Little White Salmon - Willard to Columbia River


Little White Salmon, Washington, US

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Willard to Columbia River

Usual Difficulty V (for normal flows)
Length 5.5 Miles
Avg. Gradient 217 fpm

LWS - Wishbone


LWS - Wishbone
Photo of Paul Heffernan by Scott Collins taken 04/05/03 @ 4.0ft



River Description

The Little White Salmon is a highlight of Pacific Northwest creeking. This stunning run offers an incredible array of rapids, with everything from steep complex boulder gardens to dramatic vertical drops, all set in a pristine canyon filled with sparkling translucent blue water. The Little White has an incredible runnable season, and can be run at any time of year most years.

Below the putin bridge, a short class II-III section leads quickly into Gettin' Busy, a half-mile long class V boulder slalom that becomes a pounding hole-fest at higher water, but offers eddies at lower flows. At the end of Gettin' Busy, the tricky Boulder Sluice awaits. This ledge is best run far left.

Some fun boulder gardens lead quickly into Island, a steep boulder jumble that can be run center or center-right, or portaged on the right. This drop gets seriously manky at the lower limits of flows. After more fun boogie water, the ledges start to appear. First comes 10-foot Sacriledge, with a hazardous cave (Dave's Cave) under the left wall. Double Drop is next, a straightforward pair of 5-foot ledges, with a lava tunnel on the right.

The next major drop is S-Turn, a fantastic 14-foot falls into a soft pool with a small ledge as the exit. This drop can be scouted and portaged right or left, and is regularly run on the far left. This drops gets nasty at high water. Below S-Turn, more fun boogie water leads quickly into the Bowey Hotel, a 5-foot ledge that can pack a punch. Run right, and be on your toes: Wishbone lurks just downstream.

Wishbone is the second of the Little White's signature big drops. This fantastic 18-footer offers a great line on the left. From the pool below Wishbone, you must run a mini-gorge -- The Squeezes -- that ends in Stovepipe, a nasty lava bench. The entrance to the gorge is fun IV, but beware of Horseshoe, a 6-foot ledge with a backed-up hydraulic. Stay to the sides (the conventional line is far right) and out of that hydraulic. Stovepipe is lurking immediately below. Getting out to scout or portage Stovepipe can be challenging. The portage has traditionally been on the right over the log, and the line a sketchy move through a pothole on the left.  There is an alternate route using the far right channel if flows are not too low.

 

A short boogie section leads to the unparalled Spirit Falls. This legendary 33-foot waterfall is spectacular from any angle. It has a straightforward lead-in, plenty of room to scout or portage on the left (have a rope ready to lower boats). That said, this is not a drop to be taken lightly. The right wall has handed out its share of beatdowns over the years, and a swim out the pool may result in a very dangerous swim over Chaos, a ledge waiting in the outflow from the pool. Chaos is a straightforward ledge on the left side, but the key is being in control and in your boat to avoid the nasty walled-in hydraulic on the right side. This is a place to practice smart safety.

The last major drop on the Little White is Master Blaster, another steep boulder jumble that ends with a right hand bend. Stay right to avoid the huge ledge hole on the left. Two runnable low-head dams wait below Master Blaster, along with some class II-III boogie as you drift to the takeout.

The Little White Salmon is one of the most popular class V day runs in the country. The length of its runnable season, the wide range of flows that are runnable, and the high quality rapids keep even the best paddlers coming back for more. 

Warning: at high water, the combination of Spirit Falls and the next rapid, Chaos, can be very nasty! Read the description of a very close call that an expert boater had on March 4, 2002. Be smart, be safe, and have fun.

check out the Little White Salmon page on Jason Rackley's site.

He also has two stories from Little White Salmon trips: A Spiritual Experience and Little White Salmon at Low Flow

This section of the Little White Salmon is actually two separate runs. The stretch of Little White from the "town" of Willard to the fish hatchery is referred to as the Upper Little White.

Lat/Longitude data are very approximate.


StreamTeam Status: Not Verified
Last Updated: 2015-02-19 21:26:37

Rapid Descriptions

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Associated Projects

  • Columbia River Gorge (OR & WA)
    Several rivers in Oregon and Washington were protected under the 1986 Columbia River Gorge Scenic Area Act.
  • Volcano Country (OR/WA)
    The rivers of Volcano Country within and surrounding the Gifford Pinchot National Forest represent some of the nation's most spectacular whitewater resources.

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