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Tolt, S. Fork    Bridge to confluence with N. Fork Tolt™ ©
Class V

River Mapplet
Put In Longitude : -121.71305 Putin
Put In Latitude : 47.689167
Take Out Longitude : -121.82333 Take Out
Take Out Latitude : 47.6972237
County : King Shuttle
   Gauge Information (Professor Paddle updated levels from SOUTH FORK TOLT RIVER NEAR CA at 7/15/2020 3:18:36 PM)
Gauge Forecast Height Current Flow Authority Physical Update
SOUTH FORK TOLT RIVER NEAR CA n/a 2  68.1 cfs  USGS - NWIS 07-15-2020 14:30:00
Minimum Recomended Level:  100 cfs     Maximum Recomended Level:  300 cfs 


Access requires a permit: non-motorized travel requires a different permit than motorized travel. A day use walk-in permit is currently $8. See details here:

  Putin Details

The bridge over the SF Tolt is 10 miles from the Spur 10 Gate Road and it is possible to put in upstream of this off a spur road on river left. Putting in downstream of Lynch Creek would be best.

  Takeout Details

A good takeout would be at the SF Tolt Regulating Basin which is a couple miles upstream of the NF confluence. Even though plenty of water joins here, the rapids immediately taper to woody and dangerous class II-III. Unfortunately, it is illegal to hike near the basin (river right). With an access pass you can takeout on river left below the confluence if you can figure out how to drive there, or paddle some miles to a takeout further down the Tolt (see NF Tolt description)

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  Other Issues

There is guaranteed to be some dangerous wood.

On flow: the beta this description is based on is one run at 130 cfs on the 12148000 gauge on 4/6/13. This turned out to be low but doable flow. Higher water could make some of the canyon rapids harder (or unrunnable in the case of one rapid which required ducking a tree). Neither of the gorge sections are extremely committing so the run could possibly be done at significantly higher water level.

  Fun Facts

The water in the river is controlled by two different reservoirs. The flow in the upstream section comes out of the South Fork Tolt Reservoir and can be checked with this gauge:
The South Fork Tolt Regulating Basin adds in more water near the end of the run. The total flow is available here:

   Run Description [Season: Winter, Spring]

Most paddlers would not consider the South Fork Tolt worth the trouble. The river is impounded by the SF Tolt Resevoir (Seattle's water supply) and thus is completely dam-controlled. Despite having a short section of fun, interesting rapids, there are many miles of wood and mank to contend with. The final nail in the coffin is the fact that access to the river is restricted unless you have either a walk-in access pass or a more expensive motorized access pass.
A logical putin is a short distance upstream of the bridge over the SF Tolt. There is a road that goes uptream from the bridge on river left and then a spur road that ends near the river. Unfortunately, there is minimal whitewater and plenty of wood portages for the next 2-3 miles. Finally, downstream of where Lynch Creek enters from river right, the river canyons up and a fun IV+ drop is found. Immediately after that it's back to class III mank.
After a while the river again narrows for a quality section of whitewater. There are 4-5 fun IV+-V rapids, each with its own character. One involved ducking under a large tree that was in the center of the rapid, parallel to the river. Another had a great auto-boof. Unfortunately, the last rapid of the set ends in a flake rock that shunts most the flow into the right wall. Maybe runnable with more water, but we elected for the portage on river left.
Soon afterwards the welcome arrival of more water from the SF Tolt Regulating basin is dampened by the fact that the river quickly returns to wood strewn class III. The section is fairly dangerous, with many places with swift-moving currently into multiple logjams. This continues for a while, all the way to the confluence with the NF Tolt.
With a motorized access permit it is possible to takeout on the left right below the confluence. The best place to take out would be where the water comes in from the regulating basin. If it wasn’t illegal to approach this basin, a neat option would be to hike out here on river right, pass the reservoir, and then cross over to the NF Tolt and run the lower gorge which is directly below the bridge! Without a drive-in pass it will likely be necessary to continue downstream to an access point upstream of Carnation.


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Trip NameTrip Date
Trip Report TitleDate

Beta Trail    
SubmissionBeta Submitted BySubmitted On
fiddleyak's 4/8/2013 Run Submissionfiddleyak4/8/2013 3:30:00 PM
James's 4/9/2007 Run SubmissionJames4/9/2007 8:26:00 PM

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