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Klickitat River Safety Concerns

Published on 3/5/2015

Klickitat River Safety Concerns

The Klickitat River is a wonderful resource that you may want to explore. It requires a drive of about 4+ hrs., but you are then in a lovely valley on the sunny side of the mountains. The access road likely won’t be covered by snow this year, so the season may start in April, instead of Memorial Day. There are a few sections that you can do, including an 8.5 mile whitewater run, and a 16 mile class 2 section in a wild and scenic corridor, away from the road. The later section is one I floated with friends two years ago, and we camped overnight, and had a leisurely time floating the miles and exploring the area. See “A Guide to the Whitewater Rivers of Washington, by Bennett.

There are two safety issues to be aware of:

Leidl Falls, at about mile 3 as measured upstream from the confluence with the Columbia River, is a class 6 drop according to the book (maybe class 5 according to today’s standards), but not a place to stumble into. Five young people stumbled into the drop in 2014 on inner tubes and air mattresses. One died and the others were beat up badly and had to be rescued. Only one was wearing a PFD.

The second problem area is about three miles downstream from the “raft put-in” called Parrot Landing by some locals. The river can be seen on a satellite map to take a left turn, another left turn, and then a wide right turn, and at that point it fans out into three channels and passes by three gravel islands. The last island is called, “Jeff’s Island” as a cross there proclaims, as Jeff died in the log jam that frequently forms there. This site is easy to misread and extreme caution should be taken as you approach, and scouting is essential.

The WKC board approved funding for a safety sign last year, and I have been in contact with the forest service and a few local boaters/fish biologists, who asked me to use the funds to get a warning sign for the Liedl Falls, as the old one was broken down and apparently ignored by the young people that floated past it. So the WKC is funding a sign that will help prevent such accidents. I am also working on a smaller second sign that will be at the “raft put-in” to describe the log jam area to those that launch there.

Mike Grijalva, Safety co-chair, WKC


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