Gauge Information (Professor Paddle updated levels from Virtual at )
|Miller — East Fork to NE Old Cascade Highway ©|
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3rd Party Gauge
Minimum Recomended Level: 300 cfs Maximum Recomended Level: 600 cfs
SF gauge: http://www.nwrfc.noaa.gov/river/station/flowplot/flowplot.cgi?SSSW1
SF Sky gauge: http://www.nwrfc.noaa.gov/river/station/flowplot/flowplot.cgi?SSSW1
Let's try and correlate flows with this gauge. The gauge is just above the confluence with the Miller, but I'm guessing it'll be more accurate than the main Sky gauge, 20 miles downstream. When paddling this stretch please post: date, level, and temp (fall boating: cold/snowy - warmish/rainy)
11/16/13 5.5' colder temps This is the bottom end for this run, scraping lots of rocks.
From the West, head eastbound from Monroe via Highway 2 for approximately 30 miles and look for the Money Creek Campground exit on your right. From the east, drive over the pass on Highway 2, continue past the town of Skykomish for roughly three miles, and look for the Money Creek Campground exit on your left, which you encounter immediately after passing through a tunnel.
Now that you're off of Highway 2, you'll cross bridge over the South Fork of the Skykomish River and find yourself on NE Old Cascade Highway. Remain on this road as it takes a sharp turn to the left about a third of a mile after the exit, and continue to follow it for about another mile, at which point Miller River Road NE enters from the Right. If you want to finish off the run with several miles of braided class II, you'll want to continue on the Old Cascade Highway beyond the junction with Miller River Road and leave a vehicle somewhere in the vicinity of where it crosses over the lower Miller.
Having said that, if you're like most parties, you'll want to go ahead and exit right onto Miller River road NE and head for the upper take-out which eliminates just about all of the class II.
Once you're on Miller River Road, stay the course for several miles, and look for the Miller River Group Site on you left. This is your takeout. Leave a shuttle vehicle here and continue to one of two potential put-ins. Unless the gate is open (it hasn't ever been open when I've been passing by), you'll be leaving your vehicles about a third of a mile from the river. The takeout is easy to identify from the river, but if you want to be sure that you don't blow by it, it might be worth walking down to the river and checking it out before heading to the put-in of your choice.
The first put-in option is the West Fork of the Miller River, which you'll encounter as it passes beneath the first bridge on the Miller River road. If you're wondering if you're in the right place, look upstream for an obvious Class V boulder garden on the right. See it? Then you're at the West Fork put-in.
The consensus seems to be that putting in here is a ticket to a half mile of bony mank that's often wood-choked, so most people will want to continue on to the put-in for the East Fork.
To get there, continue over the bridge and remain on the same road until you encounter the obvious landslide (there's a debris field that passes over the road and continues down to the river) about a half a mile beyond the West Fork. As of this writing there's a "Road Closed 1/2 mile ahead" sign just beyond the West Fork bridge. Keep driving, since the landslide that closed the road *is* the East Fork put-in
Miller River Group Campground (look for the sign on your left a few miles into the drive up Miller River Road). As mentioned elsewhere - it's possible to identify the takeout from the river, but it's worth investing 10 minutes in walking the third of a mile from the gate to the river and scoping it out before moving on to the put-in.
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from the WF bridge down the run is clean of wood and when the Sky is above 10k and SF gauge about 6.4 level is nice. - Posted by: water wacko on 10/15/2016 4:46:00 PM -
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This one is tough to correlate with the Skykomish, and it seems like it wouldn't take a whole lot of extra flow to make the run significantly more pushy and demanding, so consider what's likely to be happening in the Miller drainage and do what you can to make a visual evaluation of the river before putting on. The Bennett Guide gives 4,000-8,000 cfs on the main Sky as a general guideline, and that sounds about right.
If you decide to put-in at the West Fork, get out and take a look at the upstream side of the bridge's base on the river right. There's an exposed patch of rebar (pic in the gallery below) that was about 6" above the river level when we put-in here with the main Skykomish gauge at 6700cfs and rising ~120cfs steadily from snowmelt. For the time being, I'd call that level (6" below the base of the exposed patch of rebar) 0 - as in the lowest runnable level. I'd personally expect juicy flows on the West Fork portion of the trip if the patch of exposed rebar is covered with water, but that's just a speculation. There's no visual gauge that I'm aware of for the East Fork, but if some community minded person decided to paint a paddler's gauge at the base of the bridge where the Old Cascade Highway crosses the lower Miller (then spread the word), he or she would be doing their fellow paddlers a significant favor.
Run Description [Season: depends: rain or snow...]
Since I entered via the West Fork, I can't personally vouch for what's above the confluence with the West Fork, but Joe's description (from the comments below) rings true: "Another time we put in at lower water on the West fork at the bridge and floated (and carried) down to the confluence like described in Bennett. That sucked: lots of mank and wood and we missed a lot of good whitewater on the last 1/2 mile of the EF [before the confluence with the E. Fork]."
