Emerging from the slopes of Mt. Adams, the White Salmon is one of Washington's greatest whitewater resources. With a range of whitewater opportunities from a popular beginner training run to some of the most challenging whitewater in the country this river has something for everybody. Commercial rafting trips are popular and the river typically has good flows throughout the year. With it's consistent and dependable whitewater, the river has hosted many races and events over the years. The water is always cold so be sure to dress appropriately. While mid-day sun penetrates the canyon it is often much cooler down in the gorge particularly on hot summer days in August.
The section starting at BZ Corner is known as one of the best intermediate whitewater runs in the state. With near consistent action, beautiful scenery, and a big drop at the end that always attracts a crowd of spectators, this is a destination for folks from around the region. Those who have been a part of the whitewater scene for the past several years remember the privately owned put-in located in a residential area along the gorge. A cableway high across the river was used to lower rafts down into the gorge while kayakers and raft passengers paid their fee to hike the trail down to the river. With the future of the access in question the Trust for Public Land stepped in to help negotiate a deal and transfer ownership of the property to the Forest Service. The old billboard with the oversized map of the river is gone and a set of rails to slide rafts down along the trail has replaced the cableway (to the frustration of those trying to hike up against the grain of traffic after finishing the Green Truss run upstream), but the land is now in public ownership effectively securing the best possible access point for future generations of paddlers. The Forest Service is always looking for user feedback so let them know if you have constructive thoughts on how to improve the access.
The trail down into the gorge ends at the put-in above a relatively straight forward class IV drop with two holes. First comes Maytag and then the rapid finishes with a ledge drop into a good-sized hole known as Top Drop. Skirt the edge or punch it through the middle depending on flows. If you prefer a bit of a warm-up before jumping on to one of the more challenging rapids of the run you can always put-in to the downstream end of the drop. Spectators can watch the action from the bedrock ledge at river level or from high above on the Glenwood Road Bridge.
Once you pass under the bridge the action starts right away with several of the best rapids and nearly continuous action for the next two miles. One hazard to be aware of near the start of the run is a cave on river right. Stay to the left away from the wall and you'll be fine. Class III rapids in this section include Grasshopper, Siwash, Corkscrew, and Waterspout. The drops are all relatively easy to boat scout and consist of fun wave trains and ledge drops through the narrow gorge. The hole in Waterspout sometimes gives people trouble if you aren't expecting it. Punch it down the center or sneak it along the left. The river tapers off for a bit before you reach Stairsteps which is a series of fun ledges. This is the last of the significant rapids before you reach Husum Falls.
A sign marks the approach of Husum Falls and points to a take-out on river right above the falls (for those who don't plan to continue downstream) or a portage trail on river left a bit closer to the edge. Intermediate paddlers should have no trouble exiting the river before the falls. You'll also recognize it by the highway bridge and an obvious horizon line. Once paddlers land in the eddy above the falls and start scouting a crowd will begin to form. A walkway on the bridge provides convenient access to several different vantage points and a platform to record the carnage. Spectators gather along the railing to cheer both the good and bad lines. The typical line is to run the drop center right just to the left of a large rock that protrudes above the surface at all but the highest flows. Expect to get munched in the hole if you stray too far to the center. Other lines are possible depending on flows and your skills. Some call this drop a class V because it does require a challenging move to run it clean, but the approach is free of obstacles and the run-out offers plenty of opportunity for recovery. Carnage is not uncommon however especially if you end up in the powerful hole in the center. The drop provides easy access for multiple runs or park and huck.
Below Husum Falls the river continues for another hundred yards before passing under a second bridge. There is another good class II/III rapid below this bridge which at some flows provides a nice park and play spot. You can take-out here on river left or continue downstream through another couple miles of class II rapids including a great surf spot known as Cave Wave. (Sept 9, 2014 edit: There is a riverwide log 1/4 mile downstream from Cave Wave. The takeout at Northwestern Park is a gigantic gravelled ramp on the right just after a bridge, and requires class II eddy-catching skills.) This lower section is a great beginner training run with the hardest rapids at the start. Called the "Lower" by many locals, it provides consistent action with several fun but forgiving rapids. Since the dam was removed in 2011, there are class II-II+ rapids all the way to the takeout. The last rapid before the takeout
Additional information in: Bennett, J. and T. Bennett. 1997. A guide to the whitewater rivers of Washington, second edition. Swiftwater Publishing. Portland, OR.
Maytag starts off the first long rapid at the put-in.
