Forum Index > Trip Reports > New Sultan River Canyon Trail 6/10/2010
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Sultan Guy
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Sultan Guy
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PostThu Jun 10, 2010 9:04 pm 
As some of you who hike in the Spada basin have heard there will be a new hiking trail built to access the Sultan River gorge below Culmback Dam. This trail is being paid for by the PUD as part of the settlement agreement reached under terms of their new FERC license. This is for recreational mitigation and enhancement to tie into future planned recreational whitewater releases on this section of river. The trail traverses USFS lands so the USFS is involved in selecting the route and planning although ultimately the PUD is responsible for contracting out the construction. The concept for this trail is multi purpose for both kayakers and hikers to experience a rare example of well preserved low elevation old growth forest on the west side of the Cascades. The planned route was recently flagged by a USFS trail specialist and I was invited along with other USFS staff, and PUD staff to review and comment on the proposed route. A month ago June 10th sounded like a nice summer day, however in typical Sultan Basin fashion it was cold and WET smile.gif We had a cool experience just before Olney Pass while driving when someone spotted a mountain goat on a rocky bluff off of Blue Mountain.
Mtn. Goat on Blue Mountain
Mtn. Goat on Blue Mountain
It was all by itself and according to the USFS wildlife biologist who had high powered binocs looked to be pregnant. We had many discussions where the main herd was and if this goat had wandered either from Mt. Stickney or perhaps Bald Mountain. No one wanted to go up there and ask the goat. smile.gif The new trail will also have a new TH and parking lot near where USFS 6122 leaves from the Culmback Dam Road. Proposed route is about 1.25 miles of new trail and .5 miles of road converted to a trail.
Pre hike meeting with USFS and SNOPUD staff
Pre hike meeting with USFS and SNOPUD staff
A big issue is the damn culvert problems. WA State Forest practice rules demand culverts be upgraded in size on any new project and some of the old existing ones are not. Replacing some of these can be serious $$. Like over 30k each. confused.gif
Discussing culverts
Discussing culverts
Start of trail
Start of trail
USFS Sultan River Trail
USFS Sultan River Trail
The non steep section
The non steep section
Try and visualize a nice trail
Try and visualize a nice trail
Another issue is the endangered Marbled Murrelet. These are sea birds that nest in river valleys far from the ocean and prefer low elevation old growth forest. We had a USFS wildlife specialist with us to review potential nesting sites and reroute the proposed trail or make sure certain trees were left standing. The USFS seems to have a specialist for everything!
USFS discussing Marbled Murrelet nesting habitat
USFS discussing Marbled Murrelet nesting habitat
One of the things I love the most about the Sultan River gorge is the old growth trees. I have been here via several different routes plus kayaked the river and I always find more fine examples, like this beauty.
SG with a HUGE old growth tree
SG with a HUGE old growth tree
The proposed route will take hikers near an impressive waterfall as spectacular as Bridal Veil Falls.
200 foot waterfall
200 foot waterfall
018
018
The PUD folks along with our USFS plant gal turned back when things got a bit rougher.
One of several tough creek crossings
One of several tough creek crossings
The valley floor is a combination of some neat open woods and DENSE thickets near the river.
028
028
Thrashing thru the brush, good thing they have hard hats
Thrashing thru the brush, good thing they have hard hats
Lowland forest
Lowland forest
Marking trees
Marking trees
Sultan River
Sultan River
It was a wet slippery project getting back up that gorge but the proposed route looks great. The grade will be 10% or so and will have lots of switchbacks, big trees, and a waterfall to visit. This will be a great addition for short hikes in the Sky valley especially in winter when most hikes are snowed in. The timeline is a bit grim. Expect 2-3 years before everything is built. Surveys, permits, signoff, contracts, etc. all have to be completed and the process can seem painfully slow.

Any worthwhile expedition can be planned on the back of an envelope- H. W. Tilman
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Scrooge
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Scrooge
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PostFri Jun 11, 2010 8:56 am 
First class report, Andy. up.gif up.gif Thanks.
Dang! Mountain goats on Blue Mountain. Sounds like the wildlife people were as surprised as you were.
Why do I think this is NOT the route you used to carry your kayaks to the river? .......... Seems to me, an extension of 6122 used to go all the way to the river (and across it). Why not use that route?
I must say, this is not much like the Sultan River Gorge I've imagined, from looking at it either up below Culmback Dam, or down by the diversion dam. I've had visions of something like the Skagit above Newhalem, and this is certainly not that. frown.gif

Something lost behind the ranges. Lost and waiting for you....... Go and find it. Go!
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Sultan Guy
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PostFri Jun 11, 2010 10:06 am 
Good questions Scrooge. There was two issues with continuing to use the old 6122 route. Length and miners. This new trail will be shorter then what has been traditionally used and will also avoid a troublesome miner who has really been raising stink with USFS and other public hikers/kayakers. That old 1872 mining law is the real deal! Unfortunately for hikers wishing to see cool rapids, this new proposed trail reaches the Sultan River at a low river gradient section in between two canyons of rapids. Here are some other pictures of what it looks like just upstream, like only a quarter mile.
Top of canyon exit rapid
Top of canyon exit rapid
Looking upstream to large double ledge drop
Looking upstream to large double ledge drop
Above canyon exit rapid
Above canyon exit rapid
And further downstream.
Sultan River canyon
Sultan River canyon
Perhaps in the future we can develop a short river side trail to better access some more of this impressive canyon.

