JoesKayak's Submission - Entered on 12/14/2015 8:55:00 AM
Notes: adding forecast links
Gauge Information (Last updated with USGS at 4/27/2017 10:59:31 PM)
SAUK RIVER NEAR SAUK, WA
||NWRFC | FC Page
3rd Party Gauge
||4/27/2017 10:45:00 PM
Minimum Recomended Level: 2000 cfs Maximum Recomended Level: 12000 cfs
The Sauk is a very easy river to access. The Scenic Mountain Loop Highway (FS Road 20) Runs along side the run for most of the duration and alternate put ins or take outs would be easy to set up.
As of summer 2009 a new bridge over the Whitechuck river has been built and we have access to our old put-in again! To reach it, head upstream from Clear Creek a few miles and cross the bridge over the Sauk river. Turn left soon after this bridge and cross over the Whitechuck River on the new bridge. This road soon leads to the developed put-in with parking and outhouses.
There's a few different options.
1-Many kayakers like the Clear Creek take out, which is at Mountain Loop Highway mile 50.6 by the Clear Creek Bridge. Paddle UP Clear Creek to the upstream side of the bridge and scramble over the rocks.
Rafters prefer the 2 spots downstream because it's an easier carry.
2-Bachman Park is 1 mile downstream from Clear Creek. Bachman park is located on Clear Creek road. Taking out at Bachman Park gives you a couple more good rapids and a couple great play spots. First timers are advised to scout the landing spot as it is easy to miss.
3-The final take-out is located downstream of Darrington near the Mill. Drive through Darrington and turn onto Sauk Prairie Road and follow down to the bridge over the river. This is a nice access spot and adds 2-3 miles of easy floating to the end of your trip.
Notes on flow:
There is a new gauge on the Sauk in Darrington. http://waterdata.usgs.gov/wa/nwis/uv/?site_no=12187500&PARAmeter_cd=00060%2C00065 No more math needed!
The Sauk has a nice long season. It's often running during the fall and winter rainy season and in good snowpack years you can often find good flows well into July and sometimes August.
The Sauk at Sauk gauge (the gage listed for this run here and in the guidebooks) is a long ways downstream from this run, below the Suiattle confluence and only represents a fraction of the flow actually on this run. Later in the summer a much larger percentage of the flow will be coming from the Suiattle, since it drains the glaiciers from 3 sides of Glacier Peak.
It's often a good idea to also take a look at the SAUK above WHITECHUCK gage.
If you take the amount from this gauge and add about 50% to account for the Whitechuck River, you can sometimes get a better idea of the actual flow on the run. Generally, 500 is about minimum flow for ELF runs. 700-1000 are lower runnable (technical) levels. 1200-2000 is medium. 3000 is medium high. 4000+ is absolutely cranking.
Some who know the run well like to run it when it's up really high. The river is BIG and continuous at high flows (15,000+ Sauk at Sauk) and should be considered a 4-5 run.
Awesome run in a very scenic valley. Can be linked up with the runs upstream and/or downstream for some of the best overnight trips in Washington.
Run Description [Season: Oct-July]
First off, this run is very similar to the Middle Middle on the Snoqualmie. The boulder gardens are similar and the gradient and terrain is also close. The Sauk offers some technical class III boulder gardens at low water (3000 or so) but is more fun at medium to high levels when the big wave trains and holes start kicking in.
The Sauk is a young river and has changed several times over the years when significant flood events have occurred. Some rapids have improved, some have gotten worse, and logs change from season to season.
Below the put-in the first 2 easier class III rapids come up soon. The first is just below the put-in where the river splits around an island. At times, both sides of this island have had riverwide logs, so approaching carefully or getting a peek before putting in may be prudent. The second 3 comes up not too long after and is straightforward, but at medium to high levels, a big hole appears center left. If you have a newbie along blundering down towards the left, you may want to have a camera and/or throwbag handy.
Below here is a section with a steep dirt bank on the right that regularly deposits trees into the riverbed, so keep an eye out for wood hazards. Soon the river slowly works its way into a long class 3 boulder garden that marks the beginning of the best rapids. After this boulder garden there are 2 class III+ rapids: "Six of One" and "Half Dozen of the Other". Six of One has also been known as Alligator Drop in the past because of the large boulder on the right that supposedly looks like a giant reptile. Both of these rapids are currently a bit easier than they were in the past.
After Half Dozen of the Other, there's a nice eddy where you can stop on the right to scout Jaws (III+ to IV). You can recognize the spot as it is just upstream of where a small channel splits off to the right forming an island. Jaws is fairly straightforward at low to medium levels, but wood has been an issue in the past, which is the main reason Jaws is often scouted. Jaws itself involves a long boulder garden entry and then a steeper drop towards the end. At some levels a big hole appears near the end of the rapid (Jaws) just upstream of a big rock near the end (Demon Seed). At low and medium levels a standard line is to go right of Jaws and Demon Seed. At higher levels (10,000+) you can sneak down the far left side of the rapid. A couple hundred yards of III/III+ fun rapids with big waves follow below Jaws. At higher water (12,000+) this whole section becomes one long rapid.
The next named rapid is Whirlpool. The river splits around an island here. In the "olden days" the standard line was down the left side and you got to deal with the actual "whirlpool" as the river swirled over a pourover near the left cliff wall making some really strange hydraulics. These days 90% of the water goes down the right channel which is a straightforward ride through some big waves. This rapid is best around 8,000 cfs. At higher levels watch that you don't get pushed into the headwall at the bottom.
The next named drop is what used to be Popeye/Lucifer's Hammer. Unfortunately it was changed for the worse in the floods in 2003, and doesn't have the same features. There used to be a great wave train that drew you into a huge hole just above a midstream rock (the Hammer). It made for an entertaining spot to have lunch and watch carnage go down. These days it splits around a gravel bar into two channels. The left side is a little more straightforward, just miss a few shallow rocks and ends with a big rock pour over that can be a fun boot or a nasty keeper depending on flows, but is easy to miss. The right side has some fun holes and waves but tends to change from year to year and has sometimes has some tricky rocks to miss.
About 1/2 mile downstream from Popeye lookout for a log coming in from the right bank. It sticks out from a boulder bar with quite a few logs on it. Just above the log is a mid-stream rock that looks like a fun boof from upstream, but you really want to go left of the rock, as the log just downstream sticks out further than appears from upstream and the current pushes hard into it. There have been a few incidents here so keep your eyes open for it.
The river gets slower in the lower half. There's still a few good rapids, playspots and a few logs to watch out for. The only real item of note in this lower section is a rapid just upstream from Clear Creek. The river is real wide here and braids into three channels. Just be sure to avoid the far right channel, currently it ends in a very shallow boulder bar.