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Sammamish River (Slough) in Washington

Trip Overview

OK, some may scoff at the notion that the Sammamish Slough (River) can be moderate in difficulty. Here's why I rated it as such...

It all started one sunny afternoon in late spring when I realized that I had a need to go for a paddle. So, I called up a buddy who probably also needed a break from his couch and we headed out in the early afternoon. Did I mention it was sunny?

For those that don't know, the Sammamish River runs about 14 miles from Lake Sammamish to Lake Washington through housing, business parks, golf courses and some other areas, but some of the time, you wouldn't know it. It is a peaceful paddle with a gentle moving current most of the year. There is a parallel trail, the Burke-Gilman, that teams with bicyclists, joggers and the occasional fisherman.

At the outlet of Lake Sammamish, the river passes by a Dog Park. This was our put in. There is a 'public access' point in a park a bit down stream, but I wanted to shoot through the dog park to get some free balls for my lab. The lost balls and toys flow downstream of the park and are, more or less, garbage that builds up. This was my way to get free stuff and clean up the river at the same time.

Thankfully, my wife was kind enough to drop us off at the dog park. Many of the guide books tell you NOT to navigate this stretch due to a weir at the dog park. What they don't tell you is there is a channel cut in the middle of the weir about 2ft wide. Needless to say, we picked up a few dozen balls, a frisbee, some bumpers and some other various dog toys. We also got many looks as I solo carried my 17ft Osagian lake canoe down the path to the first doggie swimmin' hole! Thankfully I had just attached new lines to the bow and stern and was able to line the boat with my buddy in the bow hangin' on white knuckled thinking I was nuts, through the weir.

Once past the weir, the current stiffens. Here's where it gets interesting...

My buddy isn't exactly the experienced type in canoes nor is he 'slim jim'. Between the two of us we'd tip the scales around 500 pounds. I'm 6'5", 230lbs and athletically built. He's a bit more round, but still could out do me in a long run. The Marines taught him how to run apparently. Add in swift water, low hanging branches, tight turns to prevent 'bush whacking' down stream and capsizing was all I hoped to avoid so as not to lose my bounty of free dog toys. At the orders, he performed like a champ and I was able, for the most part, to navigate the boat through the maze of sticker bushes, down trees, low branches and shallow deposits of river bottom. A few times I just had to hang a leg and drag a toe, but we made it through. This is also what they don't tell you in the guide books! There are copious bushes, rocks and sweepers that could dump you over in a heart beat. I've done worse but this was tight. A little too tight for a 17ft aluminum canoe. A smaller vessel would have probably done better.

After that, the river is much more novice friendly, but my words don't do justice to the fun we had in that few hundred yards! Other than my bow paddler lollygagging for the first couple of hours after the bush run, he picked it up after his wife called and was wondering if we had drowned, we had a good trip. Along the way we met some swimmers, saw many muskrats, ducks, geese, great blue herons, a few fish and a group kayak lesson going up stream.

In all, 4 hours later or so, we made the take out at the North end of Lake Washington at the Kenmore boat launch. My wife was also so kind as to pick us up. I called my buddy the next day and he couldn't move his arms. Having paddled the majority of the trip, to say I wasn't sore would be untrue, but I was definitely pumped to get that trip knocked out on a bright, sunny day and not get sun burnt!


At either end there are toilets. There are parks along the way with facilities as well as alternate take out points.


Technically, you need a permit to park at the Kenmore Boat launch.

The Dog Park also has a parking fee if leaving vehicles at either end.


From I-5 or I-405 take Hwy-520 East. Exit at Lake Sammamish Pkwy exit. Turn R at bottom of Ramp, Left into Marymoor Park. Follow signs to Dog Park.

Kenmore Boat Ramp - is off Hwy 522 and Juanita Drive.


Paddle Washington

  • Skill Level: Intermediate
  • Water Type: River/Creek (Up to Class II)
  • Group Rates: No

Locations on this Trip