Photo Credit: Thomas O’Keefe

Agnes Creek to Lake Chelan

Skill: 2 (intermediate) but Advanced if starting above Cascade Rapids.

Fitness: 2 (intermediate)

Attractions: This paddle offers beautiful views of the North Cascades and the Stehekin Valley. The 312-foot Rainbow Falls can be seen in the distance on river left below Harlequin Campground. Camping options at High Bridge, Harlequin, and Weaver (on the shore of Lake Chelan) make this a great option for an overnight trip.

Hazards: Watch out for fallen trees and sweepers in the river. Also, be aware that the river may change channels from year to year. Stop at Stehekin Landing to find out from commercial rafters or the Park Service about recent changes.

Distance: 10.1 miles

1,525 to 1,100 feet

Average Gradient: 42 fpm

–Starting from the lower put-in, the rapids are Class II
–The higher put-in starts just upstream of the Class IV Cascade Rapids (depending on flow levels, this is an advanced to expert run. Before running the rapid, scout left).

Water Levels:

  • Recommended Water Level: 1,500 to 5,000 cfs (below 1,500 cfs may require you to drag boats over gravel bars, above 5,000 cfs and all eddies virtually disappear). Floating from the upper put-in at flows above 3,500 cfs should be done with caution–the rapids are fast, have big holes and there will be few opportunities to rescue anyone in the water.
  • Water Level Info: NOAA Tape (206) 526-8530; NOAA Information (206) 526-6087; Chelan County PUD (509) 663-8121


  • Take a private boat 55 miles up to Stehekin at the north end of Lake Chelan, or
  • Take the Lady of the Lake, a large passenger boat, to Stehekin. Canoes and boats are not allowed on the boat, but rolled rafts, inflatable kayaks, and bundled paddles and life jackets are permitted. Click here for detailed information about freight allowances. Call the Lake Chelan Boat Co (509-682-4584) or visit the Lady of the Lake Home Page for listings of boat schedules and rates.
  • From the landing, catch the Stehekin Shuttle. The shuttle takes backpacks, bicycles and pets, but does not accept hard-shell kayaks.

Put-In / Take-Out:

  • If planning on camping, consider dropping your overnight gear at Harlequin Campground as you make your way upriver. This campground is below all rapids, so you can leave any gear that you want to keep dry here, and load it on your boat later on the way downriver. From Harlequin, you can paddle down to Weaver Point Campground on Lake Chelan.
  • From Harlequin, there are two put-in options. The lower, and more common, entrance is below the most difficult rapids and, while steep, is the best on the upper river. This spot is .3 mile below Bullion Camp.
  • The upper put-in is located past Bullion Camp, where the road begins to climb up and away from the river. Assemble your gear on the road and slide it down the rocks into the river.
  • Finally, you can head up to Tumwater Campground if you want to run the expert run, a short class IV/V run through the gorge from Tumwater Campground to the Agnes Creek confluence.

Trip Description: Cascade Rapids, which are run if you use the upper put-in, raise the trip to an advanced or expert skill level, depending on the water level. Carefully scout Cascade Rapids before attempting a run. The river from the lower put-in is Class 2.

Land Ownership: Forest Service

Recommended Season: May to August

Additional Information: The source of the information included in this entry is the American Whitewater website and Washington Whitewater II, written by Douglass A. North and published by The Mountaineers. River conditions are subject to change, especially after storms or floods. For more the most up-to-date information or to view photos and user comments, check this river’s information at American Whitewater.

Leave It Better Than You Found It:
 This should be every outdoor user’s goal. Pick up trash left by others, pull some noxious weeds along your route, throw branches over unwanted spur trails, don’t ride or walk wet trails when you’re leaving ruts/footprints deeper than ¼ inch…

Disclaimer. Treat this information as recommendations, not gospel. Conditions change and those contributing these reports are volunteers–they may make mistakes or not know all the issues affecting a route. You are responsible for yourself, your actions, and your safety. If you won’t accept that responsibility, you are prohibited from using our information.

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