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.
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.
Clean as of 6/3/2018.
Due to a navigation error on my part, we accidentally ran past the normal takeout to the Rainy Creek Campground - located on river right. Lots of class II in this area, but a very nice class IV gorge that is a step easier than the stuff up above. Totally worth the extra ~45 minutes on the water.
The river is completely clean of wood as of June 2017.
As of July 4, 2006, there is only one mandatory portage that our group found. We had been told about the wood in "the Flume" so we were looking for it. It could be very scary if you didn't know it was there or didn't scout. Consider "the Flume" mandatory portage at this time. Everything else was good to go, but things can change.
As of spring 2007 the run was totally clean with no wood portages (aside from a log across the last drop at Lake Creek Campground). Of course this situation can chance at any time and you should still scout the blind corners on your first run down. Awesome run!!
We ran The Little Wenatchee in May of 2005 after confirming the rumors of the run being fairly free of wood. We were pleasantly surprised to find great IV - IV+ action at the levels we were there (800 - 900 cfs). We thought those levels were about perfect. We chose to put in on river left based on some locals input. We took out at (decommisioned) Lake Creek Campground. The put-in/take-out instructions in the guidebook and how they look on a Gazetteer seemed confusing. Simply drive up the river-left side after leaving Lake Creek Campground. Once you see a Forest Service Gate, about 3 miles up the road, (open or closed doesn't matter), park on the outside of the gate, and hike directly down to the river. This puts you a short ways above the first good drop (7 ft ledge), and the action doesn't stop until Lake Creek Campground. We did the run with zero portages, but one or two might be prudent depending on ability, water level, and any shifting of logs that may occur. I've put a couple of series of pictures in the gallery, showing where we encountered a few logs of note. I recommend this run as one of WA's best class IV - IV+ rivers.
The Little Wenatchee (WA) is one of those rivers you see in the guidebook and you just know it's going to be a jewel. Lots of Class 4 and some 5 in a technical, steep gorge in a remote area waaaaaay up in the mountains above Lake Wenatchee. In Jeff Bennett's guidebook, Gary Korb wrote the description and calls it"one of my favorite runs." Must be a classic.
Here's the unfortunate reality:
Currently, there is bad wood in every major drop except Let's Make a Deal. We're talking total closeouts. There's also must-walk wood in other reaches of the gorge sections. Expect arduous portages around some fantastic rapids - it's a true heartbreak, really. Some of the sticks are tough to see from upriver and committing to an unrunnable, unportageable situation is a frighteningly real possibility. It's probably gonna need at least 15K to 20K on the Wenatchee gauge to clean it out. Maybe more.
BTW, we had plenty of water with the main Wenatchee flowing 4,100 cfs, but it would get scrapy with any less water. The road to the put-in is impassable about 1/2 mile short of the end. It's an easy but long hike to the end of the road and across the clearcut to the river.
Latest report is that as of spring 2004, the Little Wenatchee is free of wood and well worth a visit.
9 years ago
by John Schaefer
10 years ago
The Department of Ecology has a realtime gauge on this creek.
Permits are not required for this reach.
We have no additional detail on this route.
Use the map below to calculate how
to arrive to the main town from your zipcode.
The Flume, upstream view
The Flume, downstream view
Pool in the Second Gorge
Second Gorge, Crux Move
Let's Make a Deal
Let's Make a Deal
Rapid on Little Wenatchee
Entering the First Gorge
Heading Towards the First Gorge
Little Wenatchee Launch
Leland Enters the Flume
First Ledge - Totten
First Ledge - Shelby
First Ledge - Clifton
Wood in the Flume
Log Across River #2
Log Across River #1
Log in The Flume #2
Log in The Flume #1
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There's still snow in the mountains and flows have been great all spring as boaters from across Washington state gear up to host the Wenatchee River Festival on one of the region's premiere whitewater rivers. Boaters from across the Pacific Northwest will all converge on the town of Cashmere this weekend for a great weekend of fun and activities on the water.
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