White Salmon River

Another water post! But this time it’ll be a lot more lighthearted. Instead of talking about the fragile state of our planet’s water system, I’ve decided to talk about a white water rafting trip I took this weekend.

I love water. I love being around it, in it, you name it. I’ve always been into kayaking and rafting, but I’ve never taken a guided trip. My girlfriend’s sister recommended we try a tour on the White Salmon River, and I can honestly say it didn’t disappoint.

A little background. The White Salmon River is a 44 mile stretch of water that empties into the Columbia River. There used to be a damn up there, Condit Dam, but it was demolished in 2011. Part of the trip was a little history lesson, and we went right through where the dam used to be. You could still see the high water marks on the canyon walls, and holes in the rock where they blasted. Our guide was also very familiar with the geological history of the river and the Columbia Gorge in general, which was pretty cool. Oh, and there were Steelhead everywhere.

Now, for the trip. The launch site is up in Washington, right across the river from Hood River, OR. It took us about two hours to drive there from where I live in Portland. Very reasonable drive, and very scenic.

The bridge from Hood River to Washington

Once we got the launch site, there was an orientation for all the newbies who weren’t used to being on the water. Then we all got to gear up. Each raft holds up to six people (not including the guide). In our party were: me, my girlfriend, my girlfriend’s sister and her boyfriend, and her sister’s boyfriend’s brother and his wife. Wow, what a convoluted chain of people. Anyway, here we all are, suited up and ready to depart:

Yours truly is third from the right

As it turned out, it was the perfect day to be on the water. It was about 85 degrees out, and the water was about 40; it’s snow melt from Mt. Adams. Needless to say, being soaked felt nice in the heat. It was also perfect because the water level was low enough to allow us to run Husum Falls, which was what I was most looking forward to.

Husum falls is the largest commercially navigable falls in the US. It’s about a 10 foot vertical drop. That doesn’t sound like much, but in a rubber raft it’s monstrous. And a hell of a lot of fun. Luckily, part of the package was to have pictures taken as you went over the falls (For those souls not brave enough or not old enough to go over the falls there was the option to portage). I was lucky enough to be one of the people at the front of the raft (it was super awesome!). I’m the one on the front left of all these pictures.

The approach
It was brisk, to say the least
Nobody fell out! My girlfriend, Kelly, raising her fist in triumph. Or doing her best Judd Nelson in “The Breakfast Club” impression.

We were the first ones to make the run, so we got to chill out and watch everyone else behind us go over. It was pretty entertaining. Nobody else fell out either which is both wildly successful and not very entertaining. After Husum falls was Rattlesnake Run. Our guide had us all sit up at the front of the raft as we ran the rapids.


This doesn’t seem so bad…
Oh God, what have I done?!

And this time, someone fell out! My girlfriend’s sister’s boyfriend took a tumble out of the raft on ol’ rattlesnake. It was hilarious.

Nothing to see here, folks!

All in all it was a pretty epic day full of laughs and adventure. If any of my readers are in the Pacific Northwest or ever plan to visit, I highly recommend this trip.


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