Northwest Washington is a land of water. Ocean to mountains, the sound of water echoes all around; and everywhere, the lifeblood of this rain-soaked land, run the rivers.
Washington has over 70,000 miles of river, 197 miles of which are designated as Wild and Scenic. But what does that mean? What makes these particular stretches of river, less than 0.3% of the state’s total river miles, so special? And why should you raft these particular rivers?
At Triad River Tours we raft three rivers protected by the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act: The Middle Fork of the Snoqualmie (classified as both Wild and Scenic), the Skagit River (classified as Scenic and Recreational), and the Sauk River (classified as Scenic). This represents all three of the possible designations for rivers protected by the WSR Act. A river classified as “wild” is “free from impoundments…essentially primitive and unpolluted”. A "scenic" river is very similar, but with easier road access. A river classified as “recreational” is readily accessible but valuable for both its beauty and its enjoyable rafting. So what does that mean? It means that these stretches of river, less than half a percent of our state’s total river miles, are the most beautiful, fascinating, and fun to raft river miles out of 70,000.
Rafting a Wild and Scenic River is a glimpse into our country’s wild past, when the west was a wilderness and every river ran free and untamed. Pristine glacial- and snow-melt run beneath your raft as on the banks moss-hung firs crowd close over the boulders, the green depths of the mountain forest as beautiful and mysterious as when George Vancouver sailed up the west coast. For those who want their wildness near an easy-to-reach road, the Skagit and State Highway 20 run together down the river canyon, though the road is invisible from your seat in a raft for most of the descent. If you’re looking for an experience that is a bit more remote—but still easily accessed from Seattle—the Snoqualmie and the Sauk combine great whitewater and wild views into a rafting trip you will never forget.
Rafting a Wild and Scenic river is a chance to experience for yourself some of the wildest, most beautiful places in Washington in the best way possible; on the rivers themselves. Whether you are looking for a peaceful float trip, class 3-4 rapids, or just a great introduction to the world of whitewater rafting in the beauty of a mountain wilderness, these stretches of river will deliver a wild and scenic experience you will never forget.
Photos by Allie Kohr