Sol Duc is a Quileute term meaning “sparkling waters”, and in fact they do on this stretch of mostly continuous class III rapids (class IV at higher flows) through the Olympic National Park. At lower flows, views of salmon darting through the gin clear water are mesmerizing as you pick your way through numerous read and run boulder gardens. Higher flows turn the pace up a notch, while still providing opportunities for fish viewing in the form of pourovers waiting for you to let your guard down.
While paddling on the Sol Duc is dependent on rainfall, its 219 square mile drainage on the wet side of the Olympic Peninsula means adequate flows are easy to come by for most of the winter months. One thing to be aware of though is that the Sol Duc Hot Springs Road is closed whenever there is snow present. If you are unsure of conditions, check the Olympic National Park website for the current road status.
Mile 0: Put-in at Salmon Cascades (V). This class V drop has been run, but it is tricky to do so with a clean line. From the viewing platform it is easy to put in above or below the falls. Past the falls is a section of continuous read and run boulder gardens. You can get a pretty good idea of what you are in for on the drive to the put in. Activities range from boofs and eddy hopping at lower flows to hole dodging and rodeo when the water comes up.
Mile 1.9: Confluence of the South Fork of the Sol Duc. Once you pass this, start keeping an eye out for a river wide horizon line that signals the biggest rapid on this run.
Mile 2.5: Ledge Drop. Boat scouting is difficult on this one, but you can get a good view of the rapid from the left shore. The line in this rapid is the same at all levels, but as the water comes up, so does the likelihood of taking a beating if you blow the move. At high flows, sneak lines open up on the right and down the center.
Mile 2.7: Below the Ledge Drop keep an eye out for some great play spots that come and go river different water levels.
Mile 3.1: Take-out at the FR 2918 bridge on the right. Cross through a small strip of forest to get back your vehicle on Sol Duc Hot Springs Road where there is a gated pull out to park at mile 3.6.