Sawmill Flat CG, central Cascades

Discussion in 'Washington' started by Unstable_Tripod, Sep 16, 2012.

  1. Unstable_Tripod

    Unstable_Tripod Well, there's your problem!

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    May 20, 2008
    Seattle, Washington
    Sawmill Flat is one of many great primitive CGs in the Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest. It is situated on the Little Naches River which flows down the eastern slopes of the central Cascade Mountains. It’s about 30 miles east of Mt. Rainier NP on SR410. You cross Chinook Pass (5,430’) to get there from Seattle. The campground itself is at 2,500’. This is a typical small national forest CG in that it has only 24 sites (one occupied by a host who sells fire wood) and no hook-ups. Each site has a table and fire ring. The CG has one hand-operated water pump on a well in the center and three pit toilets (center and each end). It has trash facilities but no dump station. It is operated by a concessionaire ( so some sites are reservable on-line while the rest are FCFS. Maximum trailer length is 24’. The cost is $18 per night; $9 for those with a Senior Access pass. There is a nice day use picnic area with a CCC-built pavilion (including a river rock fireplace with chimney) on the river near the entrance. The day use fee is $5. Like most Cascade locations, there is no cell phone service.

    The “loop” road (single road into CG with a turnaround loop at the end) and the site pads are paved and level. The sites are very large and spaced far apart in most cases. The undergrowth is mostly bushes and not terribly dense but it provides separation and privacy for most sites. The dense forest is primarily spruce with some yellow pine mixed in. The forest canopy makes most sites shady. A few sites are across the road from the river and are the least desirable. In addition to not being near the river they have less privacy and are closer to the highway. (Road noise can be heard throughout the CG but traffic isn’t heavy and pretty much stops at night.) Most of the sites are along the river but only a few are right on the bank with a view of the water. You must walk through the bushes to get to the river from the rest. That was what we had at Site #12, which I chose because it had a long driveway. If I camp there again I will try to get Site #9 because it is right on the riverbank with great views up- and downstream. Site #8 would be my second choice. The entire CG enjoys the sound of the river. During our time there only four sites were occupied: the host, us and two others. Everyone was spread out so it seemed that we each had the place to ourselves.

    I saw something at Sawmill Flat that I’ve never encountered before in Washington. In fact, I didn’t even know it existed in the state. Part of the CG is in a gold mining claim. This claim runs along the Little Naches River and has signs posted on some of the trees. The hosts told us that there is a commercial operation on the opposite side of the river during July every year. Their dredge is about as loud as an RV generator and is operated during July, the only month the state allows it. Two guys were looking for gold across the river from us on Wednesday but they were doing it the old-fashioned way, with shovels, buckets and pans.

    I really liked this area and will definitely return to it next summer. There are many NFS CGs scattered along SR410 and the river, ranging in elevation from about 4,000’ to 2,000’. They range in size from 5 or 6 sites to +40. There are also boondocking opportunities everywhere. The scenery is great and hiking trails abound. For those who like to fish the river has trout and at some times of the year, salmon. There is also a cave to explore but we missed it because it is closed on Wednesday and Thursday. HERE is a great resource to find CGs in the area.

    Here are a few pictures of our site and the river at Sawmill Flat.

    Looking at our table from the boundary between Site #11 and #12 (ours).

    A closer view of our site, which went way beyond that big log

    Looking downstream at the Little Naches River from Site #9.
  2. DarthMuffin

    DarthMuffin New Member

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    Sep 16, 2010
    Great review, thanks! If you're in the area again check down towards Bumping Lake. There are several campgrounds on that road, lots of boondocking sites, and the campground at Bumping Lake itself (which was OK but I prefer the bigger old growth forest like Sawmill Flats).
  3. jonkquil

    jonkquil Active Member

    Likes Received:
    Jul 20, 2009
    It looks really nice there, I may have to pay it a visit!

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