Every September whitewater rafting and kayaking enthusiasts from all over Oregon, Washington, and Idaho flock to the warm water, high gradient, Class III Tieton River for the Summer’s grand finale. The Tieton is a dam-controlled river near Yakima, Washington, that flows exclusively in September as part of a Bureau of Reclamation deal dubbed “the Flip-Flop”, which helps protect Spring Chinook and ensure the farmers in the Yakima Valley get the irrigation water they need. When all the other rivers in the Pacific Northwest (except the White Salmon!) start to run dry, the Tieton provides the opportunity for one more big whitewater adventure before the end of summer.
The “Flip-Flop” is a federal initiative that started in 1980 when a fish biologist noticed that the artificially high flows on the Yakima River, necessary for irrigating Yakima Valley farms, negatively impacted salmon spawning. Increased flow from the reservoirs cause the Chinook to build their redds in areas along the Yakima River that dry up during winter when irrigation demand is reduced. As part of a compromise, when the Chinook begin swimming toward the Yakima, the Bureau of Reclamation reduces flow so that the fish build their redds in areas that remain wet through the winter. To ensure the farmers get the water they need, the Bureau increases flows in the Tieton River, providing irrigation for the crops and excellent whitewater for us!
“The Tieton is a super fun season finale,” said Todd Collins, Wet Planet co-owner. “The thing I love about the Tieton is the high fun to low risk factor. The Tieton isn’t the hardest thing we run, but it’s still super exciting. There is a minimal amount of rocks so we spend the whole day charging at big waves and rapids.”
Wet Planet rafts along a 15 mile stretch of the Tieton that includes continuous Class III wave trains, with a few Class IV rapids mixed in. Wet Planet provides a BBQ after their trip and free camping the night before or after. Along with camping, there are a handful of lodging options nearby. The Silver Beach Resort or Rimrock Lake Resort are within a 10 minute drive of Wet Planet’s base camp, or you can check out the list of nearby camping options on the Forest Service site.
Wet Planet’s base camp also provides a great starting point for accessing one of the many excellent Goat Rock Wilderness hiking trails. If you want a change of pace other activities in the area include touring Painted Rocks or Fort Simcoe, checking out the Yakima Valley Museum, or getting some adult beverages at Gilbert Cellars Winery or Bale Breaker Brewing.
See Wet Planet’s Tieton trip featured on the Travel Channel’s Trip-Flip.