It’s almost February, we know a lot of you are still in winter mode, skiing & snowboarding & frolicking in the snow, and that’s alright with us! We’re doing the same, and have been enjoying a stellar start to winter – including a historic storm at Wet Planet! All this snow has us very excited for the 2022 whitewater season!

Snowy cars at Wet Planet the first week of January, 2022!

Current Snowpack for Washington, Oregon, and Idaho

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: 110%
  • Idaho’s Salmon River Basin: 120%
  • Wind River Basin: 136%
  • Klickitat River Basin: 136%
  • White Salmon River Basin: 136%
  • Hood River Basin: 113%

Snowpack in Oregon, Washington, & Idaho. Lots of teal is GREAT!

Mt. Hood Snowpack

Great skiing is a good sign for great rafting! Mt. Hood Meadows is currently reporting a 91” snowpack at the base lodge (5,366 ft.), 126″ mid-mountain (6,250 ft.) and 206” 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 30 inches and a 83-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.”In years past, the pack has ranged from 31” in 1996 to 139” in 2000!

In short, this is a great place to be in January, as February is typically a big snow month for our area. Since we’re already above average, and we can reasonably expect more snow to come in the next couple months, it’s shaping up to be a great year.

mount hood snotel test site for snowpack updates

The Mt. Hood SNOTEL station (courtesy of the National Water and Climate Center)

snow-pit-mt-hood washington and oregon snowpack update

The start of a 140cm snow pit on Mt. Hood January 21, 2019

As for the rivers of the PNW:

Due to high temperatures and low precipitation amounts throughout 2021, 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?

While it’s still early, it’s looking like it will be a great season! Lower Columbia River Basin, which includes the Wind River and White Salmon River is at about 111% of its normal snowpack. Above average is a good sign! Interestingly, these numbers may not be fully accurate as the SNOTEL gauges weren’t getting accurate reads due to too much heavy, wet snow – as is typical of our maritime climate. This was published on January 1st, so we can expect some accumulation of snow since then!

SNOTEL gauges in Oregon and Washington have a hard time getting accurate reads when there is too much heavy, wet snow accumulated.

With that in mind, The Washington Water Supply Outlook Report gives a loose April through September forecast of river flows in the Lower Columbia basin of 123% of normal. The Klickitat River basin’s snowpack is just about 110% 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 signing up for our Class V water level alert list to be the first to know when trips are running. 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.

  1. 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.
  2. 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.

In other words, the White Salmon River is always a good time, and we can raft it at (almost) any water level!

white-salmon-river-rattlesnake-rapid (snowpack update)

Rattlesnake drop on the White Salmon River

What’s looking exceptional right now from the snowpack update?

Owyhee River Outlook

The Owyhee River basin is at about 110% of normal SWE. After a disappointing snowpack last year, we are SO excited, because it’s a great outlook for Owyhee season! We love the Owyhee River for its stellar archaeological sites, unique geology, and hot springs, and incredible wildlife; this trip fulfills all the requirements for one of the world’s greatest river journeys! We have 5-day Owyhee River trips scheduled on the following dates:

  • April 28-May 2 – Just 2 spots left!*
  • May 5-9 – Just 1 spot left*
  • May 12-16

*Availability as of January 14, 2022.

Raft Guide School on the Owyhee River (snowpack update)

Wet Planet Guide School on the Owyhee River

Salmon River Outlook

At 120% of normal snowpack, it’s going to be a great year for Idaho’s Main Salmon River Multi-day Rafting Trips! After a year of historically low flows in 2021, we’re very excited for a normal (or even high) water year! Lucky for us, this trip is incredible regardless of flows, but it’s great news for the entire river basin be looking at a normal water year. We have just a few trips in 2022 with space still available:

Check here for current availability.

Whether you’re looking for a half-day adventure or a multi-day vacation, the snowpack has great water levels in store for all of our rivers this year! Join us on the river for a stellar season!