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.
Logistics: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.
2009 spring update. Most of the rapids are the same as last year except Island drop has some minor changes and a piece of wood at the bottom that could be a issue. Scout! Also the Middle fork guage seems to be about 250 cfs off at flows from 500-2000cfs. So right now this is how we have been predicting whether the creek is running:
1100-1600 while the guage is rising would be a good flow range.
1300-1800 while the guage is dropping would be a good flow range
AW's motion for dismissal of the hydroelectric project proposed for the Clearwater in the Nooksack River drainage.
Summary of Recreation Plan.
Complete Recreation Plan Document with Appendices.
Recommended flows are for the Middle Fork Nooksack gauge (73.3 sq. mi.) which is downstream of the Clearwater confluence. There is a gauge for this creek, but it's not a realtime station (Clearwater Creek near Welcome, WA, station 12207850, 18.5 sq. mi.). You can see the staff gauge at the put-in. Look for flows around .8-1.0' for a first run. Historical analysis of the data shows that actual flow on the Clearwater will be approximately 30% of the flow as measured on the Middle Fork Nooksack gauge. The correlation coefficient between the two gauges is 0.93. During the winter rainy season the freezing level plays a part in determining actual levels on this run. Rain and a low elevation freezing level can bring up the MF Nooksack while the higher-elevation watershed of the Clearwater receives snow.
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.
Bark no bite
B.P.M (boofs per minute)
Bark no Bite
Slide for Life
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 Washington Department of Natural Resources is embarking on a new planning project that will guide recreation on DNR-managed lands in the Nooksack River and Whatcom Lake watersheds for the next 10-15 years. The effort will kick off with two public open houses that will be scheduled for January.
Following a two and a half year process, the Upper Nooksack River Recreation Plan, has been finalized. This new, comprehensive plan will help guide the management of recreation and natural resources along the upper Nooksack River system in Washington state. The plan recognizes and supports the economic and health benefits of recreation, along with protection and restoration of the natural and cultural values of the upper river basin.
Do you enjoy boating on the Nooksack River? If you do, please tell us about your experience. American Whitewater is working with several partners through the National Park Service Rivers and Trails Conservation Assistance Program to develop an updated recreation plan for the upper Nooksack River basin. Your input will help us guide development of this plan.
Log into the American Whitewater website and you can contribute to river descriptions,
flow and access tips, and maps associated with runs you've done. You can even add new
runs to the inventory!