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Middle White Salmon River

Middle White Salmon River, BZ Corner to Husum, WA

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Rafting + Kayaking, IIIRafting + Kayaking, IVRafting + Kayaking, VWaterfallsFish Spawning
Region: 
Washington
Mt. Adams/Indian Heaven Wilderness/Goat Rocks
class of rapids: 
III+
Duration: 
Day trip
Duration: 
2 hours
Total distance: 
5.00 miles
Congestion: 
High
Preferable Season(s):
Winter, Spring, Summer, Fall
Road condition: 
Paved
Day-Use/Parking Pass Required:
Not Required
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Adam Elliott | 08.05.13
A kayaker goes for big air during the local Big Air Bonanza at Top Drop.

Trip Report

Pros: 
Easy access. Year-round flows.
Cons: 
Summer crowds. Cold water.

With its national notoriety, whitewater rafters and kayakers seek out the Middle White Salmon River for its quality rapids all year long.  Flowing from Mount Adams, the river cuts through a rich, volcanic landscape like a crack in the earth.  Blue glacial water, fresh springs, and a lush landscape make the run an oasis during the hot summer days and a jungle during dreary winter months.  And when no other rivers are flowing at the end of summer, the White Salmon just keeps on giving.

Not just a whitewater attraction, anglers and hikers now visit the river to catch spawning salmon moving upstream.  The 2012 removal of Condit Dam rejuvenated the run after blocking these endangered fish from their ancestral spawning grounds for the last century.  Spend even a few moments gazing at the river during spawning season and you're sure to catch one of these beautiful creatures jumping the falls.

Commercial white water rafting trips began exploring this section when the sport first came to the Northwest, quickly establishing the river as one of the highest quality and easily accessed runs in the region.  The whitewater starts out strong in BZ Corner with continuous Class III-IV rapids.  Walk just upstream (turn left at the last bend in the rails at the launch) to drop over Maytag, a meaty hydraulic at the start of the first rapid.  Alternately, put in below Top-Drop, the first rapid.  Enjoy the action for the first half as most of the rapids are stacked in this section. From there, the river calms down before dropping over 12-foot Husum Falls.  At higher flows (above 3.5 feet), most avoid this falls by portaging on the right or left.  At medium and lower flows newbies can huck themselves for their first waterfall run here. Kayakers boof the flake and rafters hold on tight, both hoping not to swim in the powerful hole at the base of the curtain. Take out is either above or below Husum Falls, or continue downstream for another 2 miles to Northwestern Park on the lower section.  

Removal of the White Salmon River's Condit Dam

OPB Oregon Field Guide | 02.21.13
The White Salmon River Runs Free: Breaching the Condit Dam

Noteworthy Hazards/Rapids

  1. Maytag and Top Drop: Rapid at the base of the BZ Launch site stairs. Walk upstream to run Maytag, or put in anywhere along the rapid.

River Information

Character: Continuous, Wooded (Forested), Park-and-Huck
River Users: Kayaks, Rafts, Commercial Outfitters
Average Gradient: 51 fpm
Recommended flow min: 500 cfs
Recommended flow max: 2500 cfs
Gauge Station Name: USGS 141213500
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Oregon Field Guide

Oregon Field Guide is OPB's long-running local weekly TV series. The program covers natural resources, ecological issues, outdoor recreation and travel destinations across the Northwest region. This award-winning show is one of the most-watched local productions in the public broadcasting system.

Oregon Field Guide also extends the work it does in the field for the television series across radio and the Web, providing a greater degree of coverage.

Oregon Field Guide airs Thursday evenings at 8:30 p.m. and repeats Sundays at 1:30 a.m. and 6:30 p.m. In the Mountain Time zone of Eastern Oregon, the program airs at 9:30 p.m. Thursdays, and at 7:30 p.m. Sundays.

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