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Kayaking & Canoeing Nooksack River Washington

North Fork
 photos of North Fork
Put-in:  Douglas Fir Campground
Take-out:  Maple Falls
Difficulty:  Class III, IV
Length:  8 miles
Middle Fork
Put-in:  Clearwater Creek
Take-out:  Heisters Creek
Difficulty:  Class V
Length:  4.5 miles
South Fork
Put-in:  River Mile 25
Take-out:  Saxon Road
Difficulty:  Class III
Length:  12 miles


The Nooksack River rises high on the slopes of Mt. Shuksan and the surrounding North Cascades and continues to make its decent down to Puget Sound through a steep, twisting gorge choked with huge boulders. It was named after Native Americans who lived in the area and were known as “mountain men.” One of the unique features of this run is that it is still great late in the season due to the glacial melt from the slopes of Mt. Baker. Boaters will experience tight, technical rapids through a narrow canyon that eventually settles into a leisurely float with mellow Class IIs at the end.

A trip on the Nooksack River provides beautiful views of the magnificent Mt. Baker and other mountains in the distance on a clear day. Boaters might encouner eagles, deer and otter as well as five different species of native salmon. This is a very important river for salmon, and the Forest Service closes it to recreational use in mid-August to protect spawning Chinook salmon.

To do the North Fork run, most rafters put in at Douglas Fir Campground, but kayakers may choose to carry their boats upstream from the bridge to try a fun Class III. The South Fork is a great Class III trip, but the 33 mile one-way shuttle might be prohibitive for some. The most challenging run is the Middle Fork Nooksack with boulder gardens and steep, long technical drops and Class V rapids.