JoesKayak's Submission - Entered on 3/15/2017 9:15:00 AM
Gauge Information (Last updated with USGS at 1/31/2017 9:18:18 AM)
Pilchuck Cr. @ Bridge 626
3rd Party Gauge
Minimum Recomended Level: 700 cfs Maximum Recomended Level: 3000 cfs
About 4 miles north of Arlington Hwy 9 crosses the creek, the take-out for the middle run. Most folks running this upper run also run the middle section of the creek since the road to the take out for the upper run is gated 1/2 mile from the creek.
From the Hwy 9 bridge, head north 1/4 mile and turn right on Finn Settlement road. In 4.5 miles there's a turnoff to the right that's gated 100 yards down. This is the access road to the bridge for the old takeout for this run. If you have "issues" on the upper run you can walk out here. Continue past the turnoff another mile until you reach a stop sign on Lake Cavanaugh Road. Turn right. Continue about 4 miles until you reach a spot where the creek is right by the road. This is the put-in. Alternatively you can continue another mile to add a mile of 2+ warm-up to the run.
After the class IV action tapers offf on the Upper, the first bridge you come to is marked in the Bennett book as the take out for the Upper, or put-in for the Middle. Pilchuck Creek Camp Ground. Access is gated, so most continue down through the Middle to the HWY 9 Bridge. The Hwy 9 bridge has the rock just upstream to use as a visual guage, as well as a stick gauge on R.Right that you'll float by just before the bridge.
There are a number of references used to gauge the levels on this run.
1ST: DOE GAUGE: There's a Dept. of Ecology gauge online (listed as the gauge for this run) that is great, except it has a habit of having a data outage right before you want to run the creek.
On this gauge about 800 is getting towards the low end, 1000+ cfs is better, and 2000-3000 cfs provides high water excitement.
2nd- STICK GAUGE: There is a stick gauge just upstream from the Hwy 9 bridge. It's on private property, so it's mostly there for you to check as you float by at the end of you run.
3rd - THE ROCK GAUGE: The gauge everyone checks when they reach the take-out is the rock just upstream from the Hwy 9 bridge. If the rock is high and dry, go somewhere else. If the water is pooling around the rock, but not coming up on top of it, it's probably too low for the upper run, but the middle run may be do-able. Once the water starts coming over most of the rock there's enough water in the upper section to run. If you can't see the rock, the creek is high, use caution. (See photo below for more info)
4th- ALT GAUGE: When the Pilchuck online gauge is out you can get a rough idea from the NF Stilly gauge. If it's reading 6000-11000, the Pilchuck might be in. http://waterdata.usgs.gov/wa/nwis/uv/?site_no=12167000
Notes on flow from paddlers:
JP’s stick guage notes (you know I like my Pilchuck fat n juicy!):
4.5' = 1500cfs? Rock pouring over thinnly. Rock may be visible beneath sheet of current. Solid medium flow.
4.85' = 2000 cfs? Rock is a small, fat pourover, almost sunken in the surrounding current. Probably murky water. The Upper will be very nonstop, more class IV+. Eddies are getting scarce. Smaller group sizes recommended.
5.2' = 2500 cfs or more. Rock is a fat sunken pourover. The current almost pilesup around it. Very high and rowdy. Still boat scoutable. Class IV+ on steroids if you avoid trouble. Opportunities to upgrade your run into class V carnage. Watch out for The Pil Pusher and Pilchuck Falls. Eddies very scarce. Mind the wood.
If the rock is making a small crashing wave/hole, you are probably dealing with 2700 cfs or more. Treat this like a class V run at this point.
12/01/12 4.5 @ stick gauge 2300cfs @ internet gauge - great level
This is a little gem of a run-- really fun, continuous class III and IV with some more difficult class IV drops thrown in. Really, more class IV boaters should check this run out with water in it- Great when the banks are full or nearly full. One other fun detail: there is a tiny bit of what could be called "organic graffiti" somewhere along the Upper/middle run. If you find it and notify me, and describe it and its location, I will buy you a six pack of your choice --jP. (But those who were with me on our 11/19/2013 trip don't qualify because I pointed it out to them)
Run Description [Season: Winter Rainy season]
This creek has a lot of nice whitewater on it. The section from Lake Cavanaugh Rd. to Pilchuck creek Campsite is considered "The Upper". Due to it's continuous nature, it should be considered a moderately difficult class IV with some class IV+ (depending on water level) drops interspersed throughout. Many of the rapids taken individually however, rarely require more than class III manueuvering skills to execute, so long as a class IV boater is executing them. But that would be true at lower flows than when it is booming. It's a good intro to creek boating, yet at higher water levels you will have to scramble and boogie your ass off to avoid various pourovers, holes and wood. But there is plenty of space throughout the riverbed to dodge stuff if your read and run skills are sharp.
The makeup of the riverbed contains a variety of large boulders scattered about a wide river bed with sweeping turns. The majority of it is all easily boat scouted, read and run. Pil Pusher is a very distinct river wide broken ledge somewhere near the end of the Upper, just before the action starts to taper off some. Its recognizable by two medium large boulders on R. Right, then a huge house sized boulder on R. Right where the actual ledge is. If you spot an eddy on the right early enough you can get out, hike down the old road grade, and scout or even portage. It goes though.
Once you get to the bridge you wanna keep an eye out for the powerlines that span the river right over Pilchuck Falls. Creep up on the falls along the river right bank where eddies abound. Avoid the left half of the river, especially at higher flows. See the Middle description for more about Pilchuck Falls.
--submitted by Kurle 4/12/2011--