This is a long stretch of river and there are a number of different access points. The runs are mostly class II whitewater but beware of the ever changing wood hazards. In the upper reaches these can block the channel and during high spring flows the swift current requires quick and smart decisions.
Riverbend Campground to Mazama, 10.1 miles
Starting at Riverbend Campground (river mile 75.5) the river begins its journey in the National Forest. It picks up additional flow with the Lost River (river mile 73.0) and then flows through Mazama (river mile 65.4). In this stretch down to Winthrop the river flows through a dynamic floodplain where rapids and wood hazards shift from year to year. For a nice 7.5 mile run on this section you can put in on the Lost River at the bridge, float down to the Methow, and paddle on to the town of Mazama. Park your bike at the racks at the Mazama Country Store for an easy bike shuttle. You will find some class II+ whitewater and great views of Goat Wall, the bold 1000' cliffs of greenstone that form the backdrop to the town of Mazama and attracts climbers.
Mazama to Winthrop, 15.2 miles
The section from Mazama down to Winthrop is less frequently boated but it is navigable. An intermediate access point (5.7 miles from Mazama and 9.5 miles from Winthrop) is at the Weeman Bridge (river mile 59.7). Lower gradient and frequent wood hazards can make this stretch particularly dangerous for inexperienced paddlers during high spring flows. Most enjoy this section by mountain biking or nordic skiing along the community trail that parallels the river.
Winthrop to Twisp, 10.0 miles
At Winthrop the preferred access is at the Red Barn (river mile 50.2), a community park at the west edge of town. This is just upstream of the confluence with the Chewuch River and with the enhanced flows the river flows through a wider channel with much more room to maneuver around the wood hazards that are present as log jams along the sides and at the apex of islands. The swift current takes you through a couple class II- gravel bar rapids. A few homes can be seen along the river but you will also float past several patches of intact riparian forest harboring occasional wildlife. The ten mile float from Winthrop to Twisp makes a good day trip.
The access at the Twisp River confluence (river mile 40.2) is in the town park that provides a nice lawn to dry out your gear. The landing can be a little tricky at high flows.
Twisp to Carlton, 12.9 miles
With the flow of the Twisp, the flows are further enhanced and it's a nice float down to Carlton where access can be found near river mile 27.3. The real whitewater is still downstream.
Mazama, Lost River Road: The river can be accessed from the bridge in Mazama by turning onto Lost River Road at Highway 20 mile 179.5. As you follow this road into Mazama it crosses the river in 0.2 mile. To continue to access points upstream, Lost River Road takes a 90 degree left turn up the valley at mile 0.4 from Highway 20 (the Methow Country Store is at this junction). The Lost River Bridge (a good access point) is 6.9 miles from Highway 20 (park on the upstream river left side of the bridge and float a couple hundred yards on the Lost down to the Methow).
Highway 20 Weeman Bridge: The Weeman Bridge provides an alternate access point between Mazama and Winthrop at Highway 20 mile 184.7.
Red Barn in Winthrop: This access just upstream of the Chewuch confluence is at the west end of the town of Winthrop at Highway 20 mile 192.6. The Red Barn should be obvious. Head towards the back of the parking lot towards the river for easy access.
Twisp: Access at the Twisp Park can be found by heading east off Highway 20 at mile 201.4 and turning onto Twisp Avenue in the middle of town. Continue two blocks then turn left on Lincoln Street and follow it a block to the Twisp Park and public swimming pool where the Twisp River joins the Methow. An alternative access that avoids the tricky ferry from the Methow River across the currents of the Twisp at the confluence is a short distance downstream. You can reach it by heading east off Highway 20 at mile 201.5 and turning onto 5th Ave which dead ends at the river adjacent to the church. An old waterline bridge crosses the river here which makes a convenient landmark. Check out the Twisp River Pub for food and drink after your run.
Carlton: Downstream from Twisp Highway 20 heads east up away from the river and the riverside road continues as Highway 153. Access is available at the WDFW river access site (requires a parking permit) in Carlton at Highway 153 mile 22.4 on the upstream river left side of the bridge.
Sunday July 26, 2020 (550 cfs at Winthrop) we floated from The Barn to the take-out near the Methow Valley school (approx the first half of the Winthrop to Twisp section). And "float" is the correct word for this section at this time of year... lots of people in tubes, pool toys and other random crafts. Super mellow. My husband and I were in packrafts (his with an open deck, mine with a WW deck except I left the spray skirt at home). I towed my kid behind my packraft in a tube. She brought a super soaker and kept me cool. It was a blast. Great family day on the river! This section is a lot less woody than the upper reaches of the Methow, and as such there were no logjams or portages at all. Just a mellow float.
On Tuesday July 28 (500 cfs at Winthrop), my husband and I paddled the Methow from the Weeman Bridge down to Winthrop. We actually took out just before Winthrop, at a pull-out along the highway. We did this to skip the diversion dam just before Winthrop... although I've heard that it's an easy portage.
Speaking of portages, the section from Weeman Bridge to Winthrop currently has a couple logjams that require portaging. The water is moving slow enough that a moderately experienced paddler has plenty of time to eddy out and walk around. Currently, the biggest and only riverwide logjam is approx 1 mile before take-out, and the best portage route is on river right. There is also a logjam about 1 mile after put-in. It's probably possible to paddle around it, but immediately after the logjam the river branches right into a narrow woody channel and we couldn't see what was beyond that. When my husband and I adventure together we tend to be really conservative (attempting not to orphan our child 😬), so we walked the dry riverbed on river left rather than paddling down the narrow channel on river right.
Sunday Aug 2, 2020, we walked in to the Tawlks-Foster bridge and paddled from there down to the Weeman Bridge. This is a short 3 mile section, but we only had a couple hours of kid-free time, so it was the perfect distance for us. The water had dropped even more, to 425 cfs. It was very bony at this level, and we scraped bottom frequently. The first mile was relatively clear, but between 1-2 miles we were forced to do a couple of portages due to river-wide logs. At this water level, there was always plenty of time to eddy out and walk around. None of the portages were difficult.
Looking for more info on this run, i.e. if anyone has done it, what the supposed Class 3 is like, etc.
Recreational use study of the middle section of the Methow River from Winthrop to Twisp.
Letter of Support from American Whitewater for access improvements to Mack Lloyd Park.
The reference gage is the Methow at Winthrop. The Methow near Mazama gage will provide a more accurate reading of the flows for the upper runs along this reach.
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.
Old Cars as Riprap
Water intake structure
Red Barn Access
Methow in Fall
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.
The Bureau of Land Management is currently accepting public comment on a proposal to protect the Methow Headwaters from an industrial-scale copper mine above the town of Mazama. The proposed mine would negatively impact the incredible opportunities for outdoor recreation in the Methow Valley. A strong show of public support will be required to secure protection for this river valley.
Senator Murray and Senator Cantwell introduced the Methow Headwaters Protection Act of 2016 to protect Washington’s Methow River from the impacts of industrial-scale mining. The bill supports the efforts of recreational interests, civic and business leaders, farmers and ranchers, and Methow residents to safeguard the lands and waters of the Methow Valley and protect them permanently from mining.
The Yakama Nation is currently conducting a survey of recreational boating on the reach of the Methow River from the Lost River confluence down to the Weeman Bridge. While this reach sees more limited boating than sections downstream, we know that this reach that includes the community of Mazama is used for river-based recreation. We encourage paddlers with local knowledge to fill out the survey.
The Forest Service is developing a new Forest Plan for the Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest and has released a Proposed Action. The Forest Service is accepting public comment on this plan that will guide management for the next decade or more.
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