Canyon Creek (NF Nooksack), Washington, US
Canyon Creek Bridge to Glacier Springs.
||IV-V+ (for normal flows)
Ethan another fun ledge.
Ethan another fun ledge.Photo of Ethan by Hale Hanaway taken 05/02/04
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
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.
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
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.
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Last Updated: 2008-10-10 00:50:01