Having said that - if you arrive at the West Fork Bridge and it looks intriguing, read on. Basically, what you see (from the West Fork Bridge) is what you get. For those not currently standing on the bridge, what you see when you're there is a jumbly class IVish boulder garden that peters out around a right-hand bend, and appears to run directly into wood. If that's your cup of tea - you can expect a half mile of more of the same before the confluence with the East Fork. There were roughly four or five drops of similar character that we encountered en route to the confluence, wood was always a worry - but the only serious hazard we encountered was just before the confluence. Potentially avoidable, but we decided to walk around it on the right.
This stretch of river ends with another IVish drop at the confluence with the East Fork. Our group looked upstream wistfully at what looked like a more fluid and higher quality run than what we'd just come down. I can't personally vouch for what's above the confluence, but the consensus in the comments seems to be that the river starts to steepen into III-IV and then class IV drops about a quarter mile or so below the put-in at the landslide, and that you get about a half mile of this before the river merges with the West Fork. I'd guestimate that the West Fork boosts the flow by about 15 or 20 percent, so if it's been on the bony from the East Fork put-in on down you can expect a bit more flow going forwards.
I can't recall the individual rapids that we encountered below the confluence, but the general character just was class IV boulder gardens separated by relatively short sections of II-III with continuous gradient for the first half of the run, with the difficulty easing to IV- for the last couple of rapids, which were separated by longer stretches of II-III quickwater. My hunch is that class V boaters will be fine with boat scouting everything. I'd put the average skill level in our group somewhere in the "fairly competent class IV boater" range, and we scouted everything on foot until the difficulty started to ease off and we could actually see what we'd be paddling into from our boats. Although we didn't encounter any severe wood hazards on our run and it was generally clean, new wood will always be a possibility and it's easy to imagine a nasty surprise or two waiting for boaters who get cavalier. Take the measure of your party and paddle accordingly.
As the gradient starts to taper off and the river starts to broaden, you'll encounter some cabins alongside one of the final IV- drops on the river left. Once you see these cabins, it's time to start paying attention to the river-left bank and looking for your takeout.
It's not right below the cabins, so just pay attention, stick to the river left, and pay particular attention once the river really starts to broaden out. What you're looking for a ~50 yard long patch above the steep-cobbly bank that's obviously been cleared of trees. Clamber up the banks here and shoulder them for the ~1/3 mile walk along the paved road that'll take you to the shuttle vehicle that you left at the gate.
Notes from Other Runs Below:
Update: 11/13 While the EF has some interesting rapids, I can attest the WF having slightly higher quality rapids, more of them and less wood portages (read: zero). I'll put in at the bridge next time.
Put-in and gauge details From JoesKayak as of 10/09:
It's been a while since I've run it too, but I put in a bit further downstream from Mike's description. About 1/2 mile after you cross the WF bridge there is a small turnout where you can scramble through the bushes to the creek. This puts you just a few hundred yards before the good stuff starts. Putting in at the EF bridge like Mike described is probably easier but will give you an extra mile or two (guess) of class 2 and braided channels... but probably worth it if there's not too many logs in that low gradient section.
Also the Sky gage is hard to gage it by, definitely need a good visual. I remember running it around 4500 at Goldbar and that was a good flow.
Another time we put in at lower water on the West fork at the bridge and floated (and carried) down to the confluence like described in Bennett. That sucked: lots of mank and wood and we missed alot of good whitewater on the last 1/2 mile of the EF."
Takeout Info As Per Mike Harms on 10/09:
We took out at the Campground that you drive by on the way in. Prescout this takeout, unless you plan on continuing further, as suggested by the guidebook.
More from Septimus Prime as of 10/09:
"Last time I ran Miller was Summer '08. The Sky was at 8k and rising and we were having a good run off event.
I put on at the East Fork Bridge and had a few log portages before a great continuous section of class four. Very reminiscent of the Foss. You will sense it easing up as the river rounds a left corner and comes into the valley floor. The water is still continuous however and there was some wood on river right that could be troublesome.
If I had know about the lower put-in above the class IV, I definitely would have used it."
As per jP:
So thanks to Mr. Harms for truncating the run as described in Bennett's book. On 11/1/09 we put in by the landslide Mike mentioned and took out when the class III had ended. This greatly shortened the run, but we also had two wood portages to deal with. The first few rapids were class III-ish.
The first wood portage we encountered was at an island in the stream. The main current twists and winds its way down to the logjam. Even paddling down as far as possible requires a portage through the woods of the
Putin and Guage details As Per Mike Harms on 10/09:
The West Fork Miller is probably some of the steepest runnable gnar in the SF Sky drainage. Anyways point your compass toward the EF bridge and put in when you reach a recent landslide crossing the road before the bridge.
On the run there was one log jam-we portaged R. Below that was a section of quality class IV similar to the Foss. As I recall it was a pretty mellow III in the beginning and end. As always watch for wood.
Levels- I'd look for at least 8k on the Sky but 10k may work better. If the main Sky is rising, then figure what it's going to and plan on more water upstream working its way down. If the main Sky is dropping then you can count on the levels in the upstream drainages to be lower than what is being reported by the guage @GB. I think our level was around 7k and dropping which was the low side of good.
You can use the percentages that Bennet gives- maybe a good guess, but depends on where the rain falls and what the snow levels are. Also, the guage readings that AW provides for rivers in the Sky drainage (other than the Gold Bar guage) are rough estimations (correlations or percentages?) and not always an accurate representation of the water flowing in the reported drainage."
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