River Rally participants at the new take-out for the Lower White Salmon River

By Susan Hollingsworth

When 700 advocates for clean water come together, there is a lot of celebration.  Add whitewater rafting in, and the celebration only gets bigger.

Talking about solutions, successes and ways to protect our water resources even more, these river warriors created momentum during the 3 day conference that will carry them back to their home watersheds throughout the nation, helping to continue to fight for clean water.

There is nothing like River Network’s annual River Rally and the Waterkeeper Alliance gathering.  This year, the event came to Portland, Oregon.  Wet Planet happily hosted a field trip for 48 lucky participants to explore the newly freed White Salmon River.

Dave Steindorf, Stweardship Director with American Whitewater, enjoys the river from a kayak.The day began with a tour of the Condit Dam deconstruction site with PacifiCorp’s Russ Howison.  Not just your average tourists, these individuals have a broad appreciation for the preservation of rivers.  In their hometowns they work for local governments, watershed associations and non-profits on similar issues.

After seeing media from Condit Dam’s big blast last October, the group was excited to see the action in-person.

Heading up to Wet Planet’s riverside headquarters, they pulled on a wet suit, buckled up a PFD and snapped on a helmet to hit the water themselves.  The whitewater rafting trip blasted through the class III-IV rapids of the Wild & Scenic stretch of the White Salmon River and floated into the top of the former Nothwestern Lake reservoir corridor.

Evidence of the former reservoir appeared along the shoreline with slight erosion.  One foot of drop, then two, then three from the river level to the riparian zone.  Suddenly the river seemed to pick up speed, as the newly revealed bedrock walls, pouring springs, and ancient old-groth stumps towered over our heads.  By the time we rolled beneath the Northwestern Lake bridge, we were deep in the new canyon.

Check out these photos as we floated further into the top of the reservoir.

Beginning to see evidence of the former reservoir behind Condit Dam When they understood the newly free-flowing nature of the river, they were surprised! Down to the bedrock in some places. Getting closer to Northwestern Lake bridge and the cabins, now 30 feet in the air. Lakeside cabins now have a spectacular view of the river gorge. Scott's Landing, a new surf wave, appeared upstream of the bridge only weeks ago. Floating far below the Northwestern Lake bridge

It was an amazing taste of our new free-flowing river.  An ecosystem is coming back to life and we can’t wait to see the entire new stretch this September after deconstruction is complete.

A great trip with new river friends!

To celebrate our river, we plan to help Friends of the White Salmon River in their celebration to the newly-opened river this fall.  Stay tuned for event updates to come!

Author Susan Hollingsworth writes for Wet Planet Whitewater, Canoe & Kayak Magazine, American Whitewater, and any other river-related publication she can find.