We love the White Salmon River (for obvious reasons) and think that all of its characteristics make it the perfect river trip! As Husum residents and Wet Planet employees, many of us get the benefit of seeing the river change from spring to summer, summer to fall, and so on.
As Wet Planet staff began returning for the start of the season in April, some of us had never seen the river so high! A high water Half Day White Salmon float is thrilling. This trip is one that is FAST, splashy, pushy, and all around BIG. In addition, the canyon’s flora is stunningly vibrant green and in full bloom. As the rafting season continues from spring and nearing summer, guests and locals alike begin to see the river’s volume slowly decrease. As this happens, rapid features become more distinctive and the White Salmon becomes a more technical run. The river bed begins to expose itself, showing off more basalt rock and lava tubes. In our spring season, we launch from BZ corners and take out at Northwestern Park, formerly Northwestern Lake. Prior to the removal of the dam three years ago, rafters and kayakers alike would partake in a flat water paddle across the lake to reach the take out. Now, with the restoration of the river by the removal of the dam, 98 years after its construction, guests can continue floating downstream by way of the river. The changes that this part of land, former lake, and present river have undergone are remarkable to observe and see first-hand.
For those of you who are White Salmon regulars, you may know that the water level of 2.5 feet is a somewhat magic number for the White Salmon. When the river reaches 2.5 feet, Husum season has officially arrived! We know that our guests love the opportunity to splash their way down a 12 foot waterfall – and we love it too! But excitingly so, the opportunity to run Husum Falls is not the only change to our river trips at this water level. Additionally, Wet Planet begins using our private put in, located 2 miles north of the commercial BZ Corner’s launch site. With this, guests charge down three additional class IV rapids – Triple Drop, the Flume, and Maytag. YEAH! Characteristically, the Upper is very different from other stretches on the White Salmon. Enveloped by a tight canyon of beautiful basalt walls, guests chute down the narrow pathway of the river. After the Big Three, guests walk around – or portage – the great BZ Falls. With a short trail walk, guests can admire the impressive 18 foot falls, and on some days even spot a steelhead jumping the falls in attempts to make its way upstream! An optional cliff jump follows the portage before guests are once again back in the rafts and floating downstream.
Lastly, when the White Salmon reaches 2.5 feet, we begin offering a Full Day trip on the White Salmon! From our private put in, the White Salmon flows 15 miles before it joins the Columbia River. On our half day trips, guests enjoy eight miles of fun before arriving at the take out at our facilities. This season, the Full Day trip gives locals and guests alike the opportunity to see the bottom portion of the White Salmon – referred to as the Lower Lower. In our full day trip, after rafting the Upper and the optional Husum Falls, guests stop for a hot lunch of grilled pulled-chicken tacos and more at Wet Planet before continuing down to the mouth of the White Salmon – which has only become possible in the last three years due to the largest dam removal project in the US. (The removal of the Condit Dam was one of several dam removal projects featured in the documentary Damnation produced by Patagonia!) Guests now have the opportunity to see the newly restored riverbed downstream of the former Condit dam site. Remarkably, the riverbed and the river rapidly began restoring itself to its natural state. In this stretch of the trip, guests will see a portion of the White Salmon called the Narrows, where you find yourself on another narrow stretch of the river, enveloped by basalt walls. To raft the Lower Lower – a portion of the White Salmon that hasn’t existed as a river for nearly a century since the construction of the dam – is amazing. For the 40 years that commercial rafting has existed on the White Salmon, this stretch of land and (now once again) river has not been accessible, seen, or shared until now. This is a truly unique experience and river trip that we can’t wait to share with you!
Regardless of what water level the White Salmon is at and what stretch is observed, we are happy to have excited and enlightened guests to share in our passion for the White Salmon. Come see us for a fun and splashy time and take on Husum Falls! Your adrenals will thank you!
Author Hayley Spear spends her summers in the Columbia River Gorge and enjoys paddling, hiking, and exploring as often as she can.