Clearwater (MF Nooksack trib.), Washington, US
|Usual Difficulty||V (for normal flows)|
|Avg. Gradient||360 fpm|
|MF NOOKSACK RIVER NEAR DEMING, WA|
|usgs-12208000||800 - 1600 cfs||V||01h08m||410 cfs (too low)|
This steep creek flows into the Middle Fork Nooksack. Despite being just over a mile in length, Clearwater has more action and quality packed into it than all the other regularly run rivers in the area combined. Thirty-one distinct rapids with no drop being more than 7 or 8 feet which provides for good consistent action. If you need a description of every rapid you should probably go run something else, but to get you stoked I'll describe a few.
There are rapids like Slide for Life where you fly off a clean seven foot boof ledge, then paddle for all you're worth to get up on a rock and slide out and down about eight feet to avoid a sticky hole. Then you stay on the gas to bust through another hundred feet of holes and ledges. There is also Pinball; one of the smaller in between rapids that you wouldn't think much of until at high water you find yourself being slapped around like pinball. These are just two rapids out of thirty that would get descriptions like this. One hazard to mention is Rocky Road, the last rapid on the run. This is the trashy non descript rapid that can be seen from the take-out bridge. It has a nasty unrunnable sieve at the top that is the only mandatory portage on the run. Below the sieve, the rapid remains steep, trashy, and technical. It's probably walked more than it's run, and everyone who has run more than once has got a carnage story.
Of course the same high gradient that marks this river as whitewater gem has attracted hydropower developers. American Whitewater aggressively fought a project on this creek that would have significantly impacted the whitewater run (proposed project map). While plans for construction have been shelved, this creek needs permanent protection through Wild and Scenic River designation.
From Mosquito Lake Rd. Turn onto the Middle Fork of the Nooksack Rd. (unmarked but also known as FR 38) and drive 4.5 miles to the bridge over Clearwater Creek. This is the take-out. From the take-out drive back down the Middle Fork Rd. a couple hundred yards to the first right. Drive up this road (DNR 2200) along river right 1.5 miles past one turn off, stay right. Park at the pullout of the recently decomissioned road and hike approximately 1/4 of a mile up the road to the put-in.