Tuesday, August 21, 2012

White Salmon River Rafting

White Salmon River Rafting

The White Salmon is a nationally designated Wild and Natural river. And just last october they removed the 100 year old damn on the lower river opening up the flow from Mt. Adams to the Columbia. Watch them blow the dam <condit dam removal>.

My company (Intel) had set up a thing for several hundred employees to raft down the river on this hot summer day and I was lucky enough to get a ticket. I don't have very many pictures of this trip, taking a camera isn't very easy unless you have one of those helmet mount GoPro cams (must think about getting one).

The White Salmon is on the Washington side of the Columbia just a few miles West of the Hood River Columbia crossing. This is a unique river for this area as it is almost continuous white water for miles and miles. And even more so now that the Condit Dam has been removed.

Unless you have the equipment and safety training for something like a class 4 rapid, I suggest you take advantage of one of the many professional guide services that run on the river. We used Wet Planet, out of Husum. You park at the site, pay your $60, and get in the bus that takes you and your fellow rafters the 10 or so miles up stream to the put in site.
At the site is a set of rails that are designed to slide the rafts down the step side to the river. A elegant engineering setup. We entered the raft right in the middle of a rapid, so we were working right away. These rafts are 6 rafters and a guide in back. Everyone wears a farmer john wet suit, a PFD, and a helmet. Why a wet suit in the middle of the summer? The water is 40 frigging degrees is why. You are thankful for the wet suit the first time the guide puts your side of the boat under the water (and he tries to get both sides equally wet).
Our guide has been doing this sort of river touring for like 15 years. He does the spring and summer in Oregon, and then goes to the east coast for West Virginia rafting in the fall. In the winter he lands at some ski mountain. Wow. There is a life. He was a very good guide, he knew every bird on the river and had a lot of knowledge of the history and geography of the river.

So, want some of that? The water in the river is mainly from Mount Adams. I must have a picture of mount Adams:

Adams is the one with snow

It starts as the glacier on Adams and gets filtered through thousands of feet of basalt before it emerges through ancient Lava tubes to enter the White Salmon. It takes 10 years for the water to filter through. And any of you who have hiked Ape Caves know how cold it is underground around here. And that is why the water is 40 degrees. Unfortunately about 20% of the river is agricultural run-off. So you don't want to drink it. We saw quite a few of the lava tubes and many springs feeding the river.

This is another trip that I think is for swimmers. We had one guy in our boat that told me he couldn't swim and I was sort of worried about him. When I wasn't being worried for myself. Going down rapids like this is pretty exciting and I really didn't want to go into the river. It was cold, rough, lots of rocks, and lots of trees down in the water, which I find even more frightening because you can get pulled under them or skewered by them.

The river was really full the day we went. Our guide said that there were more people at the bridge jump site than he had ever seen on the river. Wow.

There is one class 5 drop on this river, but the water was too high for Wet Planet to let us try it (they are an ultra-safe org, I guess) Another tour group was doing the falls and we watched while our group portaged around. They were having around a 60% success rate. Success is no one goes into the water.


That is NOT my hand.

There was one boat that went over the fall. They completely dissappeard for a second under the water, and then popped to the top. Everyone stayed in but the guide. He caught a bump and went flying out. But his crew didn't notice he was gone and they all started cheering and cheering. But no one was steering. And they soon floated into the next rock and went over dumping them all. We cheered and cheered.

At the end of the run you get to the place that used to be the lake behind the Dam and is now the very new river trying to find its way through 100 years of silt and backup. A currently ugly but interesting place. Many houses for sale with their docks 50 feet above the current river level.

The cool thing? This next season White Salmon (yes, the reason the river is named that is because it has its own species of fish) will be swimming up the river to breed for the first time in 100 years. Must go back and get pictures.

1 comment:

  1. River rafting is one of the best things that you can do to invigorate your life.

    river rafting tips