Snoqualmie River: Closest Whitewater to Seattle
For the past few years we’ve heard stories about this “classic” Western Washington whitewater run that’s only 30 minutes from Seattle. At the behest of Blake, one of our lead guides, we took an official scouting run on it this year and worked up the preliminary safety protocol. We had plenty of beta (information gathered from other river runners) and video, as well as several trial runs by lead guides at Triad. The only thing missing were actual customers and a system to run it.
About the Snoqualmie ("the Sno") River
The Snoqualmie is similar to our Sauk River run in terms of whitewater. Large-ish boulders, cold, clean, glacially fed water, somewhat technical maneuvering required amongst mainly class 2 and 3 whitewater drops… and one rapid more difficult and dangerous than the rest. It is a mimic of the Sauk in a lot of ways, but what sets it apart is it’s proximity to Seattle.
The Snoqualmie sits near North Bend Washington, near the Snoqualmie River Casino, just past Issaquah on Interstate 90. Anyone that drives Snoqualmie Pass, skis or snowboards at Snoqualmie Pass, or drives to the Eastern side of the state via that route, has driven literally right past it. The river run actually ends less than a mile from Interstate 90. This is an excuisitely unique feature compared to our other rivers, and is a sight to behold. One minute, literally, we were in Seattle, downtown, getting a tea, and then a few minutes later we’re taking the I90 exit after a brief stint on South I5, and then after a fairly traffic free 30 minute ride, we’re looking at the transluscent green water of the Snoqualmie. This river offers something that other rivers don’t; proximity to the city.
Seasonality and Conditions
The Snoqualmie has an earlier season than some of our other rivers, with a typical April-June runnable chunk of time. This corresponds nicely to the Skykomish, which opens for us usually in June or July (the Skykomish is a larger river with a later runnable season). So we will be running trips on the Snoqualmie from April-June, prior to our trips on the Skykomish.
There are a few things to consider when choosing this trip instead of others. The first is that it’s a 7 mile trip (our normal length of a river section, and what we consider to be a prime 3-4 hour trip in total with a 2 hour river run), with launch times in morning, mid day, and late afternoon. Secondly, because it’s primarily class 3 whitewater it may be suitable for beginners who are in good physical condition, or kids that are adventurous and willing, as long as the river isn’t too high at the time.
Because of it’s early season and natural origin being snow melt in the mountains, the river is going to be cold any time you are going to run it; this is a mandatory wetsuit run. If you don’t have your own wetsuit we always have them for rent, but remember that the river is going to be cold, and make sure to prepare yourself with a wetsuit. Also note that the run has some good whitewater, but it’s not the adrenaline rush of running Boulder Drop in the Skykomish. Look at this run as an opportunity to get on the river simply, without too much hassle, as a way to bring your friends or less experienced people with you before you run the Skykomish later in the season, or use it as a run to get your proverbial feet wet at the start of your whitewater season. While the Snoqualmie has legitimate whitewater, it’s still a mountain stream style of trip, without the jaw dropping, fear inspiring whitewater we see on the Skykomish. Choose your adventure wisely.