FUN FACT: Roadside Class V. Look good for the tourists who line up along the guardrails
to watch the action.
SEASON: The run is too high for most at the peak of snowmelt, but catch it either
early in the spring season or late in the spring season for good flows. Slightly lower flows persist
through the summer when this becomes one of the few runs you can enjoy in a shorty.
EVENTS: Wenatchee River Festival
LOGISTICS: This is an easy one with the run right along Highway 2 less than a mile
outside of the town of Leavenworth. Put-in at mile 92.4 on Highway 2. The Swiftwater picnic area
here provides good access to the river. Several pullouts provide alternative access points. You can
take-out either above Last Exit at Highway 2 mile 98.5 or continue downstream to the Icicle Creek
Road bridge. To reach this bridge, turn on to Icicle Creek Road at Highway 2 mile 99.1 (the west
end of Leavenworth). It's about a mile up this road to the bridge. The take-out is on the
downstream river left side of the bridge.
Tumwater Canyon is a unique resource for Washington paddlers providing big water
class V in early summer and fun class IV late in the summer after other nearby runs are too low.
Many paddlers get their first glimpse of this run during the peak of spring snow melt on trips over
to the Wenatchee. At these flows the river is a chaotic maze of exploding holes and although it is
sometimes run at these levels, many wait for later in the summer once other options are starting
to dry up. It's a great place to be in the middle of the summer and you'll be sharing the river with
sunbathers and folks swimming in the big pools between the rapids. This river runs right along
Highway 2 so it's easy to scout all the big drops from the highway. Don't forget that they are much
bigger down at water level than they look from the road. If you find yourself in over your head it's
always easy to hike out to the road.
From the Swiftwater Picnic Area the river starts out with some good class III warm
up rapids. The action slowly builds with intermittent sections of flatwater and easy rapids as you
reach The Wall which can be viewed from the road at mile 94. There are a few different lines
through this drop and for the most part you just follow the main flow and treat it as read and run.
It's a technical class IV+ boulder garden at lower flows and class V at higher flows. The class III run
out continues down to the small reservoir formed by the old hydroelectric dam. You can see it
from the road at mile 95.1. This dam was built to provide hydropower required to run the electric
engines the railroad used through the tunnel at Steven's Pass. The generators have since been
removed although the dam itself remains. There are a couple cabins on this reservoir and it's
about a 5 minute flatwater paddle to the portage route on river left around the dam.
Put-in at the base of the dam on river left and the action starts right away with fun
continuous boulder garden rapids. You'll come up to an island with routes around the right or left.
Just be aware of the hole if you take the left route. After that there is a short section of boogie
water as you come up next significant rapid which is Chaos Cascade. This is a great rapid and one
of the longest pieces of whitewater on the run. It's class V at higher flows and class IV at lower
flows. You can scout it from the road at mile 97, or you can pull out on river right to get a good
look at the entrance move. The rapid continues down to the bridge where the pipeline from the
diversion dam crosses the river to the old generator site.
The next big drop comes up after a short recovery section. This is Perfection of
Whitewater (POW), a class V at moderate to high flows which can be viewed at mile 97.9. Although
the rapids up to this point can be boat scouted fairly easily at moderate flows, it's not a bad idea to
get out and have a look at this one from river left. The crux move requires avoiding a hole right at
the start and then you've got a couple options to negotiate the rest of the rapid. At higher flows
there is a sneak along the left but it gets pretty boney once flows start to drop later in the
After POW the pace tapers off a bit and you pass through a short section where the
river spreads out over a gravel bar. The next big horizon line is Last Exit. This V+ drop can be
viewed from mile 98.5 on Highway 2. The most dramatic view is from the highway as you are
headed west up the canyon. It's the first big gnarly rapid you see as you leave the town of
Leavenworth. Many folks portage this drop but it is regularly run. Just be sure to scout it carefully
and pick your line. The portage is along river left. Hike up to the highway and then back down to
the base of the rapid. Some take-out here but the rapids continue on downstream to the Icicle
Creek Road bridge. Cabins start to appear on river left and the river bends to the right leaving
Highway 2 but there is just under a mile or so of fun class III/IV with a couple decent play features.
This section from Last Exit to the bridge is a fun little stretch that can be paddled on its own if
you're looking for something really short to test out a boat or just get a little play in during the
for additional information see
Nice video of running POW at 9K cfs: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8XIiWOKK-Pg&feature=share .
Pretty beefy, pretty tight line.
American Whitewater letter to WA DOT regarding access at Wenatchee River Bridge.
USGS gauge Wenatchee at
Peshastin (also available through the NOAA
hotline 206-526-8530). The run starts to
become class V at flows up around 2000 cfs and
cranks up another notch as flows climb above
4000 cfs. Although Bennett lists 1500 cfs as a
lower limit, many enjoy this as a class IV pool-
drop run during the late summer at flows down
around 1000 cfs.
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.
Rob runnin' the meat #3
Rob runnin' the meat #2
Rob runnin' the meat
"Just once more please"
Working the Wall
The Wall with Chris F
"Yahoo! Ain't dams great?"
"In the Wall"
"The Wall" airlplane turn
PAW running Tumwater Dam
Perfection of Whitewater
bassackwards in The Wall
Tumwater Canyon Footbridge
Tumwater, high water
If someone gets hurt on a river, or you read about a whitewater-related injury, please report it to
American Whitewater. Don't worry about multiple submissions from other witnesses, as our safety
editors will turn multiple witness reports into a single unified accident report.
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.
The Forest Service is developing a new Forest Plan for the Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest and has released a Proposed Action. The Forest Service is accepting public comment on this plan that will guide management for the next decade or more.
Log into the American Whitewater website and you can contribute to river descriptions,
flow and access tips, and maps associated with runs you've done. You can even add new
runs to the inventory!