--TRIP REPORT: Thunder Creek, WA. August 2022--
--Level: 900-1,000 CFS--
The Pacific Northwest has had its best spring and summer season, perhaps in the last 6 years. Friends were often torn between boating, skiing, mountain biking, and snowmobiling even into early May. A few extremely late-season snow storms brought a few extra feet of POW, replenishing the area that has had years of early dry spells followed by extreme heat and wildfires. Thankfully, that was not the case for this season.
A good friend of mine put together a bachelor party weekend in celebration of his soon-to-be wedding. In his true form, he was seeking out a suffer fest. Fortunately for my “off the couch” self, a few missions did not line up logistically for a multitude of reasons. However, a good compromise fell into our laps in one of the PNW’s best playgrounds, North Cascades National Park.
(Over looking the Cascade River, Marblemount WA. | Casey Beall, Miguel Shields, Ian Van-Wingert, Taylor Cofer, Evan Smith, Paul Gillingham, Sam Swanson, Niko Peha | PC: Grant Braun)
So with a crew of 9, we met at the local park-n-ride in White Salmon, WA, and headed out on the 6-hour drive north. We planned to head to the Cascade River, in Marblemount, WA, as it was still producing a fun class IV flow for us to get warmed up on. The Cascade River is beautiful and most of the rapids to note are right at the beginning of the run. At 900 - 1,000 cfs the river was a perfect mix of a boulder garden style creek with some fun dynamic curlers and ledges.
(Casey Beall boofing the bottom ledge on the Cascade River. | PC: Niko Peha)
The crew snuck in 2 laps here after stuffing our faces with some much needed food. Access and shuttle are easy to navigate as there is only one road from take-out to put-in via Marble Creek Campground.
We had 2.5 more days on our celebratory weekend tour and I was looking forward to our next run the most, Thunder Creek. After we loaded the van back up, we headed toward the middle of the North Cascades National Park.
Our plan was to spend 2 nights on Thunder Creek, a rather short run that requires a 4-5 mile hike in. Most crews seem to spend one day and hike a light boat up to the top of the run, but we wanted at least 2 laps and to enjoy some time getting magical in the woods. If you go this route of multiple days, make sure you stop at the ranger station and secure a camp. The park was busy with day hikers, campers, and even horses.
(Packing boats to hike up to our camp along Thunder Creek trail. | PC: Grant Braun)
We packed far too much gear for our celebrations as we were sandbagged into a 1 mile hike that ended up being 2. It was worth it, but Ian, Paul, and Casey’s backs might disagree as they packed in all the beers. The lower camp became home base for the 2 nights as we unloaded everything here and got settled in. From here we would hike with light boats the last 2.5 miles up to our put-in.
(First bridge crossing over Thunder Creek. | PC: Miguel Shields)
From the parking lot, you would be hiking across 3 bridges. After the 3rd bridge, cut into the woods towards Thunder Creek and work your way slightly upstream till you reach the water. There should be a break in rapids below a rather stout looking drop and a semi blind bend in the river. This is the put-in and the goods get going the moment you put on.
(Taylor Cofer running the big one, Trial Falls, on Thunder Creek. | PC: Niko Peha)
We figured that we were likely the first crew to be getting on the run this season as it just dropped into a reasonable flow. We all felt that this run could certainly go higher, but at our flow of 900 - 1,000 cfs it was a real treat for being the first crew down with what we felt to be an ideal medium for the drainage.
Thunder Creek’s main drops are all absolute highlights. There are still a few spots where someone knowing the run would be great to have on the crew as you “wheelchair” over a couple ledges to avoid wood. Fortunately, we did have people in our group who were familiar with the run and that made for a smooth operation as a group of 9.
(Paul Gillingham running Chopsticks, an uber clean cross-current boof. | PC: Grant Braun)
(Niko Peha running/plugging a ledge before Dim Sum. | PC: Grant Braun)
**This rapid is blind from river right, the eddy you naturally catch, with the horizon and lead-in having wood at the top and below in the main flow. We were able to ferry to river left under a large old growth and grab boats to hold in a small eddy. From here, we plopped over the ledge on river left. Take your time here as different levels will make moves here, either better or worse.
(Niko Peha and Sam Swanson blue angel Dim Sum rapid. | PC: Grant Braun)
(Evan Smith styling the second half of Mandarin Palace, a back to back double ledge boof. | PC: Niko Peha)
The next morning a majority of the group rallied up for a second lap. They burned up the trail and down the run in about 2 ½ hours. Their consensus from a fast lap was that this creek had some real flow to it as they linked together all the rapids. Stoke was high for the paddle/portage out and Thunder Creek became a must do summer run.
**Congratulations Evan and Ali! Looking forward to the wedding jam!**
(Ian's cowboy camp set up. | PC: GB)
(Paul cheffing up breaky for the team. | PC: GB)
(Miguel with some morning target practice. | PC: GB)
(Sam's new surf boat as he extends his tour up north to the Skookumchuck Narrows. | PC: GB)
(Ian and Casey enjoying a beverage at a side jawn on the Cascade River. | PC: NP)
(Savory camp grits for breakfast. | PC: NP)