Screenshot 2024-03-02 at 7.27.07 PM.png

Trip Report    

North Fork Nooksack River

Fun rapids, some challenging, wood hazards, wintery mix and driving hale.

  • Road suitable for all vehicles
  • The river was flowing at 540cfs, just above the minimum of 500cfs.  We found this flow to be very enjoyable.  Rapids were often technical with boulders to avoid and some 1-2ft drops.  Most had a single suitable channel.  It was rare to find the river was too shallow.   Could be run at lower levels.

Since moving to Bellingham, the Nooksack has been my local river.  However, I've been disappointed by the river sections.  Not quite enough challenge in and too much wood.  The South Fork from Saxon Bridge is quite pleasant, scenic, but class II-.  I had not yet found an opportunity to paddle the middle section of the North Fork.  However, this weekend, shut out of the mountains by high avalanche hazard and with the river running at modest flow, Andrew and I took the opportunity to paddle our local run.


It was a wintery day with rain at the take-out, wintery mix on the way, and snow at the put-in.  At Douglas Fir Campground, walk down the stairs near the upper right side.  The first rapid, which runs below the bridge, has a river spanning log at the bottom.  Walk downstream to launch below the log, from the campground. 

Wood hazard is significant on the Nooksack.  Andrew and I scouted several of the class III rapids to ensure there was a clear channel.  We portage one, perhaps "the nozzle".  It looked runnable, but with limited leeway for error and wood at the bottom creating potential hazard.  We will try it on warmer day with a larger party.

Screenshot 2024-03-03 at 2.34.42 PM.png

The canyon is beautiful.  Rapids are short, with recovery pools.  Most straight forward but with a single good channel.  


The river opens.  Rapids below Glacier are challenging Class II, and plenty of them.  

Weather varied from rain to slight sun breaks.  Then came the hale.  

I found that ice crystals pelting my eyes made rapids a half grade more difficult.


I'm constantly impressed by our drysuits.  Through all these conditions, we were warm and comfortable.