The West Fork is the best Class IV run in the Columbia Gorge. It's known for its fun Class IV rapids that build up in intensity. Most of the rapids occur in 2 basalt gorges that are spectacularly beautiful to journey through.
Start at the confluence of the West Fork and the Lake Branch of the Hood River. About a mile downstream is the first basalt gorge with a number of classic rapids. Below the gorge, the rapids are more spread out and tend to be gravel bars. You'll want to pay attention because about half-way down this stretch is a mandatory portage around a fish ladder. You'll see a big horizon line and will want to eddy out on the left for the portage.
Below the fish ladder, the rapids pick up in intensity. The most difficult rapid on the West Fork is about a half-mile below the fish ladder and is a long, complex rapid. Rapids come in quick succession after that, and the last one is just below a high bridge spanning the Hood River.
Take out above Punchbowl Falls, a 10-foot drop into a gnarly hole. It is runnable, but the hole is deep and a swim here would be no fun. This is an amazingly beautiful and powerful place, with beautiful basalt walls, views of Mount Hood, and awesome wildflowers in the spring. It's a nice hike up the hill to the parking lot.
6/24/2020 We did this run at 3.7' on the Tucker gauge and 300 cfs on WF gauge. In the past, we have run this as far down as 3.5'/250 cfs and it still goes. Near and below 4', it's more of a "creeky" run and very enjoyable for paddlers with the right mindset. On a nice day in late Spring and early Summer, it's a great alternative to yet another Middle White Salmon run. The first 2 miles to the fish-ladder can be a little tedious at very low flows, but the rest of the run is still very entertaining and everyone who Jacob and I have taken down at these levels has been pleasantly surprised and is always anxious to return. If you can scrape down the first small rapid at the lower put-in you'll be fine. I would only recommend the Lake Branch put-in with 400 cfs or more and the uppermost put-in at Lolo Pass at 500.
Wood portage still necessary about 15 minutes downstream from launch. Climb up the steep wooded slope on the right.
As of spring 2017, one wood portage in the first gorge (may be possible to get through at certain water levels). Otherwise the run is clean.
Map of the site.
Letter from American Whitewater supporting acquisition of Punchbowl Falls and management as a County Park.
Typically run when the Hood River at Tucker Bridge gauge is between 5 and 7.5 feet.
From Hood River head to the hamlet of Dee. Cross the East Fork of the Hood and then veer right. Follow this road to a dirt parking area on the right. This is take-out. If you cross a bridge you've gone too far.
From take-out, head back the way you came and drive back to Lost Lake Road. Take a right on Lost Lake Road and follow it for about 5 miles. You'll cross the West Fork a few times. The put-in is at a parking area on the left side just past a bridge that crosses the Lake Branch. Hike down the Lake Branch from the dirt parking area and put-in just before it meets the West Fork.
Wood Portage in First Gorge
Take-out Above Punchbowl Falls
Fish Weir Portage
Portage at the Fish Weir
West Fork Hood Kayaking
Punchbowl Falls Access
Punch Bowl Falls
Punch Bowl Falls
Entering First Basalt Gorge
Confluence with Green Point Creek
End of Second Basalt Gorge
Rapid in Basalt Gorge
Just Below Green Point Creek
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A vision more than a century in the making is about to become reality with last week’s decision by the Oregon Parks and Recreation Commission to approve the grant for the acquisition of Punchbowl Falls and the property at the confluence of the West and East Forks of the Hood River.
Punch Bowl Falls is one of Oregon’s iconic scenic and recreational sites on the Hood River in the Columbia Gorge. At the confluence of the east and west forks of the Hood River, the site has been privately owned and its future remains to be determined. Our goal is to see the site become a public park and we encourage the boating community to join that discussion.
This summer, American Whitewater has joined a campaign to raise funds to protect Mt. Hood's Punch Bowl Falls in Oregon. We're asking the paddling community to step up in support of this project!
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