Whitewater, Summer, and Salmon


This summer, Seattle Magazine released their “Water Issue”, which included information on the incredible rivers in western Washington that people often enjoy when the sun comes out.

Overall, I think the article is a good resource for most people looking to enjoy the area’s whitewater, but there is at least one clear omission on the author’s list of remarkable whitewater rivers, the North Fork of the Nooksack River.

To make things right, I’m going to take a minute to tell you about the Nooksack, and I hope our readers in the Pacific Northwest will consider an adventure to the small town of Glacier for a trip on the river or a hike along its banks.

The North Fork Nooksack begins on the snow-capped peaks of the magnificent North Cascades.

Mount Baker, North Cascades National Park, and Nooksack Falls  are some of the area’s popular attractions, but the whitewater on the North Fork is just as spectacular and should not be missed.

As soon as you arrive at the put-in, your heart beats a little faster as you see the power of the water rushing over boulders in the narrow Nooksack Canyon.

The trip starts with a bang as the rapids seem to be nonstop until you reach the end of the canyon.

Then you experience a lazy, meandering stream with bubbling rock gardens, and you can relax and enjoy the amazing views until the trip ends near Canyon Creek. The Nooksack is one of the most unique and important rivers for Puget Sound salmon, and whitewater trips are not allowed during the peak of spawning season, typically mid-August to mid-October.

This year, the unusually high flows — thanks to heavy snowfall last winter and spring — mean that whitewater trips are running through August, so you have a couple of weeks left to schedule a trip! For those wanting to enjoy the river from the shore, there are some easily accessible trails, including Horseshoe Bend near the Douglas Fir Campground.

You can also watch slalom kayakers navigate a course at the Nooksack River Slalom races in October [PDF].

For more information on the North Fork of the Nooksack, check out the following resources:

If, like me, you love the Nooksack and want to see it protected as a Wild and Scenic River, check out our Nooksack River page and let us know if you want to get involved!