One of the best ways to experience the incredible Northwest Scenery found in the Columbia River Gorge is by taking a whitewater rafting trip through one of the area’s spectacular river canyons. These trips offer the absolute best of whitewater rafting in Oregon and Washington. One of the best times of the year for whitewater rafting in the Columbia River Gorge is in the Spring, when snow melt and rain water provide great water levels in all of the area rivers. Many of the Oregon and Washington river rafting trips only run in the Spring during the seasonal snow melt, and are unrunnable later in the summer.

Best Spring Whitewater Rafting in the Columbia River Gorge

Wind River Rafting

How to choose the best white water rafting trip?

With numerous creeks and rivers flowing off of Mt. Adams toward the Columbia River each Spring, it can often be hard to determine which river trip to take. Each river section has its own personality. To help with your decision, we’ll break down the most popular Oregon and Washington whitewater rafting rivers and give you some great insider’s hints for choosing the perfect trip for you. The most popular are the White Salmon, Klickitat, Wind River, Hood River, and Farmlands section of the White Salmon, each offering visitors a unique experience.

Spring whitewater rafting in the columbia river gorge

White Salmon River Rafting

The White Salmon River is the most well known, largely due to its long season. Fed by natural springs flowing from the Mt. Adams glaciers, the White Salmon provides plenty of water for great rafting spring, summer, and fall. Designated for protection under the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act, the White Salmon offers a breathtaking combination of whitewater and scenery. Rafters are treated to continuous class III-IV rapids as the river tumbles through a beautiful, cliff-lined basalt gorge. White Salmon trips are appropriate for beginner to advanced rafters 10 years in age and older.

Spring Rafting in the Columbia River Gorge

Inside Scoop: the removal of Condit Dam on the White Salmon River in the Fall of 2011 has generated a lot of attention lately. Spring trips on the White Salmon used to end in Northwestern Lake. Now, what used to be lake is a free flowing river canyon. This increase in attention reached the writers at the New York Times, who listed the White Salmon River (with Wet Planet as the outfitter of choice) as one of the top world destinations in the article 46 Places to Visit in 2013, shortly after the removal of the dam.

Klickitat River Rafting

The Klickitat River passes through one of the most remote wilderness canyons commercially rafted in the Pacific Northwest. With virtually no access other than by boat to the steep canyons, towering basalt cliffs, twisted lava formations, and scrub oak forests for the majority of the trip, this is the ideal trip for rafters who want to experience the magic of a pristine wilderness river trip. Packed with exciting class III rapids, this full day trip is ideal for beginner to advanced rafters 10 years older and up.

Spring Whitewater Rafting on the Klickitat River

Inside Scoop: Make reservations for early May. This is when the Klickitat is typically running the highest. We have a slightly lower than average snow pack this season, so we might be losing water on the Klickitat River by the end of May.

Wind River Rafting

The Wind River is the most challenging commercially rafted run in the Pacific Northwest. Set in a deep canyon, surrounded by towering cliffs and spectacular waterfalls, the Wind River cascades through tightly spaced boulder gardens and steep ledges in a non-stop series of class IV to V rapids. This action packed run is only for the athletic rafter seeking the next level of adventure. Outfitters on this river require previous whitewater experience, have strict age requirements, and require rafting guests to be in good physical fitness to meet the demands of this challenging and exciting trip.

Spring whitewater rafting on the Wind River

Inside Scoop: The Wind River is hard to catch at the right water level. While we do run trips from April until early June, we recommend making a reservation for mid-April to mid-May for the best chance at catching that perfect water level.

Hood River Rafting

The Hood River is the most recent addition to the commercial whitewater scene in the Columbia River Gorge. Local kayakers have enjoyed the West Fork of the Hood’s long and continuous class III/IV rapids for years, but rafts were rarely, if ever, seen descending through the river’s narrow gorges. In recent years that has changed, driven by raft guides’ passion for sharing the local rivers they enjoy with their rafting guests. We Planet now offers a full-day trip down the West Fork and Main Fork of the Hood River. These two sections combine for 15 miles of class III-IV rapids through spectacular Pacific Northwest wilderness. The lush, temperate forests characteristic of the Cascade Range glow with every shade of green: from the Spanish moss dripping from giant Ponderosas to ferns growing from wet, canyon walls. The river’s headwaters in Mt. Hood National Forest were recently added to America’s Wild and Scenic Rivers list, ensuring its scenic and remote qualities for generations to come.

Spring Whitewater Rafting on the Hood River

Inside Scoop: the Hood River rises and drops quickly with rain fall, making it hard to predict water levels and plan trips far in advance. If you are interested in one of the awesome trips down the Hood River, give Wet Planet a call. We’ll put you on the “Hood River List” and get in touch with you when the Hood is running.

Rafting the Farmlands

The Farmlands section of the White Salmon River is arguably the most committing, exciting, and spectacular commercial whitewater rafting run in the Pacific Northwest. And your only chance to see it is with Wet Planet whitewater rafting trip. We travel further upstream than any other company on the White Salmon to access this incredible section of river. Ten miles north of the Forest Service public put-in for the main section of the White Salmon River, the Farmlands offers continuous class IV-V whitewater rafting in a series of canyons defined by vertical cliff walls and the horizon-lines of stair-stepping rapids. Within the canyons, rafters will find scenery and whitewater adventure unrivaled by other commercial rafting trips. The glacial waters of the White Salmon careen through rapids such as Sidewinder, The Drop Zone, Mini Lava, and Off Ramp.

Spring Whitewater Rafting in the Columbia River Gorge

Inside Scoop: the Farmlands trip is the favorite trip in the Gorge for most of the guides at Wet Planet. However, it isn’t for everyone. Rafters on this trip should be prepared for challenging, committing whitewater, and adventurous rock scrambling on the portages. This trip is an adventure, both in and out of the raft!

So, there they are. The best Spring whitewater rafting in the Columbia River Gorge. From stunning scenery, cascading waterfalls, exciting rapids, challenging drops, and steep river canyons, there’s truly something for everyone. All you need to do is decide which is the perfect river for you!

Author Todd Collins lives on the White Salmon River in BZ Corner and works year-round for Wet Planet.