Winter, spring, summer, and fall. Icy creek is a great hike any time of year. This year I added trail information on the website to help guide adventurers out to some of the best locations along the Green River Gorge. Recently, as a volunteer contributor, I added the Icy Creek Spring in the Green River Gorge hike to the Outdoor Project website. Adding this hike to the Outdoor project allowed me to add existing GPS information with a more formal description of the hike including length, elevation loss and gain, driving instructions, and access information. Additionally you can view photos and learn more about the highlights of the area before you visit.
Stay tuned. I'm working with contributors to update some of the other hikes in the Green River Gorge and add new hikes in the area.
More About Icy Creek Spring
In approximately 2000 I discovered an area along the Green River Gorge called Icy Creek. It is an underground spring that emerges from a sidehill as the terrain slopes gently downward before cliffs and steep slopes plunge into the Green River Gorge.
The southern rim of the Green River Gorge has unique hydro-geology. Glacial rocky soil sits a top bedrock of sandstone. Water quickly filters through the gravelly soil into bedrock spring channels. These channels, or underground streams, then flow downward towards the twelve mile Green River Gorge. There are approximately seven large springs that flow into the Green River Gorge along the southern rim. One is those springs is located at the Green River Gorge Resort. Locals and Cascadia Spring water company fill up at a roadside stop where the spring water flows before crossing under the road and making its way down to a waterfall along the gorge. Further downstream there are three springs that Black Diamond gets their municipal water supply from. Then there are the private Shangri-la springs next door to the Black Diamond springs. Then Icy Creek spring. These springs supply cold clear water to cool the temperature of the river as it flows through the gorge. There continued existence is critical to preserve colder temperatures in the river.
Icy Creek spring may emerge in two places up stream of where it comes out of the ground as well. Upstream to the southwest is a large open water pond that can be seen from the roadway on the north side. On the other side of the the Enumclaw / Franklin road was a large forested bog that was clearcut in 2015.
The main spring appears out of the ground in a subtle way. A sunken side hill lined with trees at the top serves as the opening where the spring flows out of the ground between rocks and through ferns. The spring then widens and narrows again as it goes through an old culvert on an abandoned road. Below the road is a widened area before the water reaches a small dam that used to hold water back for trout ponds. Not too long ago the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife even tried to use the ponds to raise Bass at one point. However the steepness of the spring beat up the Bass as they plummeted down waterfalls and steep rocky channels. They would emerge at the bottom of the gorge missing fins and scales. Or so the story goes.
In the wide area wildlife trails spill down the adjacent hillsides where they have made a habit of coming down to drink. Watercress turns the slower moving water into a bright green garden. The water then tumbles over the channels of the dam to a rocky free flowing channel below.
The dam is now covered with bright green moss, bright orange lichens and licorice ferns. There is even a cedar or two growing from between the grates along the top. Past floods have cut channels around it’s concrete base, but it still stands as a reminder of another time. Beyond that icy creek enters the rocky course and immediately plunges down a series of waterfalls through deep forest.
Icy Creek spring emerges at the bottom of the gorge through a tumbling field of rocks that curve sharply around a dark wall of coal laced with undulating maidenhair ferns. Dripping devil’s club sprouts at the base of the cliff like guard dogs constantly on alert. All along a curved dark wall are more springs forming a row of waterfalls that seem to disappear into the undergrowth of salmon berry and salal.
Colored stones beneath the moving water lie at the base of the cliff as the water turns yet again and spills over a small diversion dam. Most of the water goes downstream to the river but some is siphoned off to provide water for a salmon pen that lies between the steep slopes of the gorge and the river.
In the winter and early summer icy cold water fills the narrow channel. In late summer after the mountains snow has melted the current lessens and green moss grows atop exposed stones. At this time of year it is easy to boulder hop from one side of the creek to the other.
In autumn the shallow spring becomes the final resting place for both native and hatchery salmon. They stage in the confluence of spring and river in the deeper water of the river. They wait for the rains. When it is time they make their last ditch effort to swim and flail their bodies through the shallow water as far as they can reach. Then spawn before dying.
Salmon spawn where Icy Creek spring enters the Green River Gorge. Their eggs, exposed, are food for water ouzels who flit from rock to rock collecting the bright pink irridescant eggs. River otters and bear feast on their flesh. Animals, carrying their feast, spread their remains across the forest, putting nutrients back into the soil. Salmon give life to many critters. The cold cool water of Icy Creek spring gives life to the salmon.
In the gorge, forest crowds between cliff and water. Upstream and down the forest is alive with bob cat, raccoons, deer, coyotes, and bear. In the river, springs, and in the narrow airspace Mergansers, Osprey, Eagles, and King Fishers call the gorge home. Here there is a different rhythm in daylight and night that exists. This wild paradise is so close to over 2 million people and yet here, you would never know it.
These springs, like Icy Creek, are the arteries that connect the mountains of the Cascade Foothills to the Puget Sound lowlands. Arteries that bring mountain snow downstream in the form of moving water and brings salmon back home from their travels in the ocean. The river connects everything together, but only here in the Green River Gorge does the river reveal a wild remnant of it’s former self. A snap shot of a wild untamed river that can teach us about what we have lost and what is still left to protect!