Top Drop finishes off the long rapid at the put-in.
Fun hole to the left hand side.
Big Waves with a clean line to the left side.
A fun surf spot but watch out for raft traffic traveling downstream.
A fun sequence of ledges.
The typical line is to stay on the tongue just to the left of the rock that sticks up on river right and keep some right angle (sweep on the left) as you head over to stay out of the hole in the middle. At higher flows this rapid rates class V, but at lower flows many consider it a class IV. At high flows you can also do the sneak on far river left that involves a couple creeking moves. You can take-out on river right or river left above the falls.
A fun playspot downstream of Husum Falls sometimes enjoyed for park and play.
2 months ago
by Thomas O'Keefe
11 years ago
Management Plan guiding activities within the Wild and Scenic River corridor on the Lower White Salmon River.
Letter to area manager requesting reopening of BZ Launch Area and Husum.
The closest real-time gauge is White Salmon at Underwood. Many paddlers, however, go by the staff gauge at Husum. It is located downstream river right of the Highway 141 bridge and just upstream of the second bridge about 100 yards downstream. An estimate of this gauge based on correlation to the Underwood gauge can be found on Pat Welch's site . The decision to paddle should be based on personal inspection of the flow.
The Husum gauge level is often posted here as well:
Permits are not required for this reach.
Follow Hwy. 14 along the Columbia River and at mile 63.6 take Alt Hwy 141 north (this turn is a couple miles to the west of the Hood River bridge across the Columbia). Continue 2.2 miles to the junction with Hwy. 141. It's another 2.0 miles north to the turn-off for the last potential take-out (Hwy. 141 mile 6.7). Here you'll turn west on Northwestern Lake Road and follow it 0.4 miles to a bridge. There is a park with a launch ramp, picnic tables, and a changing area on the downstream river right side of the bridge. Many kayakers also use the take-out upstream at Husum Falls at the bridge across the White Salmon (Hwy. 141 mile 8.8) Parking is available on the upstream river right and downstream river left side of the bridge. To reach the put-in continue north to the Forest Service launch site (acquired from private ownership with the help of the Trust for Public Land) at Hwy. 141 mile 12.8 in the town of BZ (just north of the turn-off for Glenwood Rd.).
White Salmon River Map Sign
Paddling Through the Former Reservoir Site
Paddling through Stairstep
Restored White Salmon Emerging
White Salmon River
Husum Falls - 3
Husum Falls - 1
Husum Falls - 2
Log jam in Husum
BZ Access, White Salmon
Maytag on the White Salmon
Top Drop on the White Salmon
Northwestern Reservoir Public Access
Boat Ramp at Northwestern Reservoir
rapids below Husum
Packraft Descent of Husum
Packrafting the White Salmon
My first real waterfall
Riverboarding Husum Falls
Husum Falls 2
Below Husum Falls bridge.
Raft Guide at Husom Falls
rapids on lower
Husum staff gauge
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.
PacifiCorp has announced that they have closed the river access at Northwestern Lake Park (the take-out for the Lower White Salmon run) due to the dynamic river conditions associated with Condit Dam removal and ongoing downcutting of sediment in the vicinity of the take-out. The access will be reopened as soon as conditions stabilize.
Earlier today PacifiCorp made a filing with the Federal Energy Regulatory (FERC) accepting the terms and conditions propsed to govern the surrender of PacifiCorp's license for the Condit Hydroelectric Project including removal of the dam. The reservoir will be drained in October 2011.
The prospect of removing Condit Dam on the White Salmon River moved closer to reality today in a significant ruling from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commissioning formally ordering the removal of the dam. With today's ruling by federal regulators and approval earlier this fall by Washington State, the dam is now scheduled for removal in October of 2011.
We have witnessed some positive developments regarding the plan to remove Condit Dam and restore the White Salmon River (WA) over the last few weeks, and there are several details that we thought would be of interest to the whitewater boating community. Removal of the dam is now scheduled for October 2011.
Brought to you through the efforts of Wet Planet Whitewater and the Headwaters Institute, the White Salmon River RiverFest and Symposium will take place this weekend (Saturday May, 30th). American Whitewater will be presenting an update on Condit Dam removal and river restoration efforts in the region as part of the morning symposium. River races and a great party will take place in the afternoon and evening.
Thanks to efforts by the Trust for Public Land and the US Forest Service, the BZ Access on the White Salmon is now in public ownership. Improvements to the site continue to take place.
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