Paddling Overview: Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area

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Columbia River Gorge
Columbia River Gorge (Eric Brodnax)

Paddling Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area Travel Tips

  • The Klickitat River is a classic whitewater wilderness experience available only during the spring run-off, usually April through July.
  • The upper half of the White Salmon River has many Class III and IV rapids: Top Drop, Corkscrew, and Stair Steps promise thrills. The river also offers a Class V waterfall, Husum Falls.
  • The Deschutes River, which translates from French as "The Rapids,” is Oregon's most popular river. Experience big Class III rapids such as Boxcar, Elevator, and more.

Paddle your canoe and explore Goose Lake or Forlorn Lakes (up Road 66 out of Willard, Washington), Trout Lake Creek (just outside the town of Trout Lake, Washington), Lost Lake on Mt. Hood, or have a Lewis and Clark adventure discovering inlets along the Columbia River.

Take a wild ride on a raft or kayak on the Class V rapids of White Salmon National Scenic River, Wind River (during early spring or late fall), or the Klickitat National Recreation River—all in Washington. Consider a more leisurely ride down the Sandy River at the west end of the Gorge in Oregon. The soggy sneaker crowd may try rafting on their own, but those with less experience should give a professional river guide a call.

The White Salmon is a river for boaters with advanced skills. Conditions may surprise even experienced river enthusiasts. The river offers continuous Class I, II, and II rapids as well as an occasional Class IV. Husum Falls, rated Class V, is hazardous and should always be portaged. The river drops 45 to 50 feet per mile at the upper end. Canyon walls constrict and accelerate flows. Rapids are often closely spaced, giving little time for recover from one to prepare for the next. Few eddies or scouting opportunities exist. Beware of the undercut cave just downstream of the BZ bridge.


Published: 29 Apr 2002 | Last Updated: 15 Sep 2010
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication

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