From getting record numbers of kids out on the water, to raising thousands of dollars for First Descents, to sunny class V rafting, to a national river restoration event on our home river, 2011 has been a year to remember.
A Staff Trip To Set The Tone
While Wet Planet operates twelve months a year, the beginning of the river season really sets the wheels in motion for a successful whitewater rafting and kayaking year. Every river runner knows the best way to celebrate another season is with a big river trip on the Owyhee River.
Emphasis on big river.
They came from all corners of the country: Cat and Drew from Asheville, NC, Nicki and Brian from Crested Butte, Giani from Montana, and many from right here in the Columbia River Gorge. Friends reunited, celebrating with dutch ovens, surf sessions, canyon side-hikes, and some delicious cocktails (I’m partial to Jaco’s spiced wine).
However, this year we got an extra treat on our staff river trip: the highest water level to hit the Owyhee River in the last 20 years. A foreshadow to the 2011 high water season?
A New Generation of River Guides
We had so much fun out on the big Owyhee River that we decided to take our guide school students down the river as a part of their 8-day guide school. After spending two weekends on our favorite Columbia River Gorge rafting rivers, students took their skills to the multi-day world. They learned about rigging a raft, rowing, and overnight camp logistics, essential tools for any river guide’s bag of tricks.
Raising Money and Hosting Kayak Camp for Cancer Survivors
There might as well be a big START line on every Wet Planet staff member’s calendar on the morning of May 1st.
This is the first day of the annual Eddyflower Total Vertical Challenge. Participants compete in two categories: paddling the most vertical feet and raising the most money for First Descents. This year Wet Planet had twelve staff join the fun, paddling as much as possible in both rafts and kayaks.
Check out some of the standings:
- Total funds raised by Wet Planet: $5,785
- Number of vertical feet paddled by Wet Planet: 206,232
- Number of vertical miles that translates to: 39
- Number of Wet Planet staff in top 10 for vertical feet: 6
- Name of winner for most vertical feet: Tyler Houck
- Name of winner for funds raised: Drew Austell
We were particularly proud of Giani for placing 6th out of 95 competitors total vertical feet, all from the seat of his raft! Giani descended nearly 4 vertical miles (20,945 ft), much of which he was the only paddler in the raft. (That’s hard if you didn’t know. Really hard.)
Just as the competition came to a close, Wet Planet proudly hosted two full kayak camps for First Descents. Our kayak instructors, especially those who had done fundraising during TVC, were particularly grateful for this special experience.
Its July and the Rivers Are Still Full
The Pacific Northwest weather gave an extra big hug to the kayaking and rafting communities this year.
Under the blissfully warm sun of July, Wet Planet continued to run trips on the Farmlands stretch of the White Salmon. Our Class V rafting on the Wind River seemed to go on forever, with water levels holding out for an unprecedented amount of time. The high water roller coaster just seemed to never end.
Husum Falls is Late to the Party
Then, just like an old friend coming back to town, Husum Falls dropped in to say hello to all our White Salmon River rafting trips. However, this old friend took his sweet time, not showing up until mid-August. However, with high water keeping the thrills flowing for way longer, we just couldn’t stay mad.
We also began posting all our runs over Husum Falls to our Wet Planet Facebook Page (go Like us now!), to help the friends and family members of our guests better understand just how incredible this waterfall can be in a raft…no matter how the raft resurfaced!
Kids in Kayaks
In 2011, more kids in the Gorge than ever before got out in kayaks thanks to our Kid’s Kayak Camp killer instructors, Heather Herbeck, Lori Turbes and Curt Joyce. During two different camps, these bundles of energy played in their kayaks in the pool, crafted foamy boaters, and even paddled a stretch of the White Salmon River.
We are proud to be a part of the next generation of kayakers, and hope that we can be around to see their quick progression and increased desire to play outside.
Tieton’s End of Season Cameo
Our season on the Tieton River came and went too quickly. Guests discovered the joys of warm water in September, and guides got a much appreciated change of scenery. A great time for everyone on a spectacular river in central Washington.
Peru River Expedition
Now, as many of our operations slow down, our first commercial river rafting and cultural exploration trip to Peru is underway.
Our international guiding guru Brian Lee is currently navigating the incredible canyons of Peru’s Apurimac river and leading a group to of the most magical places on earth. We look forward to seeing photos, hearing stories, and getting back that down there ourselves!
Winter River Time
Despite the change of seasons, the rivers just keep on flowing. Our kayak school is excited to be hosting clinics throughout the fall and winter for advanced boaters, kids and adults.
And just when the weather hits “too cold” on our thermometers, we will be taking another trip down to Costa Rica for warm water, beaches, great rivers, and more outdoor adventures. Don’t miss out on that one.
Condit Dam Watch
Not just a big year for paddlers, 2011 has been a pivotal year for the river itself.
This year, removal of Condit Dam on the White Salmon River will begin. The first breach, through a 90 ft tunnel at the base of the dam, will set the White Salmon free for the first time in nearly 100 years. Local advocates, national river conservation organizations, Native Americans, scientists, paddlers, and more have worked on this landmark river restoration project for over 20 years. It’s kind of a big deal.
Wet Planet looks forward to celebrating with these esteemed individuals and our local White Salmon family on the Big Blast day!
We especially look forward to 2012 and the first descent of the new stretch of whitewater on the White Salmon!
Author Susan Hollingsworth writes for Wet Planet Whitewater, Canoe & Kayak Magazine, American Whitewater, and any other river-related publication she can find.