Wednesday, June 1, 2011

canoeing the Skagit from Copper Creek to Rockport

Ski touring slushy spring snow under overcast skies and intermittent rain showers sucks.  Normally, I look forward to ski touring on spring snow.  But this spring was been wetter and cooler than average.  It seems every weekend day that is open for skiing the weather forecast is for rain showers with snowlines above 5000 feet elevation.  So, we've been doing more canoe trips.  Most of the canoe trips I want to do in northwest Washington are Vern Huser's write-ups in "Paddling Washington".  Lowland and foothill canoe trips are good for a weather pattern with dry weather down low and clouds and rain in the mountains.

Skagit River near Sutter Creek, Washington
The weather forecast last Memorial Day weekend was for clouds and rain on Saturday with mostly sunny on Sunday and Monday.  So, I chose to canoe the Skagit River from near Copper Creek to Howard Miller Park in Rockport.  The guidebook says it's 16 river miles and 3-4 hours long.

Sunday was sunny in the lowlands near the coast but mostly cloudy in the foothills and North Cascades.  Dark, gray cloudy skies stuck around all day east of Sedro-Woolley.  Huser's description of the put-in on the Ross Lake National Recreation Area needs some improvement.  To reach the put-in you drive 0.7 miles east of Bacon Creek bridge, turn right/south on a dirt road signed "NPS Road 213" and drive for 0.2 miles to the end. 

The paddle to Marblemount only took about an hour and is the easiest stretch of the trip.  I remember 3 areas of frothy water with waves that got a little dicey.  All are downstream from Marblemount.  There were a few areas with sweepers but all were easily avoided.  1 or 2 sharp bends in the river had eddies that complicated avoiding fast water on the outer bank.  Currents come at the canoe from unexpected directions.

There was only 1 other boat on the water with us, a small motorboat.  A GPS unit would've been nice to have so I could've known how fast were were going. We were going faster than it feels in the boat because flowing water changes your perception of speed.  We saw mergansers and a bald eagle.

The paddling portion of the trip took 2 hours and 45 minutes not including lunchtime.  The bike ride back to pick up the car was 15.4 miles and took me 1 hour and 15 minutes.  The road shoulder on SR 20 is narrow in spots in between Rockport and Marblemount.  There's a wide road shoulder on SR 20 east of Marblemount. 

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