This week, I had the opportunity to raft the Upper section of the White Salmon River for the first time with Wet Planet. I’ve rafted the BZ (middle) section before, and I regularly kayak this run after work, but to see the Upper section was an entirely new experience – dare I say the best of rafting in Washington and Oregon?
Another Wet Planet staff member, Hayley, came along with me on the trip. First we hiked down a steep dirt trail leading directly down to the river from Wet Planet’s private river launch site. Most companies still put in at the normal BZ Corners launch site, so getting to start out higher up the river – adding 2 miles of class IV whitewater and a 20-ft cliff jump – was a treat. After reviewing some basic paddling strokes, I climbed into the raft with my river guide, Cat.
Right off the bat, we dropped into swift moving current, with just enough time to practice a few paddle strokes and commands with Cat before catching the eddy above “Triple Drop.” This class IV rapid is a narrow staircase of three fun drops, leaving you instantly exhilarated and ready for the next rapid. “The Flume” is the next one just around the corner– another class IV drop with lots of twisting cross currents!
After coming out of The Flume with smiles on our faces and soaked in river water, we pulled off on the side of the river above the waterfall, BZ Falls. Since it’s too steep to be run in rafts, I climbed onto shore with all of the other guests while our guides tied the boats to ropes from shore and lead them down the Falls with no passengers. As we hopped along the rocky shore (a 200-ft “portage” over uneven rocky river shore terrain), I stopped to check out BZ Falls with Hayley. While we were looking down at this breathtaking 18-foot waterfall, we saw a couple of giant Steelhead Salmon jumping up the falls! It was amazing to see the ones that actually made it up the waterfall.
The next exciting part of the trip was the cliff jump. As part of the portage, you are given the option to jump down from a ledge into the water and swim back to the rafts, or simply keep walking down the ledge and climb along a few rocks to get back to your boat. I decided to take the plunge into the freezing water! Hayley chose to walk around this time and used a rope to help herself down a steep part of the portage. Although it wasn’t an easy walk, she and the others didn’t have too much trouble getting down, even for the older or less-adventurous folks on our trip.
Back in the rafts with our guides, the 5 boats took off for our last big rapid, “Maytag.” Cat called for us to “get down!” and sit in the bottom of the boat for extra stability. We burst through the big wave at the bottom and headed downstream for the rest of the trip, just passing the normal BZ launch site.
I had such an amazing time on this trip – it’s great to be able to work for Wet Planet and have this beautiful river in my backyard! The “Upper” lived up to the expectations for me. It really adds such an awesome element to the whole Middle White Salmon trip. Its like a whole different river and rafting experience!
The whole trips leads to an amazing Grand Finale: (optional) Legendary Husum Falls!
The highest rafted water fall in the United States!