Any worthwhile expedition can be planned on the back of an envelope- H. W. Tilman
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Hulksmash
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PostFri Jun 11, 2010 10:26 am 
With big ass trees and water falls shown, i can see potential for this to become a popular trail. Almost looks like it might be an alternate to the Boulder River trail. Perhaps we could get the DNR to take some notes on trail building from the Forest Service..and the PUD. clown.gif Like NOT building a tail on top of a beaver dam. rolleyes.gif Thanks for the update Andy. up.gif up.gif

"Bears couldn't care less about us....we smell bad and don't taste too good. Bugs on the other hand see us as vending machines." - WetDog Albuterol! it's the 11th essential
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Quark
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PostFri Jun 11, 2010 10:33 am 
That's a big-ass Doug Fir! up.gif Cool to see yet another new trail going in - cooler to see these photos - definetely something to keep for future history buffs. There have been a few new trails built and/or finished in the last couple of years.

"...Other than that, the post was more or less accurate." Bernardo, NW Hikers' Bureau Chief of Reporting
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Slugman
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PostFri Jun 11, 2010 10:33 am 
Awesome information, thanks. It will be a nice little addition to our trail system at a time when it seems we lose trails but never gain any. So thanks for swimming against the tide. up.gif

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Backpacker Joe
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PostFri Jun 11, 2010 10:35 am 
Id like to see this on a map.

"If destruction be our lot we must ourselves be its author and finisher. As a nation of freemen we must live through all time or die by suicide." ó Abraham Lincoln
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GeoHiker
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PostFri Jun 11, 2010 3:52 pm 
Thanks SG for the wonderful report and pics. That's going to be a fine addition to our lowland hiking. up.gif

You call some place paradise, kiss it goodbye......Eagles
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Scrooge
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PostFri Jun 11, 2010 4:08 pm 
Thanks, Andy, this is definitely what's been running through my mind's eye. agree.gif
That waterfall coming down the side is just a nice bonus. And Sultan Guy said
Quote:
Perhaps in the future we can develop a short river side trail to better access some more of this impressive canyon.
Actually, I'd like to see one running all the way between the two dams. That's a dream I've had for years.

Something lost behind the ranges. Lost and waiting for you....... Go and find it. Go!
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Backpacker Joe
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PostFri Jun 11, 2010 5:44 pm 
Sultan Guy, at the moment you cant even get to 6122. How far is this trail going to go down the river valley?

"If destruction be our lot we must ourselves be its author and finisher. As a nation of freemen we must live through all time or die by suicide." ó Abraham Lincoln
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Sultan Guy
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PostFri Jun 11, 2010 8:03 pm 
Backpacker Joe wrote:
Sultan Guy, at the moment you cant even get to 6122. How far is this trail going to go down the river valley?
confused.gif The PUD road from Olney Pass to USFS 6122 is open to the public. There is a new gate at the start of the 6122 road that has been open but is scheduled to be locked July 1st, when the mining season begins. This is where the new TH parking lot and restrooms will be built. Even with this gate locked it is perfectly legal and allowed to walk past this gate and anywhere you want in the canyon DOWNSTREAM of Culmback Dam. The USFS did hand out copies of a modified USGS quad detailing the new proposed trail. I will ask for a digital copy and post it in this thread. If you want to see this route just head up there and follow the flagging!

Any worthwhile expedition can be planned on the back of an envelope- H. W. Tilman
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Sultan Guy
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PostFri Jun 11, 2010 8:05 pm 
Scrooge wrote:
Actually, I'd like to see one running all the way between the two dams. That's a dream I've had for years.
You will need to become a solid Class 4 whitewater kayaker as there are many sections with vertical cliff walls where locating a trail would be impossible. winksmile.gif

Any worthwhile expedition can be planned on the back of an envelope- H. W. Tilman
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Highwalker's Daughter
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PostSat Jun 12, 2010 9:12 pm 
Thanks for the info - looking forward to hiking it in a couple of years.

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Sultan Guy
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PostTue Jun 22, 2010 7:13 am 
Here is a map that shows the location of the new trail. This is from the USFS.

Any worthwhile expedition can be planned on the back of an envelope- H. W. Tilman
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aywolfpac
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PostMon Jun 11, 2012 3:38 pm 
Anyone know what the status of this trail is today? I drove down there today but couldn't figure out where the trail started. I should've printed off that map ^ since it tells you exactly where it starts. I'll head in here sometime soon either way, but if the trail is completed that would be nice.

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