Starting at Lake Wenatchee, most of the river is class I but you will encounter a few class II rapids in the rock gardens upstream of the bridge in Plain, an intermediate access point. A little ways downstream of Plain and after you pass the railroad bridge, you leave the vacation cabins behind and the river flows through a more remote setting as you encounter some sandstone ledges and high cliffs. The Highway 2 bridge marks the start of Tumwater Canyon and the end of this run. The river is high in the spring but can be enjoyed throughout the summer and into fall when the vine maples make for a beautiful fall colors trip.
To reach the put-in, turn off Highway 2 at Cole's Corner (Highway 2 mile 84.7) and head north on Highway 207, the Lake Wenatchee Highway. In 3.5 miles you will reach Cedar Brae Road that turns off to the left and continues 1 mile to the boat ramp in South Lake Wenatchee State Park. The boat ramp is at the outlet of Lake Wenatchee where the river starts.
An alternative put-in can be reached by heading north on Highway 207 for 4.2 miles from Highway 2 at Cole's Corner, and then turning right onto Braeburn Road just before crossing the Wenathee River. A short drive parallel to the Lake Wenatchee Highway goes between Braeburn Road and the river, just downstream of the bridge on river right. Be sure not to block access of the Braeburn Rd. residents.
An intermediate access point can be reached by heading north on Highway 207 for 3.8 miles from Highway 2 at Cole's Corner, and then turning right onto Highway 209 (Beaver Valley Road). Continue down this road 4.5 miles to the bridge across the Wenatchee. Chelan PUD developed a new access point on the downstream river right side of the bridge funded by the Public Power Benefit Program. The site includes parking off the highway, a seasonal restroom, and a trail and stairway to access the river for hand carry watercraft.
The take-out access is at the Highway 2 bridge across the Wenatchee River at milepost 90.5 on the downstream river right side of the bridge.
We took SUPs from Lake Wenatchee (Discover Pass req'd) to Plain on 7/17/2020. Flow was 2600cfs. Mostly Class I, with some class II near the takeout. Watch out for the generally strong winds, might make inner-tubing difficult. There was some wood, but it was easily avoided. Chelan PUD's new take out had a good-sized parking at the southwest side of the bridge, there's 90 stairsteps to the river. 2 hours on the river, 30 minute bike shuttle (narrow shoulder w/ fast but minimal traffic).
Most people put-in at the South Lake Wenatchee State Park - either the beach or the boat launch. Be sure to have your Discover Pass and pay the launch fee if you use the boat launch area.
It is a good fall colors trip if you don't mind low water. Taking two days to go from lake to Tumwater Campground is a good idea if not doing it in the spring.
On 8/12/12, we stopped at the Tumwater Campground and talked with a lady who works for the company contracted to manage the USFS campground. Our question was where to take out since the WA DOT construction has the usual take out blocked. She said folks can park in the picnic area of the campground (to the right as you enter) and take out on river left before the bridge. Landing there looked very feasible, but entering the short gravel road by vehicle, down to the take out, looked hazardous from the west side, due to the sharp turn required on the narrow, curving Tumwater Canyon highway. You might want to drive toward Leavenworth until you reach a place where you can turn around and then approach it from that direction. There was a porta potty between the highway and the take out when we were there.
American Whitewater letter to WA DOT regarding access at Wenatchee River Bridge.
Letter to Chelan PUD supporting improved river access at Plain.
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Beaver Valley Road Bridge Access
South Lake Wenatchee State Park
Wenatchee River at Plain
Braeburn Road Access
Highway 2 Bridge Parking
Highway 2 Bridge
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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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