Canyon Creek (NF Nooksack) - Canyon Creek Bridge to Glacier Springs.

Canyon Creek (NF Nooksack), Washington, US


Canyon Creek Bridge to Glacier Springs.

Usual Difficulty IV-V+ (for normal flows)
Length 4.5 Miles
Avg. Gradient 300 fpm
Max Gradient 400 fpm

Ethan another fun ledge.

Ethan another fun ledge.
Photo of Ethan by Hale Hanaway taken 05/02/04

River Description

Take out: Turn left off of high way 542 into Glacier Springs. There is a large sign on the left side that says GLACIER SPRINGS (you cant miss it). Take the next right onto Miller, as soon as you enter Glacier Springs. Take a left on Canyon View Dr. Go up the hill about a 1/2 mile. On the right you will see a ravine which is actually a dyke diverting canyon creek into the Nooksack. The next right past the ravine, is the take out. It looks like a driveway. Drive to the end and you will find a trail that leads to a washed out logging bridge. This is my preferred take out to miss out on the creek braiding into the Nooksack.

An alternate is at the bridge that crosses the Nooksack right after Glacier Springs on highway 542.

Put In: Get back on 542 and head east toward the town of Glacier, approximately five miles outside of glacier on 542. Canyon Creek road is just past Dougfir Campground on the left. Drive 7.5 miles up to the canyon creek bridge, or where the river comes close to the road. If you put below the bridge about a 1/2 mile you will miss some class II and log portages.

Alternate Put In: Drive six miles up the Canyon Creek road and find the pull out on the left just past the two culverts and the dirt road section. You can bushwhack your way down to the river from here. I recommend doing this the first time. If you like what you got into on the lower section then go back the next day and do the upper section from the bridge.

Brief Summary of Canyon Creek:
Canyon creek is a continuous class V-VI run. There are numerous portages, and scouting will be an all day affair. It is similar to its sister creek the Clearwater in the Middle Fork Nooksack drainage, except Canyon Creek is 3 miles longer.

River Description:
Our first run down Canyon Creek took us 10.5 hours. Our second (and only half the river this time) took 6.5 hours. We decided to bypass some class II-III white water and a few log portages by putting in a 1/2 mile below the canyon creek bridge the first time. Our second descent we skipped the first and steepest mile of the run and bullied our way down to the river a mile below the bridge. (See, Alternate Put In description)

The first mile of the run contained the stoutest drops and the majority of the portages. Canyon creek is no stranger to wood and logjams. On either side of the canyon the remains of slash and clear cutting are evident so there was no surprise when we encountered log-choked rapids.

The first main drop is a logged choked 10-foot waterfall. Directly after was a narrow slot that contained about three ledges. Two people in our group ran this line and after two unconvincing lines the rest of the group portaged. The next series of ledges down started with a nasty rock sieve with a couple 6-foot ledges and then rolling over a fifteen-foot waterfall that looked marginally runnable. We all opted for the portage on the right bank high over the canyon and put in below. The next half mile contained some nice 6 to 10 foot ledges and a couple boulder gardens with plenty of wrong places to go and only one too two good line options per rapid

After the first mile the canyon opens up and into a landslide zone with crumbly dirt and loose rocks all over the bank. After a few manky, boat crippling lines through the top section of land slide (We all agreed later that it should have been portaged) two to three more nice, technical, class V drops follow and end in a river wide log jam. These rapids indicate about an end to a third of the run. You could miss most of the portages of the upper mile by starting here.

Once you're through the entrance of the landslide area the river eases up to class IV for about a mile. Then it enters into a labyrinth of mini gorges. The first significant rapid here has three nice drops that stack up against the right canyon wall and end with the largest drop finishing with a limbo log. Careful here the next two or three drops are nasty! Following limbo log drop a tight boulder garden leads into a Y in the river. I portaged this section, but the right channel looks like it will go if you can get there. The left however is a pin waiting to happen. I saw what could happen here if you miss the small eddies that line this section. It's not pretty? Scaryee!!! A turbulent class six drop follows that everyone in our group portaged.

Once again the river eases for a short time with some easier class V drops and a few class IV's. Then you enter another triple drop that stacks against the right canyon wall. This one doesn't end with a limbo log but an X made of two trees. The X marks the spot for an assured pin and difficult rescue. If you don't like the looks of triple X drop, don't worry the best part of the run is about to start, a portage is easy on the left bank as is most of the rapids in the run. The river feels like it gets a bit friendlier from here out, but be on your toes many pourovers and sketch lines exist on the lower section. Piecing this bottom section together will take a few scouting attempts but all of it together would be like a luge track with banked turns, laterals, tight slots five to six foot drops and an awesome tempo. I don't remember portaging anything until one of the very last drops.

Once you reach a rock garden that contains numerous cairns on the right side of the river there is only about a mile of white water that remains. If you are too tired to finish there is a trail that leads out on the right bank into the community of Glacier Springs and the take out. Just below the rock garden there is a mandatory portage. After this portage there is one final 6-foot ledge, just follow the log that points to the middle of this nice five foot boof, After the ledge the river jogs right into a canyon with symmetrical walls on either side. The river mellows to class III and the first take out is an old washed out logging bridge. Just above the bridge the old logging road leads into the intersecting trail to Glacier Springs and the first take out. You can also paddle out the last class three rapids of Canyon Creek to the confluence of the N.F. Nooksack River and take out at the bridge on Highway 542.

This river contains a fair number of portages, and is mentally and physically challenging. The amount of rapids and runnable drops far outweigh the laborious nature of this run. Once again plan a long day, pack some food, water, and use good creeking practices.
StreamTeam Status: Not Verified
Last Updated: 2008-10-10 00:50:01


Rapid Descriptions

icon of message No rapids entered. If you know names, and locations of the rapids please contact and advise the StreamTeam member for this run.

User Comments

Users can submit comments.
December 2 2007 (3945 days ago)
Jesse KinsmanDetails
Haven't done the upper section described but have been walking in at the trail and hiking as far up
the canyon as possible and avoiding much of the nasty drops that Hale describes. This actually
avoids much of the class 5 on this run and offers some clean class IV and III creeking fun. This
section seems to change quite a bit with each flood so make sure and scout. There are two drops in
this section (Relatively new) that are probably class V. Both can be portaged if you prefer. The
first drop of these drops has pin rocks throughout the drop and one do-able line on the right. The
second is less technical but definitely has the potential for a brutal swim as the hole feeds back
upon itself. Following that ledge, is a small technical III/IV gorge and then the creek opens up.
If you follow it down to the NF Nooksack there is one last IV mini-gorge where there is a 2-3 foot
boof ledge followed by a couple of ledges past that. At high water, there is a line at the boof
ledge on the left. At low water, run the boof as you could pin or dent your boat from a hidden pin

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Associated Projects

  • Nooksack Stewardship (WA)
    Public access, hydropower development, and resource stewardship are all ongoing issues on this river system.