McAllister Creek (Nisqually Delta)

by  redtandem
  • Luhr Beach boat launch

    Luhr Beach boat launch

  • Lunch spot at farm bridge

    Lunch spot at farm bridge

A self-supported trip created by redtandem

Trip Overview

Wonderful paddle, half of it through a wildlife refuge full of -- well -- wildlife, and the other half with a river current in both directions (if you time it right). We put in 90 minutes before a high tide of 13.5' but it would have been better to start a half-hour earlier for a slightly better upstream flow. We launched at the Luhr Beach WDFW boat launch (Discover Pass required), where there is a pit toilet (supplied with tp during this pandemic-time visit) and a concrete boat launch with some gravel beach alongside for our canoe. We had made a map of McAllister Creek ahead of time, using Google Maps on "terrain view," since the bluff to the west is a major landmark as you paddle along, largely following the bluff except for the swing eastward to get past I-5 and Martin Way, and then again at the very end. At high water levels the actual creek is hard to follow as the water at and near high tide covers large parts of the mudflats, so a good map is most helpful. When we were almost bumping into I-5 the creek became clear, behind a long berm parallel to the Interstate, and the upstream flow became noticeable. This is exactly 3 miles from the launch point. After 1/4 mi. next to I-5, the creek turned south under the highway. Prior to this we were in a water-world, filled with waterfowl and plant life that doesn't mind being submerged twice a day. A seal popped its head out of the water twice to look at us with a "what are YOU doing here" expression. Water covered vast areas that were high and dry on our return. The creek moved us along with a current of 1/4 to 1/2 kt, a pleasant feeling. The creek narrowed a little, but was still wide enough to easily slip by a few sweepers and logs along the way. We went by two channels of similar size going off the the right but angled backwards, dead ends we made note of so as to not go down them on the return (both showed up clearly on our map, as well). This was our first adventure on this water, so we were uncertain how far upstream we would be able to go. At the 4-mile point we passed under a footbridge and the river beckoned us further. 3/4 of a mile further upstream we passed under Steilacoom Rd and the river was still flowing inward, so on we went. One mile further we found our stopping point, a farm bridge built so low that only a mouse on a leaf could float under it. With a little effort we were able to hop out of the canoe and right onto the bridge, which became our seat for a picnic lunch. The bridge, by the way, does not show up on Google Maps unless you go to satellite view, where you can see it as a dirt road crossing the creek. This was also the only place we came to since launching where getting out of our boat seemed manageable. We had a leisurely lunch, waiting for the tide to turn. This far in, that happened close to an hour after the time posted in the tide table for Nisqually Reach. Once it does, you're in for a treat since the outbound flow was now close to 1 kt and we kinda-sorta knew the turns. It was a sort of slow-motion slalom. When we got past I-5 and the berm next to it, we found that most of the vast expanse of water was now a plateau of land a few inches above the creek, and the creek was now channeled enough to have a light current, perhaps 1/4 kt, until we were half-way back from I-5 to Luhr Beach. There was a 5 mph headwind for the last, fairly open 2 miles, a small price to pay for this outstanding trip. Total trip distance was 11 1/2 miles.


Be sure to check tide tables. Launching 2 hours before the high tide listed for Nisqually Reach is advised, and taking an hour-long lunch break at the end point will ensure a current going your direction for both parts of the trip.

Trip Details

  • Trip Dates: 10/20/2020
  • Sport/Activity: Kayaking, Canoeing
  • Skill Level: Beginner
  • Water Type: Flat/Sheltered Water, River/Creek (Up to Class II)

Trip Location