesterday, and are anticipated to provide ideal paddling conditions starting today, and extending through much of the fall.
This year's Sullivan Creek releases will begin September 3, and will continue each day for at least a couple months. These releases, the gage, and a related dam removal were the outcome of a collaborative negotiation between the regional Public Utility District that owns the dams, American Whitewater, and a suite of local, state, and national groups.
American Whitewater is pleased to announce the availability of two new online stream gages in the Sullivan Creek watershed in northeastern Washington. These gages are brought to you by a partnership between American Whitewater and the Pend Oreille Public Utility District, and will offer paddlers, anglers, and other visitors to the area vital flow information.
Yesterday, Federal approval was granted for the removal of Millpond Dam on Northeast Washington’s Sullivan Creek. Millpond Dam has blocked Sullivan Creek since 1909, and removal should be completed within the next 5 years. In addition, streamflows will be improved for paddlers and fish from nearby Sullivan Lake Dam. American Whitewater has played an active role in the collaborative effort leading to this dam removal and other improvements since it began in 2008.
Late last month the State of Washington issued a key permit for the removal of Millpond Dam on Sullivan Creek. The permit, issued under the Clean Water Act, reflects a 2010 settlement agreement reached between the dam owner, the Forest Service, the State of Washington, American Whitewater, and several other parties. The permit gives the dam owner up to 2 years to finalize removal plans prior to implementing the removal.
On Monday, March 29, 2010, American Whitewater joined a diverse group of stakeholders in signing and submitting two inter-related settlement agreements that call for the continued operation of Boundary Dam on the Pend Oreille River, enhanced operation of Sullivan Dam on the natural Sullivan Lake, and the removal of Mill Pond Dam on Sullivan Creek. The agreements are the culmination of over three years of consistent efforts to resolve issues related to the surrender of the Sullivan Project, located in northeastern Washington.
Earlier this year Cody Erhart, a recent landscape architecture program graduate, produced images for American Whitewater depicting what Sullivan Creek (WA) might look like following the removal of Millpond Dam. We are pleased to share these images which are a blend of science and art aimed at facilitiating discussion about the future of Sullivan Creek.
Over the past several months American Whitewater has been participating in mediated settlement negotiations regarding the fate of two dams that are part of the Sullivan Creek hydroproject, which has not generated power in over half a century. The negotiation team is exploring opportunities for enchancing the management of Sullivan Lake in a manner that benefits both recreation and the environment, and is considering options including removal for Millpond Dam.
We are pleased to announce that Becky Brown and Chris Lambiotte are American Whitewater's Volunteers of the Month for February, 2009. Becky and Chris are helping out AW with our work on Sullivan Creek, located in Northeastern Washington.
AW is asking that paddlers familiar with Washington State's Sullivan Creek fill out a short online survey. American Whitewater is actively working on a process to remove, transfer, or operate two dams in the Sullivan Creek Watershed. We have also created a video of the Gorge to share this inaccessible place with other stakeholders - enjoy!
Yesterday, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission overturned a previous decision they had made that would have allowed the owner of the dams, flumes, and powerhouse on Sullivan Creek to simply abandon the project. The ruling came in response to rehearing challenges filed by American Whitewater, the United States Forest Service, and the State of Washington. The decision will likely lead to the removal of at least one severely outdated dam.
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