Mount Hood National Forest
The White Salmon flows from its origin on the slopes of Mt. Adams to its confluence with the Columbia River. In early times, Native Americans fished and lived along the river. The area continues to be important to the culture of contemporary Native Americans.
In later years, homesteaders settled along the river. Orchards, farms, and a timber industry were carved from surrounding forest and continue today as an important part of the local culture and economy.
The early settlers gave the White Salmon its name suggested by the pale bodies of spawning fish, which at times nearly choked the mouth of the stream. Many species of wildlife make the White Salmon River and adjacent area their home. In 1986, the river's outstanding qualities received national recognition when Congress designated eight miles of the White Salmon River as a National Wild and Scenic River. The river's churning rapids and unique beauty draw recreationalists, especially whitewater boaters. The glacial waters of Mt. Adams combine with the water of numerous springs, providing whitewater boating opportunities that are enjoyed most of the year.
White Salmon National Wild and Scenic River
The White Salmon National Wild and Scenic River runs through the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area. It offers a wild ride, requiring advanced skills. The run from BZ Corner to Northwestern Lake takes two to three hours depending on the water level. Conditions may surprise even experienced river enthusiasts. Class I, II, and III rapids are continuous with an an occasional Class IV thrown in for good measure. 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 to recover from one and prepare for the next. Few eddies or scouting opportunities exist. Beware of the undercut cave just downstream of the BZ bridge.
A boating trip through the shaded canyon of the glacially fed White Salmon is typically wet and cold. Cold water gear and five gallon bailing buckets are recommended. Plan on using eddies for bailing after every drop, even in self-bailers. Since there are few scouting opportunities, those running the river for the first time should seriously consider using a professional guide. Life jackets should be worn by all those running this river.
Experienced professional rafting guide services are available so that even the inexperienced can enjoy whitewater boating. Those less experienced may wish to restrict themselves to the lower section between Husum and Northwestern Lake, keeping in mind that even this section has rapids that are not recommended for the novice.
Access is off Highway 141 at BZ Corner. A put-in eddy lies just above the BZ Corner Bridge and a private fee cable launch is available. If you are feeling timid, put in just downstream from Husum Bridge at another fee launch. You will have a shorter run but don't think you have missed all the Class III excitement!
The roller coaster starts immediately downstream from BZ Corner. The Class IV Maytag rapids undercut a cave. Stay left to keep your head on your shoulders and avoid entrapment. Then onward to a series of Class III: Shark's Tooth; Grasshopperrun center right; Siwashcareful of a side flip; CorkscrewMove from the right to center as you speed through; and WaterspoutRun left through potentially huge waves. The names themselves evoke the thrills you will tumble through.
You get a little respite down to Stairstep Falls, then you face four separate dropsstick right through the first, then left, then straight through the final two.
Husum Falls comes next. You can pull out just upstream at a free take-out or you can portage the falls. Be equipped for the portage. The Forest Service recommends you carry two 50-foot lines to drop rafts down the side chute during high water. During low water, take two 100-foot lines to drop rafts down the main falls.
Once you are back in the water, you have two more Class IIIs: Rattlesnake with a short, sharp drop and Deadman's Corner. A pinning rock lies left. Start center and move right to avoid the namesake's fate.
After those, the rest may seem like a piece of cake: several Class IIs and some surfing waves. But don't let your guard down until you hit Northwestern Lake and take out at the free landing, courtesy of the Pacific Power and Light Company.
Virtually all the lands along this segment of the White Salmon River are privately owned. For years landowners and river users have been good stewards of the White Salmon River lands. That has helped to qualify the river for National Wild and Scenic River Status.
Because of the private land, this portion of the White Salmon is managed through existing local and state, as well as federal regulations. The Klickitat County Shorelines Management Plan provides protective measures for a 200-foot zone on each side of the river. The USDA Forest Service is preparing a river management plan for the eight miles of the White Salmon River designated as a National Wild and Scenic River. A broad based public task force was established to help guide future management of the river corridor. In addition, the portion of the White Salmon River above this eight-mile stretch is being considered for inclusion in the Wild and Scenic River system.
All Outfitter and Guides (commercial and non-profit) are now required to have a special use permit from the Forest Service for running the river between BZ Corner and Northwestern Lake.
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication