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WKC Club Trip - White Salmon Weekend (Aug 1-2, 2015)

Published on 9/11/2015

By Shanna Gachen


A WKC fun-filled weekend on the White Salmon with a great crew!  Thanks Ken Stallman for leading the annual club trip to Southwestern Washington.  We usually try to hit the White Salmon on Labor Day weekend, but with the lack of water in Western Washington, we were all drooling to get on some whitewater sooner rather than later.


With the weekend nearing, I decided to drive over the shoulder of Mt Adams, Forest Road 23, on my way to the White Salmon, to avoid the freeway drive and all the traffic.  The drive over NF-23 is about the same drive time as the freeway, and even though it had 10 miles of dirt road, the decision was easy since it's 90 miles shorter and the view of Mt Adams is spectacular.


I arrived Friday afternoon and after a quick run on the class III section with Kanako, Pete and Joel, we greeted club members as they arrived at the Trout Lake group campsite.  That evening we were also rewarded with the Full Blue Moon without the distraction of city lights.  I didn't see the "blue" moon, but the moon was full, big, and beautiful.


On Saturday, 18 kayakers and 2 boaters in a 10' raft, gathered near Husum Falls to start our kayaking adventure down to the Columbia River.   Kayaking the White Salmon down to the Columbia River is a new experience as of 2011, when the Condit Dam was breached.  The reservoir behind the dam buried a huge section of river and blocked fish migration for a century. 


We launched on the White Salmon, 520 cfs (cubic feet per second), in a quiet canyon-like section below Husum Falls, where we gathered and had a quick safety talk before heading downriver.  Our first rapid was named Rattlesnake, known for its bite.  This section also sports a fun surf wave with the perfect eddy next to it, which allowed us to surf until we had our fill. 


Jon "No paddle needed"


As the river approaches the former Northwestern Lake (now lake-less), it now descends into a beautiful basalt canyon where the vertical basalt walls rise and a great series of class III rapids appear.  This section is fast, and river runners want to be alert from the naturally deposited wood, which wedges between the walls.  We had one portage, around Steelhead Falls, which consisted of wading/scrambling along the left side while holding on to a bolted rope in one hand, and our kayaks/paddle in the other.   Steelhead Falls marks the entrance to the White Salmon Narrows and is a class IV/V rapid.  The river pours over a ledge creating a beefy hydraulic (hole) at the bottom. 

Basalt walls within "The Narrows"

We climbed back in our boats just below the falls on a bedrock bench.  The river then flows through the narrowest part of the White Salmon (aka The Narrows).  The river is fast here with blind corners; wood can definitely be a hazard in this section. 

Pete with Steelhead Falls in the background


As we descend, the river tames and the Columbia River comes into view far ahead.  With a flat-water paddle to the take-out we fight some oncoming winds and watch the aerial stunts of the windsurfers and kite-boarders ahead.  The water temperature between the White Salmon and the Columbia is about 20 degrees – crazy!


After our shuttle ride back to Husum Falls, the day seemed young with the heat still ever-present; Jon, Joel, Seth and I donned our kayaking gear once again and had a go at Husum Falls.  As we ran the falls, Seth hovered his drone over the falls to capture our descents.  We enjoyed the spectacular footage over beers and burgers at the local White Salmon pub.

Joel, our photographer, styling Husum K1 Style.


Oh what a day!



by Kanako Iwata-Eng


On Sunday, we paddled from the town of BZ Corner to the lakeless Northwestern Lake Park.  The water level was about 520 cfs, not high but plenty, especially compared to what we had around the Seattle area. 


Though I had arrived on Friday and run this section three times before, it was never boring.  It has many exciting Class III drops such as Corkscrew, Waterspout and Stairstep Falls (ledges rather than falls). 

Alicia guiding the raft with Cecelie and Andrew in the front


Because Shanna convinced me to do it the night before, I decided I was going to run Husum Falls for the first time.  Quite a few people in the group decided to run it also, including Pete and Bill, who were supposed to lead me.  However, when we eddied out on river left above the falls, while I was trying to boat scout, they left without me.  Abandoned and desperate, I begged one of the most advanced boaters in the group, Seth, to lead me.  After Seth calmed me down and gave me a few tips, we were off.  As I followed him, I strayed from his line and started back paddling, before I knew it I was at the edge.  My mind went completely blank, and I forgot that one important forward stroke I was supposed to take, therefore penciling straight down.  The memory of a friend getting stuck under the water below the falls last year went through my mind, but fortunately, my paddle surfaced, and I initiated a roll.  Unfortunately, I couldn’t roll and drank a mouthful of water instead of air, and I wasn't able to try again.  I quickly wet-exited before I was sucked back under the falls, and swam to the shore.  Most people, including Andy who ran the falls for the first time, succeeded without a hitch!


Kanako running Husum Falls

Kanako attempting her roll and sucking in water

Kanako taking a swim with Seth there for support


The rest of the run was a fun and splashy class II.  All survived, thanks to our fearless trip leader, Ken Stallman.   Thanks Ken for a great weekend!


Ken our trip leader

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