Trip - Lower White Salmon

posted: 2012/06/11

The Lower White Salmon from below Husum Falls to Northwestern Lake is a great beginner run for those who are looking to push themselves to intermediate level paddling. Only an hour drive from Portland near Hood River, the river continues to flow late into the summer. The current is swift and the water is icy cold, a perfect cure for a hot summer day.

Lower White Salmon, Rattlesnake Rapid with a whitewater canoe.

The picture above shows a couple of paddlers going through Rattlesnake Rapid, a class III mini-drop at the top of the run. Located about 1/4 of a mile downstream from Husum Falls, it is a river-wide ledge that flushes cleanly to the right of the river. You want to enter the rapid from the middle or river left. You might not see the rapid until you are right on top of it.

For an easier beginner run, put in below Rattlesnake Rapid. Wet Planet has a big gate allowing access down to the river. Don't loiter, but you can sneak down to the river from there and put below the rapid.(Learned that trick from OKCC, shhhh!). Everything below Rattlesnake is much easier.

Before you go downstream, take time to check out Husum Falls from the bridge. Rafting companies regularly send unsuspecting tourists into the icy water over Husum Falls. It is fun to stand on the bridge and watch the carnage. After you get a few laughs, put in well below the falls. Don't attempt to run Husum Falls unless you are an expert class IV+ boater. Be sure to have a friend with a rescue rope below the falls. Husum Falls has gotten more dangerous in recent years since a huge tree stump dislodged beneath the falls, making the hole more sticky and recirculating.

Here's a video of the typical trip. Watch some raft carnage, then put in below rapids:

After Rattlesnake, the river turns into continuous class II rapids with a lot of waves and holes to keep it entertaining. Since the water is moving swiftly downstream at a fairly continuous rate, the lower White Salmon gives the beginner boater a chance to work on eddy turns that they may not have practiced much on more pool-drop style runs.

There is one spot shortly after Rattlesnake, where the river makes an almost 90 degree turn. Paddle hard through this section, but beware of the strong eddy on the inside corner of the turn as well. If you cheat over too much to avoid the cliff wall that the water rushes into, you may find yourself in unstable boiling eddy currents that can flip your boat.

All warnings aside, this run is a blast and should be accessible to beginner paddlers as long as they travel in a group and watch each other's backs. If you paddle straight through it is a 1.5 hour paddle, but there are plenty of water features along the way to play in, so you can make a long afternoon out of it.

We recommend the Tomcat Solo or Tandem inflatable kayak for this trip.

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Check out this interactive map showing the put-in spot below Husum Falls (A) and the take-out spot at a park above Northwestern Lake (B).


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