Tieton - 1. Rimrock Reservoir to Windy Point Campground (Upper)

Tieton, Washington, US


1. Rimrock Reservoir to Windy Point Campground (Upper)

Usual Difficulty III+ (for normal flows)
Length 11.5 Miles


Photo of Dave "Willie" Wilson by Tom O'Keefe taken 09/15/99 @ 2000 cfs

Gauge Information

Name Range Difficulty Updated Level
Tieton At Rimrock
dream-559 1000 - 3200 cfs III+ 06h45m 84 cfs (too low)

River Description

SEASON: The annual flip-flop typically occurs on our around the weekend after Labor Day. At that time, flows from the Yakima are reduced and flows on the Tieton are increased to serve irrigation interests downstream providing good boating through much of September. The Tieton is also often boatable from mid-May into mid-July when the dam fills up and spills inflow.

FUN FACT: The last "summer" run

PUTIN: There are a couple of options extending as far up as the pool at the base of the dam. The most convenient put-in is used for commercial rafting at mile 166.3 along Highway 12. Other options exist at campgrounds and roadside pullouts.

TAKEOUT: There are also several options for getting off the river. The road parrallels the river for the entire run. Convenient take outs that come near the end of most of the fun rapids are found at the bridges (mile 177.1 and mile 176.6 on Highway 12).

SHUTTLE: This is as easy as it gets. Highway 12 parallels the river. You can nearly always hitch a ride if you need to.

Hordes of commercial rafters, a highway parrelling the river, and the toilet bowl flush of a dam release make this a run many might pass up. But as one of the few places with dependable whitewater in the waning days of summer, kayakers from across the state converge on this popular late summer run. The canyon is beautiful and the water comes at a time of year when decent whitewater can be hard to find. The Tieton comes to life in September and provides irrigation water for the lower Yakima valley when irrigation flow from the upper drainage is reduced for the benefit of spawning salmon.

Most of the run is continuous class II and III rapids. This is not, however, a great beginner run. Lots of brush along the side and the continuous nature of the run present a real challenge for those with less than solid boating skills. Rescues can be a real pain. The first half of the run is characterized by fast water through shallow boulder gardens. The pace begins to change slightly with the approach of a low head dam about halfway through the run. The dam is well marked by signs on river left at 1000' feet that can be seen from the road (most easily when driving in the downstream direction) near mile marker 172. A couple smaller side channels appear here, but the best option is to continue with the channel containing most of the flow as it heads towards river right. Those with solid boating skills should have no problem pulling out on river left once the dam is in sight. The dam can be run, but there are a couple of spots that wouldn't be much fun so if you have any doubts take the conservative route along the portage trail on river left. This is a lowhead dam and deserves your full respect. Shortly after the dam you will boat past some cabins on the river left bank and pass through the House Rock section. This is one of the more significant class III rapids on the run.

Some boulder gardens and slightly more technical sections follow as you come up to the steel I-beam bridge behind Trout Lodge (Highway 12 mile 172.9). The park and play crowd can easily access the bridge from Trout Lodge. This is one of the best play spots on the river. It's not quite the Wenatchee, but it's still good fun.

Waffle Wall comes a few short bends in the river downstream from Trout Lodge. This is the main class III rapid on the run where the photographers set up to take pictures of the bus loads of gleeful rafters. Smile for the camera and avoid getting slammed into the retaining wall on river right. A few more short technical sections follow but the pace of the river quickly slows down and passes under two highway bridges, either of which makes a good takeout. You can continue further downstream, but by the time I get to the bridges I'm usually in the mood to call it a day.

lat/long confirmed by GPS

for additional information:

  • Bennett, J. and T. Bennett. 1997. A guide to the whitewater rivers of Washington, second edition. Swiftwater Publishing. Portland, OR.
  • North, D.A. 1992. Washington whitewater. Mountaineers. Seattle, WA.


StreamTeam Status: Not Verified
Last Updated: 2010-07-14 18:01:17


Rapid Descriptions

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Associated Projects

  • Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest (WA)
    The Okanogan and Wenatchee National Forests are home to some great whitewater runs and AW has in interest in protecting the resource values of these rivers.