Ever since the ice storm knocked down hundreds of trees a few weeks ago, local boaters have been struggling to figure out what the “wood situtation” is like on their favorite runs. In particular, there has been lots of discussion about the White Salmon River, from the Farmlands down through the Truss and the Middle White Salmon. Pictures and descriptions have been popping up on Facebook, but I haven’t seen very much detail. So, a few days ago, Heather Herbeck and I grabbed a waterproof camera and went for an exploratory run down the Middle White Salmon. While we were at it, we hiked upstream from the BZ launch site, past BZ Falls, to the Flume.
The following are a bunch of photos and descriptions of what we found, starting with the put-in trail, and then moving downstream from the Flume and BZ Falls all the way to Husum. Here goes:
The BZ put-in is a mess. Right now, kayakers won’t have too much difficulty climbing and crawling through the trees, but it will take some good work to clean it up for rafts.
This will take some work with a chainsaw!
While it was kind of a drag climbing around the downed trees, the snow and ice covered steps down to the water were still the most difficult part of the trail down to the river.
Before putting in, we left our boats and hiked up to the Flume and BZ Falls. The trail is a mess, looking similar to the put-in trail. There was one mostly-mandatory portage in the class II water above Maytag, where a river-wide log is sitting in the current about belly button height for a kayaker. It would be really easy to see from the river.
We bush-whacked our way up past BZ Falls to the bottom of the Flume. There are two logs in the Flume, one coming off of each bank. The typical line (moving left to right and getting up high on the right curler) is blocked by wood. It looked like it might still be possible to run the rapid, but both Heather and I agreed that we would be walking if we had our boats there. Sorry, I didn’t get any pictures of the flume.
BZ Falls was a mess. Multiple logs have fallen off of the river right bank and are making the drop unrunnable. More concerning to me, was the fact that the last eddy above BZ Falls (the one that I would use to make the short portage) was guarded by wood. We’ve all seen people miss that eddy and run BZ backwards. Now, the move is even harder. Portaging BZ Falls was also a nightmare. The portage trail was even more wood-choked than the BZ put-in trail.
This is a shot of the wood in BZ Falls. Most of this is solidly attached on the river right bank.
This is looking downstream at BZ Falls. You can see the wood guarding the last chance portage eddy. The wood sticks out into the current, forcing you out toward the center where you are normally moving left to right.
Heather working her way around BZ Falls on the portage trail. This would be epic with a boat.
After our exploratory hike, we put in and ran Top Drop. At 3.5 feet, we didn’t encounter any mandatory portages from there to Husum. That will probably change as the water drops. There were several places where we were sliding over river wide logs that were just under the surface. There used to be a log in Top Drop, but that has been cut out. The biggest thing to note is that, although the rapids are runnable, there is wood everywhere! You wouldn’t want to be swimming in the current conditions.
This is some of what we saw:
This was taken just below Top Drop, looking downstream at the cave. At current water levels, it’s easy to stay left and avoid the wood. However, it’s good to be aware of in case there are swimmers at Top Drop.
This is looking downstream at Boulder Garden. I ran center, and Heather ran right. Both went in a kayak, but there was wood everywhere. Rafts would struggle with this mess.
This is Siwash Rapid. We both ran this to the left of the tree, but it wasn’t as clean as either of us would have liked.
This is the small drop below Stairstep rapid. From above, it was pretty hard to see this tree. While we had no problem running to the left of it, there is a ton of wood like this all of the way down the run.
So, be alert when you’re out on the White Salmon right now. Have fun, and keep your fingers crossed for a good high water event to clean things up.