Tolt, N. Fork, Washington, US
|Usual Difficulty||IV-V+ (for normal flows)|
|Max Gradient||300 fpm|
|NORTH FORK TOLT RIVER NEAR CARNATION, WA|
|usgs-12147500||200 - 300 cfs||IV-V+||1y147d18h02m||67 cfs (too low)|
Logistics: The put-in for this section is at the middle bridge on the North Fork Tolt. Since you can't drive a vehicle up here, you will need to scout out the access on a bike and figure out some of the details and then you'll need to cart your boat in. There is a paved road along Seattle's water line that is about five miles and gated on both ends. It starts out in the Lake Joy area. You are allowed to travel the road on foot/bike/horse. Once you're in the watershed you will need to find your way to the middle bridge across the North Fork Tolt. As far as the take-out goes, your best option is to continue past the confluence with the South Fork Tolt and continue on to Carnation. This makes for a run of about 10 miles.
Treat this run as an exploratory. Although there is some great whitewater there is no vehicle access, making logistics for this run a challenge. The rugged nature of the gorge and difficult access make this a run that should be attempted only by those looking for a serious challenge.
The first couple miles serve up some great class III/IV boulder gardens (about 100 fpm), and then you came to the first gorge (you'll definitely know...). This is the start of about a mile and half of walled in class V with some serious commitment. You will want to get out and scout because although there is about a 1/4-1/2 mile of decent looking rapids, the river then drops over a waterfall of approximately 40 feet in height. It may be runnable, but since you can't portage the falls at river level (and scouting from the lip would be challenge) the conservative option is to portage this canyon section and put in below a sieve drop downstream of the waterfall.
The canyon at river level is very reminiscent of the Carbon and inner gorge of the Tilton (just below Leap of Faith). Overall the gradient in this canyon section is in the 300 fpm range. There are more challenging rapids as you continue some of which do not offer portage routes at river level so you will want to consider portaging along the gorge. Scout carefully and don't over commit.
Below this section you will find some class III until you reach the second gorge where the Tolt water supply line crosses the North Fork Tolt (this is also where the paved road leads back to Lake Joy area). Scout the second gorge carefully before committing. There is a portage option that bypasses the gorge (about 1/4 mile).
The 2-3 miles between the gorge and the confluence with the South Fork Tolt offer some great clean drops (class III/IV). Below the confluence you will find class II gravel bar rapids as you continue out to the main Tolt and potential vehicle access points.
With contributions from and Nick Newhall, Brian Zederic, and Scott Sills who made an exploratory run on 17 May 2003.