This past weekend I took a nice kayak trip down the lower Skagit River. Between December and February, the middle portion of this trip is a very popular place to view bald eagles, but I was about a month late for that. The weather forecast was calling for snow showers all weekend, and on the drive to the put-in, it was a snowy, slushy mess. I was thinking this trip was off to a bad start, but as I got closer to the starting point, the weather cleared up a bit and things started looking up.
I started near the confulence of Copper Creek, about six miles or so above Marblemount. Here I am, ready to get going...
...and my trusty Swifty is ready to go as well:
The plan was to kayak about 16 miles or so to Rockport and camp overnight, then continue the next day another 16 miles or so to Rasar State Park. I had my tent and sleeping bag and a dry set of clothes all packed up in dry bags as I set out for my first ever overnight kayak trip.
Most of the whitewater on the Skagit is above where I put in, so I figured I would have a nice leisurely float ahead of me. For the most part, that was the case, but there were a few bigger riffles here and there to keep me on my toes, and even the flat sections were flowing very rapidly, so I didnt even have to paddle much and still sped down the river.
Although the snow had stopped, there was still quite a bit of snow in the area (although you cant really see it in these pictures). There was also a layer of fog up above the river, and the combination of the crystal clear river, crisp air, blanket of snow, and hanging fog made for a very peaceful and beautiful float.
Because the water was flowing so quickly, I made very quick time to my camp spot at Rockport. I beached the kayak and set up the tent, happy to find that everything I had packed had stayed nice and dry.
As I fell asleep that night, I could hear the rain and ice falling outside. I wondered what the weather would hold for the second half of the trip, and the next morning, I found out. I awoke to a covering of slushy snow and snow still coming down.
I packed all of my gear and stuffed my soaking-wet tent into a plastic bag and set off. I had never kayaked in the falling snow before, and it was actually very peaceful. I had plenty of clothes on to keep me warm, and my gear was keeping my dry, so other than the occassional snowflake in the eye, it was nice to be out paddling in those conditions.
The river was still moving very quickly, and with the falling snow and glacier-cold water (the water temperature was hovering around 40 degrees), I was cautious to make sure I stayed up right and dry. Eventually, the snow stopped, followed by a short spell of rain, and then the sun came out. During the last 8 miles or so, the river widened just a bit and the flow slowed down slightly, making me have to paddle a bit more than before. I passed through some really pretty sections though and was content to keep my slow pace as I made my way down the river.
The last mile or so, the wind came up a bit and slowed my progress a little more. My take-out spot (Rasar State Park) did not have an actual boat launch, just some sandy beaches a few hundred yards from the actual park. That would make spotting the take-out from the river a little tricky, but yesterday before I started out, I had stopped at the park and walked down to the beach to try to get an idea of what the area looked like and committed it to memory. As I floated farther down the river, I kept a watchful eye out for anything that looked familiar, but from the view from my kayak, quite a bit of the shoreline looked the same. I finally saw some sandy beaches that looked extra familiar and made the correct guess that I had reached my destination. After having to carry my kayak and gear about 200 yards up to the park, my trip was complete. Even though I was late in the season, I had seen about 5 or 6 eagles, tons of ducks and geese, and even a solitary beaver hanging out on the shore as I floated by.
Thanks a ton to Michaleen and crew for driving way out of their way to shuttle my truck for me. All in all, it was a very memorable trip and an area that I would like to explore some more.
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