UPDATE – March 14, 2019: The snow that has been piling up in the mountains that feed the rivers we run is starting to melt and it’s going to be a spectacular rafting season on all the rivers we raft!
Here’s the latest snow-water equivalent (SWE) percent of the normal median 1981-2010 from the National Water and Climate Center for Oregon, Washington and Idaho river basins. The center’s definition of snow-water equivalent (SWE) is, “the depth of water that would theoretically result if you melted the entire snowpack instantaneously.” Meaning, the percentages below are compared to the median measurement of the years 1981-2010. So, 128% is 28% above normal for the last 30 years.
- Owyhee River Basin: 128%
- Idaho’s Salmon River Basin: 118%
- Wind River Basin: 96%
- Klickitat River Basin: 96%
- White Salmon River Basin: 96%
- Hood River Basin: 101%
Lastly, the snow depth on Mt. Hood at ~5,000 feet and 124″ and on Mt. Adams it is 146″.
Green and teal/light blue is good!
It’s almost February, we know a lot of you are still thinking snow and that’s alright with us! Below, we give you a few different Oregon and Washington snowpack updates, including Mt. Hood’s snowpack for skiing and riding!
Mt. Hood Meadows is currently reporting a 70” snowpack at the base lodge (5,366 ft.) and 184” of total snowfall. The official Snow Telemetry (SNOTEL) Snow and Precipitation Update Report from the National Water and Climate Center confirms Meadows’ claim, reporting a snow-water equivalent (SWE) of 26.9 inches and a 68-inch snow depth. In case you’re wondering, the center’s definition of snow-water equivalent (SWE) is, “the depth of water that would theoretically result if you melted the entire snowpack instantaneously.” These numbers are slightly higher than 60 inches at the same time a year ago, and 50 inches in 2017, although all three years have been below the historical average of about 86 inches. In years past, the pack has ranged from 31” in 1996 to 139” in 2000! Regardless of being below average, it’s better than this time last year, coverage is good, and the snow has been soft and skiing lighter than usual.
As for the rivers of the PNW:
Due to high temperatures and low precipitation amounts throughout 2018, most of the river levels are currently low, despite some high year-to-date precipitation amounts and decent SWE’s in a few river basins. However, this means that it has been snowing at higher elevations and we’ll likely have some fun water levels to look forward to this spring with the annual snowmelt.
What’s this snowpack update mean for rafting and kayaking with Wet Planet?
Well, it’s a little early to tell, but the Lower Columbia River Basin, which includes the Wind River and White Salmon River is at about 70% of its normal snowpack, which is around 10% lower than it was at this time last year. The Washington Water Supply Outlook Report gives a loose April through September forecast of river flows in the Lower Columbia basin of 90-96% of normal, but that can change rapidly with varying temperatures and precipitation amounts. The Klickitat River basin’s snowpack is just about 90% of normal. If the rivers run at the forecasted flows, we should have a pretty standard spring of running all of our rafting and kayaking trips, including the Klickitat River and our class V rafting on the Hood River, Wind River, and the Farmlands section of the White Salmon River. Class V rafting is difficult to time and catch. Our Class V runs have short windows in which the water level is runnable. We always recommend calling or emailing to get on our trip updates lists. Lastly, booking earlier dates rather than later dates in each river’s season helps you stakes at getting on that river.
How about half day and full day rafting trips on the White Salmon River? What does this snowpack update mean for them?
As we’ve reported before, the White Salmon River is an anomaly that does not abide by the rules of the snowpack for a couple of different reasons.
- As the summer rolls on rivers across the PNW (and beyond) run at just a trickle. But, in the dry weather and heat the White Salmon flows. Aquifers beneath the ground start flowing into the river and keep it at a consistent flow throughout the season.
- The White Salmon River is great to raft at a wide range of water levels. When it’s high, it’s big, wavy, fast and continuous. When it’s low, it’s steep and technical. We open our exclusive upper stretch of class IV rapids when the river drops to a certain level. At this time we also give you the option of running the class V Husum Falls.
What’s looking exceptional right now from the snowpack update?
The Owyhee River basin has the highest snowpack “percentage-of-normal” in the state of Oregon at about 105% of normal SWE. In eastern Oregon, precipitation type played a role in the current state of the snowpack. Precipitation overall was below normal. However, because it mostly fell as snow, this part of the state reached above normal snowpack levels for January 1st. This is great news for Owyhee River trips for Guide School April 29-May 2 and our multi-day river trips on May 6-10 and May 13-17.