What is High Water?
With 120% of our typical snow pack, we’re anticipating a great Spring rafting season! High water means a higher than normal water volume. It typically occurs in the spring during times of heavy rain or snow melt. With the increase of water, rivers are flowing faster, creating new hydraulics and waves that are larger and more powerful than normal. Some rapids become washed out as water fills the features in, while areas that are typically quite calm are now full of obstacles to be paddled around. High water trips are loud, exciting, and full of action. Your guide will often give you 3 rapid names at a time as they feed into one another. By the time you’re done, you likely will feel exhilarated, a bit breathless, and hopefully ready for more!
What Rivers Run When The Water Is High?
Part of what makes high water so much fun is all the rivers that we’re able to run!
The Wind River can be a tough run to catch on your average year. It is fed by low elevation precipitation and snow pack, which we currently have plenty of! One of the most challenging commercial river rafting runs in the Pacific Northwest, the class IV-V Wind River cascades through tightly spaced boulder gardens and steep ledge drops in a series of class IV to class V rapids. We’re anticipating having a full Wind season this year, and are currently booking trips on weekends in April and May.
Located 10 miles North of the Forest Service put in for the main section of the White Salmon River, this narrow gorge is awe inspiring – if you take your eyes off the rapids long enough to look around! The Farmlands offers continuous class IV-V whitewater rafting in a series of canyons defined by vertical cliff walls and the horizon-lines of stairstepping rapids. This run is usually at the perfect flow just after the Wind season, likely in June this year. If you’re not already on the call list for this incredible PNW run, you should be!
Weaving through thick pine forests, steep canyons, and basalt cliffs, whitewater rafting on the Klickitat River is the only way to truly see the beauty of this deep wilderness area. This is our longest Spring trip, crashing through continuous class III wave trains and discovering history unique to the area all day long. Friends of the Columbia Gorge and Wet Planet are teaming up to offer a unique trip down the Klickitat River on May 7th when natural and historic Interpreters from FOTG will bring the past alive with stories and facts. We are booking rafting trips on the Klickitat River for weekends in May through mid June.
This river has become the PNW favorite for it’s ability to be exciting no matter what time of year it is! Friendly for first time rafters and experienced boaters alike, each season brings out a different personality on the White Salmon River. As the water flow increases in the Spring, the rapids begin to feed into one another, creating a continuous, thrilling, and splashy roller coaster ride. We recommend visiting the White Salmon River during both the early season and late season for two totally different experiences!
Dubbed the Grand Canyon of Oregon, the Owyhee River is easily one of the most under rated multi day trips around. Located in Eastern Oregon, the desert surround it often doesn’t supply enough water to raft the Owyhee. With 99% snow pack in the Owyhee watershed this year, we’re offering 3 different opportunities to spend 5 days rafting, camping, hiking, and lounging in the hot springs of the Owyhee River. Check out OPB’s recent segment featuring the Owyhee River for a glimpse of this desert oasis!
If everything else is too high, the Hood River will be just right! The West Fork and Main Hood are where you’ll see our guides out playing during the winter months, weaving through the steep boulder gardens in the morning then crashing through the big, continuous wave trains in the afternoon. When the White Salmon or Wind River are too high to raft, the Hood River will be offered as an alternative run if applicable. You can also ask to be added to the Hood River call list – just call or email us if you’re interested!
If you can’t decide which river you want to run, book one of our Multi River Spring Packages for the opportunity to explore several of them in one action packed weekend!
When is the High Water Season?
High water seasons typically occur during years with heavy snow pack. How the timing actually pans out is heavily affected by other weather patterns, such as rain and temperatures, that influence the speed that the snow melts.
How Will High Water Change my Rafting Trip?
When you run a river, the water volume is somewhere in the happy range for that specific stretch. Too little water, and there simply isn’t enough of it to navigate the rapids. Too much water, and you have a frothy mess that most of your guides will steer clear of. These high water and low water limits are set by professionals and are not negotiable. If the river that you’ve booked your trip on is too high, you’ll have the option to reschedule your trip or switch to another run that is at a favorable level. Our office will call you ahead of time if we anticipate this occurring to help you pick the best option for your group.
The highlights of a high water trip are much different than those of your average rafting trip, and many of the rapids that you may have seen or heard of will no longer be recognizable. Some of the areas that are mellow class II during the late summer are now big rollercoaster wave trains. Rock gardens will be gone, replaced by fun holes.
As the water rises, the river flows more quickly, both in the rapids and in the ponds. The same stretch of river that typically takes a whole day might now only take a few hours to raft. You’ll still be covering the same amount of river miles – you’ll just be doing it in a very splashy and exhilarating sprint.
Who Should Go Rafting on a High Water Rafting Trip?
There are many different aspects that can be sought out of a whitewater rafting trip: spectacular canyons and wild life, splashes that cause the whole family to giggle, the challenges of tight and technical runs, thrilling wave trains, and many things in between. With so many different rivers are running in the Spring, there is a perfect for everyone! Call our office at 1-800-306-1673 if you’re unsure which trip would be just right for you, and we’ll help steer you in the right direction!
For the highly adventurous, we’re currently booking trips for the class IV/V Wind River on weekends this April and May, and have a waiting list for the class IV/V Farmlands in June. We may even see the Hood River come in this year – call us at 877-390-9445 for more information or to sign up for the waiting list!
The White Salmon River, a PNW classic, is perfect for first time rafters as well as veteran rafters any time of year!
Other ways to discover the wonders of Spring in the Pacific Northwest are by spending a day on the Klickitat River, with it’s continuous class III rapids winding through basalt cliffs and dense forests, or perhaps you’d like to explore the deep canyons of the Owyhee River with a 5 day trip on either May 4-8th or as a part of Wet Planet’s guide school.