Monday, September 5th, 2016
Rafting the Rapids of the Nooksack River in Glacier, WA
Todd Elsworth

In “downtown” Glacier, WA, we began our rafting adventure at Wild and Scenic River Tours. Gathered together, some of us friends- along with relative strangers- we set out for some fun and a nature-fix on the Nooksack River. We got geared up in our outfitted river gear and climbed on the re-purposed school bus.

WildScenicBus

We were all smiles and full of eager anticipation to get on the river that we’d been learning about earlier in the day. On the short trip to the launch spot, it was quickly evident that this was going to be an entertaining trip. Our guides each had their own bits of “stand up” routines that they incorporate into their instructions.

WildScenicPrep

As we stood in our semi-circle, listening to the comedic guide, we learned how to sit on the edge of the raft and use the thwarts to anchor our feet for stability to STAY IN THE BOAT! The guide used phrases that, for some, were cause for alarm, like “getting T-boned as you go high side” but kept us all engaged in “the safety talk” as we laughed at the frightful notion of ending up with the legendary rafters’ summer teeth.

Our guides were all excellent. On the boat, our team quickly learned how to work together with the commands being called out from our stern man. I’ll hand it to our guide for the lines he chose to get us through the fun spots! We had an exhilarating and delightful time.

WildScenicFocused

Our group had three boats floating and running the rapids together. This was the first time I had ever been on this upper section of the Nooksack River and on a raft as an adult for that matter.

Being on the Nooksack River is immersion into raw nature. The company is aptly named, this is Wild and Scenic. I was enjoying being exposed to a new sport but even more so, to experience a tried and true way of traveling across the landscape- by the rivers.

WildScenicGO

As we floated through the calmer sections, we’d hear about the geographic history of the river to understand the nuances of the changes in the neighborhood over the years. In one section, we learned how a slide from Church Mountain created a dam and formed a lake at a point in the local timeline.

When we got to the place in the river known as The Nozzle, it was time to get out and get wet. More jokes, laughter and immersion into nature’s elements!

WildScenicGuide

At The Nozzle, we hucked ourselves off of a big boulder that was sitting on the edge. There’s a deep pool below and an easy out after you dunk yourself in the glacial flow. The guides have it all planed out. The spontaneity in the day comes from the variations in the river’s course and the weather of the day.

Exposure to the elements and a little challenge bring out the best in us all. We rise to the challenge. This spot is one of those memorable moments when the shared group experience of trusting yourself, the group and the river to deliver you back.

WildScenicJump

I wish that I could show exciting photos of the fun rapids that we went through, but we were busy paddling, hootin’ and hollerin’! If you’d like to see the action you may encounter- check out the Wild and Scenic River Tours Facebook Photo Album.

Our next takeout spot was a short walk through the river bed to see fossils that were exposed on the banks. The clear definition of their imprints is impressive.

WildScenicFossilFern

We had one more stop on our way downriver, the confluence of the mighty Nooksack and the smaller tributary of Cornell Creek. Since the Nooksack is spawning ground for all five species of native wild salmon, we thought we’d see if any were in the neighborhood. Not yet.

We were still a long ways from home too. Climbing back on board our floatilla, we let gravity and the constant flow of meltwater do it’s thing and bring us downriver.

WildScenicout

About the Outfitter:
Based in Glacier, WA- Wild and Scenic River Tours also offer exciting Class IV Whitewater River Rafting trips to Scenic River Rafting trips on the Sauk, Skykomish, Wenatchee, and other rivers around the state.

About the Wild and Scenic Nooksack River Tour:
Minimum Age: 10 years (with written release from parents or guardians)
Season: May through Fall
Youth, Senior and Group Discounts available
Please Visit our Booking Page to Book Online, or call us at (360)599-3115

The crown jewel of the North Cascades – the North Fork of the Nooksack River. One of only two rivers in Washington that is spawning grounds for all five species of native salmon, this river is born at the base of the White Salmon Glacier, high on Mt. Shuksan. After mixing with many side creeks and tumbling over Nooksack Falls, this river’s glacial silt-laden water enters the upper gorge of the Nooksack where our trip begins.

Rated as a Class III river (on a scale from 1-5), the Nooksack is always an exciting ride. We meet in the small mountain town of Glacier at Wild and Scenic’s Headquarters. We begin our adventure in a deep, primeval canyon with multiple class III rapids. Precise maneuvering is necessary as you slide through the tight and technical rapids in its narrow canyon section. After leaving the canyon, the valley opens up to provide awesome views of 10,778-foot Komo Kulshan, meaning “The Great White Watcher”, but better known as Mt. Baker. Sightings of wildlife such as eagles, deer, and river otter are common throughout the trip but are particularly prevalent in the lower section. Fun, roller coaster waves surrounding the Canyon Creek confluence end your day’s adventure on a high note.

For more outdoor adventure ideas near Bellingham, see the full list of Todd’s articles.

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About the Author:

As the Executive Director of Recreation Northwest and the founder of the Bellingham Traverse and co-founder of Kulshan Quest Adventure Race, Todd promotes outdoor recreation and brings people together to enjoy, preserve and improve the places where we play. He enjoys biking, hiking, paddling, skiing and will try anything twice. Get connected at RecreationNorthwest.org.