Float the White Salmon River from Mt. Adams headwaters to the Columbia River Confluence
Driving from Wet Planet’s base in Husum, Washington, to the put-in for our White Salmon Whitewater Rafting Trips, you are greeted and excited by views of Mt. Adams towering above. As we watch the snow slowly melt as the summer heats up, we are reminded where the glacial waters we have grown to love flow from – the Adams Glacier. And, as with any river, the White Salmon changes dramatically in both geography and personality as it flows from Mt. Adams to its confluence with the Columbia River.
Adams Glacier and the Headwaters of the White Salmon River
Topping out at 12,276ft, Mt. Adams continues to get snowfall into late spring – sometimes even early summer. But, when the snow melts away the majority of summer water on the White Salmon and surrounding creeks comes from the Adams Glacier. Starting at 12,000ft and flowing down to its terminus at 7,000ft, the Adams Glacier is the second largest glacier in the contiguous United States. Feeding multiple rivers and creeks in the area, one of these tendrils flowing from the base of the glacier crashes 23 miles south before beginning to take form.
Cascade Creek – The Green Canyon
After flowing and twisting from Mt. Adams, the water and river bed begin to deepen and form – creating the first runnable section of the White Salmon River: the illusive Green Canyon. This 8.4 mile section of Class III-IV rapids has long been a day-dream for kayakers. Why have so few run this section? Because when the Green Canyon has enough water, the road is blocked by snow – not to mention that amount of downed trees and wood littering the creek. After its tumbling trip down the mountain, Cascade Creek merges with Trout Lake Creek and Trout Lake, forming the confluence of the White Salmon River.
Beginning on the south side of Trout Lake, Class V stretch of the White Salmon, known as the Farmlands,is one of the most committing, expedition-style commercially rafted sections of whitewater in the Pacific Northwest. Formed by a lava tube that runs out of Mt. Adams, The Farmlands gets its name from the flat, agricultural land that line the brim of the canyon. Known for the narrow, tight canyon that at times is barely a raft’s width, horizon-lines that showcase its stair-stepping rapids and expedition-style portages, the Farmlands is a must-see section for experienced rafters. Runnable only in the spring, Wet Planet (thanks to exclusive access to the take-out) is the only commercial outfitter to run trips on the Farmlands section of the White Salmon River.
The Green Truss
What can be said about the Truss, but that it is a kayaker’s Pacific Northwest fantasy. With sheer canyon walls towering to either side, this Class V, 4.9 mile stretch of river offers up a variety of different rapids – ranging from ledge drops, airplane boofs (learn to boof on a Wet Planet boof clinic), massive holes, and fun boogie water. With iconic rapids like the 27ft waterfall Big Brother, the ledge-holes at Double Drop, and the technical onslaught that is the Zig-Zags, the Green Truss offers up rapids that match its beauty. The one mile stretch known as Spring Alley on the Truss features multiple springs flowing in, over, and through the canyon walls. The pristine waters, towering cliffs, and tumultuous whitewater make the Truss the legend it is today in the whitewater community.
Orletta Section (and the Wet Planet Upper Stretch)
The Orletta Section of the White Salmon River is a transitioning stretch from the steep, narrow walls of the Green Truss section into the well-known, commercially rafted Middle White Salmon. Wet Planet fortunately has exclusive access via a privately-owned put-in a couple miles upstream of BZ Falls and the Forest Service managed launch site. This gives rafters two extra miles of continuous class IV rapids, an intimate look at BZ Falls via a mandatory portage, and an exciting cliff jump to cool off. This stretch of river is often referred to as the best section of the whole rafting trip!
The iconic Middle White Salmon River is one of the most popular whitewater rafting and kayaking runs in Washington and Oregon – boasting roughly 40,000 paddlers annually (private boaters and outfitter guests combined). After you take a trip down, it’s easy to see why so many have fallen in love over the years. With its Class III-IV rapids ranging from crashing wave trains, stair-casing ledge drops and turbulent hydraulic holes – the Middle White Salmon feels akin to a rollercoaster ride with the legendary 10 foot Husum Falls serving as the perfect Grand Finale.
Previously partially under the water of Northwestern Lake, the Lower White Salmon River begins downstream of Husum falls and is a nice come-down after the action-packed Middle Section. With the least amount of gradient change per mile, the Lower Section is ideal for beginner to intermediate boaters looking to experience the wonder of the White Salmon River without being overwhelmed. With side-creeks flowing in, sharp turns around cobblestone bars and fun Class II-III rapids, the Lower White Salmon is not to be ignored.
The Lower, Lower
After being hidden under Northwestern Lake and Condit Dam for 100 years, the Lower Lower White Salmon River is exotic and revealing. With the Condit Dam removal project being completed in October of 2011 and the river opened to public use in November 2012, paddlers flocked to see what was hidden underneath all of those years. The reveal did not disappoint. Steep canyon walls appeared. Unseen waterfalls crashed down from both sides of the river. Class II-III rapids raged downstream. And the most exciting – salmon began to swim upstream. Interested in seeing the Lower Lower in all its glory? Join us for a Full-Day White Salmon River Rafting Trip.
Each section of the White Salmon River has a unique personality, merging to form one of the best whitewater rivers in the world. Don’t believe us? Come see if you for yourself. And stayed tuned for the next installment: the Wild & Scenic White Salmon.
 United States Department of Agriculture, Forest Service. Final Environmental Impact Statement: Gotchen Risk Reduction & Restoration Project. October, 2005. Print.