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Trip Report: Kayaking the Skagit River between Marblemount and Rockport

Summary:

  • Date: Sunday, January 14, 2018
  • Class rating: I to low-II (high water level probably made our trip easier than usual)
  • Run length: 10.5 miles
  • Run duration: 1:55 (averaged 6.5 knots, mostly drifting)
  • Water level: appx. 9700 cfs (recommended range is 1,500 to 12,000 cfs)
  • Shuttle length: 9.1 miles
  • Launch point: Marblemount Boat Launch at the southeast side of the Marblemount bridge over the Skagit
  • Takeout point: Howard Miller Steelhead Park at Rockport
  • Boats: sea kayaks (1 thermoformed plastic Eddyline and 1 rotomolded plastic). Most others were in rafts, but at least one person there doing the segment solo in a canoe.
  • Cell signal: Verizon LTE coverage at Rockport but signal lost between there and Marblemount. Poor to no AT&T cell signal at either.

Report:

This past weekend a friend and I kayaked the segment of the Skagit River between Marblemount and Rockport, WA. The weather was beautiful: mostly sunny, and pretty warm for January. My friend dropped me and the kayaks off at the launch point, then took the car off to the takeout and biked back while I relaxed at the launch point.

We didn’t launch until after 1pm, primarily due to bike problems during the shuttle. This late launch, in conjunction with mostly-sunny skies, meant that we frequently had the sun in our eyes; even with sunglasses it was a challenge at times.

The rapids weren’t much of a problem, I only noticed one big rock poking out of the water by itself, and the logs were all easily spotted and avoided, but the high river speed means you do need to keep an eye out ahead and give yourself some time to move away from any hazards. Routes were generally easy to decide on; there was one spot where there was some ambiguity, but visibility was much better to one side, so we went that way. The route was fine for taking sea kayaks. I personally wouldn’t take a complete novice kayaking down this, but I would expect anyone with a moderate bit of experience to manage fine, at least when the water level is high like this, as long as you pay attention.

This is a relatively popular run, especially around this time of the year as many are here for eagle season. You might be able to hitch a ride from someone else from the takeout to the launch, but I wouldn’t be comfortable relying on it. (Admittedly I’m not comfortable hitch-hiking anyway.) There are commercial outfitters who take rafts down this segment, and I’ve wondered if any of them would be amenable to carrying a few extra people from the takeout to the launch for a reasonable fee, if you managed to time your trip well.

Notes:

  • During eagle season, it is requested that you voluntarily not launch before 11am. (I had read that you’re supposed to launch between 10am and noon, but subsequently read the 11am constraint.)
  • The takeout is pretty close on river right after you go under the bridge at Rockport. With the rapid water speed, you will want to be near the right side of the river so you don’t miss the takeout and end up trying to paddle against the strong current to get back to it. There are strong eddies passing under the bridge, so that’s an area to be careful if you don’t have much experience.
  • Parking fees at Rockport are $5. Launch/takeout fees are also $5. Lots of parking, but can be busy, at least on event days during the eagle season. Good restroom facilities.
  • No fees at Marblemount Boat Launch. Lots of parking. Porta-potty available. (No toilet paper or hand sanitizer when we arrived; I don’t know how well stocked it usually is. Fortunately we had a roll of toilet paper which we donated to the cause.) There’s also a fairly short trail from the parking area with some views of both the Skagit and Cascade Rivers.
  • We dressed pretty warm and wore dry suits. Saw some rafters in dry suits as well, but the guided floats I’ve done in in years past did not bother with dry suits for the clients; just advised us to dress warm and not wear cotton since it doesn’t keep you warm if it gets wet.

 Resources:

  • Book: paddle #7 (Skagit River III — Copper Creek to Rockport) in Paddling Washington, by Rich Landers, Dan Hansen, Verne H?user, and Douglass North. This paddle description includes an additional upper portion which we did not do, partly because of the additional shuttle distance, and partly because the upper section sounds like it’s got a bit of rougher water and I was concerned that it might not be appropriate for sea kayaks.
  • Professor Paddle: Skagit — 3. Marblemount to Rockport
  • Everyone’s Travel Club trip report in inflatable kayaks

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