Last week, Wet Planet offered 2 free trips to returning guests down the newly opened Lower Lower White Salmon in exchange for feedback in a post-trip survey. We knew that WE think the section surrounding the former Condit dam (taken down in October 2011) is amazing, but we wanted to make sure you did too! Here’s what we found…
Trip option one was a full-day trip with lunch, starting at our Upper put-in, and the second option was a half-day trip, starting below Husum Falls. Both trips ran all the way down the White Salmon to the confluence of the Columbia River. Both received great feedback, but the overwhelming majority of guests wanted to see it as a full day trip! The input came back that the Full-day trip has it all: an action packed morning with exciting class III and IV whitewater, the cliff jump, Husum Falls, lunch, and a relaxing, scenic afternoon floating through stunningly beautiful canyons, and finish in the Columbia River with views on Mt. Hood, kite-boarders and Hood River, OR.
I was fortunate enough to be able to join the full-day trip, along with Wet Planet co-worker Leah, when 2 guests didn’t show up for the trip that morning. After getting outfitted in our gear, we headed up to Wet Planet’s private Upper put-in. We paddled down the spectacular Upper gorge through mossy trees and steep whitewater before meeting up with the normal “middle” section. (To read my write up of this trip, click here!) Our guide, John guided us through a near-perfect line at Husum Falls… I don’t think I even got my hair wet!
After celebrating our great line at the Falls, we pulled off at Wet Planet’s private take-out above Rattlesnake Rapid. Awaiting us was a beautiful spread of salmon burgers on freshly baked ciabatta rolls with spring mix, torillas & salsa, pita chips & hummus, veggies, cookies, and lemonade! This was a great opportunity to relax, sit in the sunshine, and fuel up for the rest of the trip ahead.
Full from my salmon burger and too many chips, I somewhat sleepily climbed back into our raft. But that didn’t last long, as I was instantly woken up and invigorated by a huge splash when punching through Rattlesnake Rapid just 20 yards from our lunch spot. The next 2 miles were continuous class II rapids (what is referred to as the “Lower,” the section between Husum Falls and Northwestern Lake Park). During this time, we saw at least 5 or 6 Steelhead Salmon spawning in the shallow eddies on the side of the river.
Up ahead was uncharted territory for me. As we passed the Northwestern Lake Park take-out I’m so familiar with, a spark of nervous excitement jumped through me. Our rafts began to quickly descend down into a more narrow gorge, and the line from where the lake used to be grew higher and higher. John pointed out several osprey flying above and their huge nest. We saw amazing rock formations and small waterfalls gushing over the tops of the canyon walls. The rafts floated right past where the dam used to be. (For some history of the Condit dam, click here.)
As we continued on, we bounced through some splashy wave trains and rocky rapids; it was easier whitewater than the Middle section, but still somewhat technical due to the narrow walls and rocks in the river. Then it opened back up for a short time and we started looking for our portage eddy. There is a rapid that is considered un-runnable by rafts, Steelhead Falls, a river-wide ledge-hole that can be retentive for both boats and swimmers. So John stopped the raft above this so we could walk around it. The walk around, or portage, was pretty rocky, and there were parts that required walking along the shore in the water up to my knees. I used my paddle as a walking stick and stepped cautiously through the water, over rocks, and stepped over downed logs. Meanwhile, the guides had our rafts ready to go at the bottom of the rapid.
After we launched off from below Steelhead Falls, we paddled into a super-green, even narrower gorge. The remainder of the trip was flat, moving water intermingled with class II rapids and felt like a trip through history. We passed under long-forgotten bridges for old orchards, the now-abandoned power-house, and the remains of another low-head dam. There were more salmon spawning, a blue heron, and many of species of birds. Eventually we made it to the mouth of the Columbia River, where sunshine and views of Mt. Hood awaited us. It was the perfect end to the day. We loaded up the rafts and headed back to Wet Planet with that satisfied, tired feeling that you’ve just had a great adventure.
As of Monday September 9th, we will be running our new Full Day White Salmon trip on a daily basis!
We had such great feedback, that we will be running this trip starting next week, every day until the end of the season. $125 per person, includes a hot Riverside Lunch and 14-miles of beautiful whitewater, scenery and a slice of spectacular history.
This opportunity is unique for this river, for this area, and for rafting in the U.S. The White Salmon River might just continue to be mentioned on the New York Times Places to Visit for another year (see #13)!
Give us a call with questions – 800-306-1673