North Cascades River Expeditions

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Elements of Boulder Drop

Entry Picket Fence House Rock Ledge Wave Long Swim

Fleming Channel

The far left channel, called the "Fleming Channel" by North Cascades, must be avoided. The Fleming Channel pulls the raft into a tall, triangular boulder.

At levels from 2500 to 4500, a raft will most likely flip here. Above 4500 cfs, the boulder can be high-sided to avoid a flip. As this photo shows  the Skykomish at 7500 cfs on the Gold Bar gauge, a good high-side will work.

No one chooses the Fleming Channel. The Channel claims only those whose navigational skills cannot be considered adequate for this rapid.


fleming.jpg (13435 bytes)
center.jpg (10937 bytes)


The center channel looks, and is, easy at this water level. In fact, above 5000 cfs, this entry rarely causes trouble.

But watch out for this drop at lower levels, especially between 2800 and 3500 cfs. A wicked hydraulic occupies the very center of the entry. Richly deserving of the name "pour-over", this hole produces lots of swimmers. You must avoid this hole while drifting straight toward it. At the last second or two,  the front of the raft should be powered past the brink of the hole to the left side. This allows the river to pull the raft safely away from this nasty obstacle.

Swimming Tips:

1. Breathe only when you can see the sky. You will spend quality time totally submerged. Do not fear this repeated dunking. You will be just fine if you let the adrenaline still the pain of the cold water, as you turn your mind to strategic breathing. 
2. Only attempt to swim aggressively when good rescue opportunities present themselves. Your best chance of rescue will be to get back into the raft. Go for it if you have a good chance.
3. Be sure to use good safety fundamentals when going over large drops. Float on your back with your feet downstream. When you come to the lip of a drop, curl into a ball. At the bottom of the drop will be a deep hole that will submerge you for a few seconds. Typically, you will then wash out well downstream of the hydraulic.
4. Holes rarely trap bodies. Some holes on the Skykomish can do so at certain water levels. You need to understand how to swim out of a hole. Dive down to the bottom of the river once you realize you are trapped. Current always exists below a hole, usually at the bottom. Once you hit the current, the river will carry you safely beyond the borders of the hole.
5. Avoid panic.
6. Special instructions for swimmers in the Fleming Channel:
If you are swimming as a result of your raft blundering into the Fleming Channel, you are in danger of entrapment in the maze of large boulders that dot the left side of the entry. Keep your feet up and take advantage of any opportunity to climb out of the river. If you climb onto a rock in the middle of the river, wait there until help arrives.

Entry Picket Fence House Rock Ledge Wave Long Swim

Elements of Boulder Drop

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North Cascades River Expeditions
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Arlington, Wa 98223
360-435-9548  fax 360-435-0796
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