Little Wenatchee, Washington, US
|Usual Difficulty||IV(V) (for normal flows)|
|Avg. Gradient||94 fpm|
The Little Wenatchee boasts a wide range of desirable flows, long season, crystal clear water, great class IV/V rapids, beautiful scenery, an easy shuttle, and close proximity to other runs.
The run starts off with short warm-up that leads to a clean and powerful 8 foot vertical drop called First Ledge. It's an obvious horizon line and an easy scout on river right. After First Ledge the river continues with some easy class II and just as you're starting to wonder when the action will pick up you reach some fun class III rapids and enter the First Gorge.
The First Gorge starts out with a couple of fun rapids before you reach The Flume and with it the action cranks up to some great class IV. The Flume is a series of holes and waves in a tight mini gorge that requires a sharp left hand turn at the end to avoid the headwall on river right. It's an impressive view from upstream as the river appears to dead end in the wall at the bottom. You can scout the whole gorge from river left and this is recommended if you haven't been down before as wood has been known to collect in the narrow slot at the bottom.
The action continues with great class IV whitewater and continuous action. You will eventually come to Let's Make a Deal. This rapid is marked by a big wall on river left and starts out with a tricky entrance slide towards river left that is hard to see from above. You then want to work your way over to river right and a small eddy above the river right slot for Let's Make a Deal. Routes through other slots are possible depending on flows and your skills.Shortly after Let's Make a Deal the canyon walls peel back and the run continues with a short class II section. Just as things start to pick up again you're at the entrance for the Second Gorge. Use caution here as things start off as class III but quickly build to what most consider the one class V drop on the run. You can portage this section on river right (easier than the river left route mentioned in Bennett's guidebook) or scout from above. The crux move involves a narrow slot with a double hole sequence. The first hole makes it difficult to line up for the second and many runs finish off with some exciting performances. There is a decent recovery pool at the bottom where a waterfall cascades in on river right (there's a good seal launch rock downstream of the falls for those who are portaging).
Wood has been an issue in some years so it's good to get local beta before heading out. Check out the Little Wenatchee on Jason Rackley's Oregon Kayaking for a story of trying to do the run at a time when there was lots of wood.
Wenatchee River Festival 2008
June 12, 2008