Forum Index > Trip Reports > Ross Lake, Hwy 20 to the Border via canoe and back, 5/22-25
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JVesquire
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JVesquire
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PostTue May 26, 2009 5:16 pm 
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After seawallrunner's advice, we decided to try Ross Lake via canoe. My canoeing experience is mostly limited to the BWCAW in Minnesota, which involves portages and few mountain views. So, it was an interesting difference to have a North Cascades canoe experience--lots of mountain views and no portaging your canoe! We had three amazing days of weather (and a short Monday morning) to enjoy the lake, basically to ourselves since there were so few people out. And, we only had to endure a motor boat twice on the first day, as the Ross Lake Resort folks took someone northbound.

We put together our itinerary at the park service station. We opted for 10 mile camp the first night (paradoxically, 10 miles from the dam), silver creek the second night (10 more miles), and spencer's camp the third night (15 miles from silver creek, five miles back to RLR),  to make for a short return trip on Monday. All in all, about 42 miles of canoeing with our optional trip up to Canada.

We rented a plastic canoe from the Ross Lake Resort. Very nice people: they gave us a reduced, early season rate and didn't charge us for the last day because we had the boat back early. To get to the resort, we figured we'd save the $2 and walk over the dam, which is a bit longer of a hike, but gives you the vertigo-inducing experience of walking over a very tall dam (the only exposure you get on this canoe trip, I guess).

The water is very low, so we had to inch our way down the bank to the resort. During the early season, the shorebanks are precarious, with lots of loose rocks to scramble on. But we did manage to pick up three good trail finds due to the low water: one pair of sunglasses, a pair of ancient glacier glasses, and a fly tackle kit.

We stayed at 10 mile the first night, which is a good sight, in hearing distance of a waterfall across the lake. We also explored the devil's creek area a bit that day.

me sterning down devil's creek

view from 10 mile camp

low water line and boat dock at some camp

We departed 10 mile, visited the waterfall across the lake and headed up stream to Silver Creek camp, just shy of Canada. The RLR folks warned us that the water was so low, we might not make it. We had to pack in about 200 yards to get to the site, but it wasn't quite as bad as they noted. We couldn't paddle to Canada, however, as the lake ended well short of the border. The river channels were evident, as the lake was so low that the water was swiftly flowing out of the north. We decided to head over to the further spot we could land and hiked in about 2 miles to the international border for lunch, took some pics, and hiked back out, and paddled into Silver Creek to set up camp. Total stats for the day were about 11 or so miles of paddling and 4 miles hiking (a guess on the hiking). Silver Creek isn't the nicest site, but has some decent views.


Hozomeen from Canada

View from Canada south, south west

Stump graveyard (usually a lake)

Jack Mountain from Silver Creek camp

6 a.m. on Silver Creek site

Mountain views outside of Silver Creek

Time to relax on a nice weekend on Ross Lake

The paddle back on Sunday to Spencer's was nice, with a remarkable third day of absolutely perfect canoeing weather, sun, no wind, and a perfectly flat lake.  Spencer's is a great camp, with great views all around. This time of year, none of the islands were actually islands, so there was some unsightly shoreline between us and the east bank.

We got up the next day and paddled back to RLR and headed out. All in all, Ross Lake is a great canoe experience, particularly this time of year when it feels like an actual wilderness area. We saw so few people on the lake (particularly the north end) that we basically had it to ourselves.  It's a little less beautiful than it otherwise might be if the water levels were higher, but still a great trip.
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gone
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PostTue May 26, 2009 5:38 pm 
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Lots of great Ross Lake action being posted here now, thanks for sharing the pics and info!  up.gif
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seawallrunner
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Joined: 27 Apr 2005
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seawallrunner
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PostTue May 26, 2009 6:05 pm 
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what a beautiful report with great pictures !!

Looks like many nwhikers were out by Ross this past weekend! If you had stopped at the Winnebago Flats campground (first US site right past the International border) you would have met me and my merry pranksters.

I'll add my own YARLR later today (yet another ross lake report)
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Scrooge
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Joined: 16 Dec 2001
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Scrooge
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PostTue May 26, 2009 8:06 pm 
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Why is the water level so low? Are the Ross Dam operators holding it low, anticipating later runoff, or what? In contrast, the water down in Lake Keechelus, just east of Snoqualmie Pass, is the highest I've ever seen it.
The stump fields that usually decorate the western end of the lake are completely covered. The water is up in the grass above the highest normal levels.

What's the difference?

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Something lost behind the ranges. Lost and waiting for you....... Go and find it. Go!
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Malachai Constant
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Malachai Constant
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PostTue May 26, 2009 8:39 pm 
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Ross is used exclusively for power. It is drawn down in the winter when demnd is high for power and percipitation falls as snow. It fills up in the sumer as the snow melts.

Lake Keechelus is used for irrigation it fills with water and snow over the winter and spring. It is drawn down in the summer when demand for irrigation water is high.

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"You do not laugh when you look at the mountains, or when you look at the sea." Lafcadio Hearn
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Quark
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Quark
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PostTue May 26, 2009 9:23 pm 
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What a great way to kill some time!

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Stefan
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Stefan
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PostWed May 27, 2009 8:08 am 
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I guess I am confused, how much water is there from the Hozomeen campground to the other side?

How deep is the river channel?

The reason I ask is becuase I would like to go directly west from the Hozomeen Campground to the other side this weekend to climb something directly west of Hozomeen Campground.  And I would like to know what type of flotation device I should bring to get across to the other side.  Walking would be the best option...but I have others.  Thanks for your help!

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JVesquire
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JVesquire
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PostWed May 27, 2009 9:17 am 
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Stefan,

Depends on where you are going I guess. I didn't get a look at the river channels on the far west side, but some of the ones I saw you could find a way around. Others, you would be quite wet, and they moved pretty swiftly. Also, the lake was rising about a foot a day, so much may change by then. Your best bet would be calling the park service.
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seawallrunner
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seawallrunner
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PostWed May 27, 2009 9:38 am 
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Water levels are about four weeks ahead of schedule. Check the USGS page for Ross Lk water levels.

Re west side climbing- ask the rangers on site at Hozomeen station for best approach. They know. My suggestion is to bypass the whole Ross swamp by crossing by foot the bridge at Chittenden Meadows right before the Canadian camp at Ross Lake.  You cross the major flow of the Skagit by crossing that suspension bridge.
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Stefan
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PostWed May 27, 2009 12:12 pm 
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thanks for the info!

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iron
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iron
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PostWed May 27, 2009 12:20 pm 
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cool! i was curious what things looked like had we gone all the way to the border. http://www.nwhikers.net/forums/viewtopic.php?t=7975239

i personally thought the low lake level added a lot to the trip. the side canyons were deeper and more dramatic; the bridges were high above as well; and in a lot of places, it felt more like a sandals-like beach resort with the open sandy/rocky slopes leading to the water. but, to each their own. props to the resort. what an amazing service they offer!

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Forum Index > Trip Reports > Ross Lake, Hwy 20 to the Border via canoe and back, 5/22-25
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