Downey Creek

Class IV, ~200-300fpm, ~150cfs (4500cfs Sauk at Sauk)

May 4, 2002

Ben, Troy, Josh, Jason, Kurt Hummel

Author: Kurt Hummel

Ben running one of the few worthwhile rapids on the upper section.

Photographer: Josh


There are only two obstacles to making the Downey Creek run.

  1. You must hike the entire run (no road access).
  2. Logs, trees, blowdown, blowdown and more blowdown!!!

The take-out is found where Downey Creek passes under the Suiattle River Road and enters the Suiattle River. There you will find the Downey Creek trailhead. Good parking and camping on the right.


Ben, Kurt, Troy and Jason at the take-out.

Photographer: Josh


The trail follows the east side of Downey Creek and although the creek is never visible a reassuring roar can be hear far below. This trail waste's no time gaining altitude as hoisted kayaks gain weight with every step. To add to the frustration, the blowdown was abundant causing creative methods to thread our boats through the brushy entanglements.


Believe it or not, this is the trail.

Photographer: Josh


At about 2 miles and 800-1000 feet of elevation gain, we bushwacked down the canyon to access the creek. The entire canyon is steep and there was no easy way down. Only the occasional devil's club provided hand holds. Should you lose a grip on your boat, it will quickly cover the some 300-400 foot elevation drop to the creek. "Pause at creekside to remove devil's club thorns from vital body parts."


Ben finishes off the first Class IV.

Photographer: Josh


This is a scenic creek with large boulders, verdant green canyon walls and old growth timber encompassing the feel of ancient forests. Unfortunately, a good deal of old growth has fallen across the creek causing frequent portages in the first half of the run. Which side to take out and portage depends on the particular logjam and I found little time to make the call before eating wood. Most of the blowdown appears to have occurred this season so maybe a flood will clean this out in the coming months.


Two of many logjams that we had to portage.


This is a fast moving creek through boulder gardens with many log hazards although the size of the creek should allow you to get to shore when required. Entering the creek at approximately 1 mile up the trail will avoid the bulk of the blowdown. Still, nearly every rapid that was ran clean last year had a logjam at its base.

Jason gets a special mention for paddling under a log with just enough limbo clearance to pick his nose clean (look Ma, no hands). Ben gets credit for breaking his paddle at the beginning of the run. Not only did he finish the run, he was back on the Suiattle the following day for a repeat performance of "Up a creek with 1/2 a paddle."


Ben running the rapid at the standard (1-mile) put-in with 1/2 a paddle.

Photographer: Josh


Ben building confidence.

Photographer: Josh


Kurt finally getting what was promised -- a rapid with no wood.

Photographer: Josh


Snow in May? Packing up after day two on the Upper Suiattle.