JoesKayak's Submission - Entered on 5/23/2012 3:58:00 PM
Gauge Information (Last updated with USGS at 5/23/2013 7:17:07 AM)
Pilchuck Cr. @ Bridge 626
3rd Party Gauge
Minimum Recomended Level: 600 cfs Maximum Recomended Level: 2000 cfs
You can hike in on gated road (.9mi) to run just the Middle, but you can also opt to combine the Upper and Middle.
To get to the gated road go north from the takeout and turn onto Finn Settlement road & go 4.5 miles. The road makes a sweeping left turn and the turnoff is on the outside of this bend. You'll see the gate a short ways down this road. You can scout the falls from an overlook on the walk in, so this access point should be remembered for scouting purposes.
Hwy 9 Bridge, north of Arlington. There is a small parking spot on the R. Right side. Parking can be tricky though during times of heavey snow. There's a wider place to park on the R. Left side, down the road a ways- just don't block the gate.
A hundered yards or less upstream of the HWY 9 bridge on R. Right there is a stick guage. This is probably the best way to guage flow, in conjunction with the rock upstream of the bridge.
Flows: You can scrape down as low as 500 cfs or so, but it's much more enjoyable with at least 800. Flows around 900-1200 are great for first run.At low water you may want to portage the falls to avoid removing too much plastic from your hull. The run can be done higher than 2000 but can be quite pushy and becomes more class 4 than 3.
Often this run is combined with the upper section to make a nice 10 mile trip with Lots of quality whitewater. For this reason you'll find more detailed beta on various water levels in the Upper Pilchuck description. Aside from Pilchuck Falls, the Upper is notably more difficult, and decriptions for water levels refer to it. There's a rock upstream of the HWY 9 bridge used as a visual guage, and a stick guage about 100 yards upstream of the bridge on R. Right. See the Upper Pilchuck description for more details.
This is the "middle" section. It is mostly class III, aside from Pilchuck Falls(V) 1/2 mile below Pilchuck Creek Campground.
The Bridge at the C.G. is the put-in for this section, or, if you paddle down from the upper section, this bridge serves as your landmark to keep your eyes peeled for Pilchuck Falls. After the bridge there is some easy floating followed by a some rapids and an S-Bend. At the S-Bend the creek enters a gorge and starts the approach to the falls. There are a couple of class 3 rapids in this gorge. They aren't too difficult, but still its important to stay in control here as you approach the falls. This falls deserves to be treated like a class V crux. You DO NOT want to risk being on the left half of the river above it. Especially at higher flows. Stay close to the R. Right bank and watch out for the weaker members of your group. Follow the current as it sweeps wide along the R. Right bank, and eddy out on R. Right to scout. If you hike up the steep bank just downstream of the falls you get the best overview of the most likely line you'll want.
You'll see the falls stretching diagonally across the river, broken roughly into thirds. The R.Left most third of the falls is monstrous. The Center third may have a few lines, but look and decide for yourself. The R. Right third has the conventional line. You'll see the obvious green tounge swooshing down. Just line up at the top and boof. Eddy out immediately below on the far R. Left so you can set safety for those who follow.
Below the falls the run remains active and fun and very scenic. The creek alternates between deep canyon sections and more wide open sections. There are several focused, powerful class III rapids, a couple of them pushing class 4 at medium to high levels. Always keep a lookout for wood on this run, particularly further down in a narrow canyon called "The Pil Box". Wood can chock up in here and be a real hazard. When it walls up it is best to space out a bit and be ready to grab an eddy quick.
The rest of the run is a casual class II float to the HWY 9 bridge. Don't forget to read the stick gauge on your right. Take out on the downstream right side of the bridge.