Methow - 1. River Bend Campground to Carlton

Methow, Washington, US


1. River Bend Campground to Carlton

Usual Difficulty II(III) (for normal flows)
Length 48.2 Miles

Upper Methow

Upper Methow
Photo by Thomas O'Keefe © taken 05/26/14 @ 5700 cfs

Gauge Information

Name Range Difficulty Updated Level
usgs-12448500 1000 - 6000 cfs II(III) 00h59m 214 cfs (too low)

River Description

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.

StreamTeam Status: Not Verified
Last Updated: 2014-11-08 17:33:38


Rapid Descriptions

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Associated Projects

  • Methow River
    American Whitewater supports the conservation and stewardship of the Methow River.
  • Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest (WA)
    The Okanogan and Wenatchee National Forests are home to some great whitewater runs and AW has in interest in protecting the resource values of these rivers.