White Water Rafting on the White Salmon River

Last month I went to Oregon on my second annual girls’ trip. There were four of us, and we had a busy week planned. One of the adventures I was looking forward to was our white water rafting trip.

White Salmon River

We were staying in the Hood River area, and planning to raft the Deschutes river. But after getting several recommendations, we opted for the White Salmon river, using River Drifters as our tour operator. It was just a short drive from our hotel in Hood River to Husum, WA. We arrived about 1:30 pm, ready to hit the water at 2:00. After signing the usual disclaimer, we were then fitted for wetsuits, booties, helmets, and life jackets. By the time we had gone through the safety briefing, and riding on the bus for the ride to the put-in point, we were ready to get in the water.

However, we made one stop on the way to the starting point on the river. The guides wanted us to see a section of the White Salmon that we could elect not to raft – Husum Falls. While it didn’t appear to be a difficult run, it’s at least a 14-foot straight drop, and can be rather hard to maneuver. But more on that later.

We put our rafts in the water, with ten miles of river ahead of us. Our guide, Richard, did a good job at explaining the basic paddling techniques – we were pros in five minutes! The river was cold and at times turbulent, but it was a beautiful day to be on the river.

At one point, we encountered class V rapids, and the guides said we would not navigate those rapids. Instead, we had to climb out of the rafts, and follow a very rocky trail to meet up with the rafts. There you had a choice: either climb down to the rafts via a rope along a steep bank, or jump off a 20-foot ledge into the river below, clearing a four-foot shelf. We decided to climb down a slippery slope back to our raft.

After that, it was back to class III and IV rapids. Most of them have names: the Staircase, Granny Grabber, Shark’s Tooth, and Corkscrew. There were no problems navigating those rapids, as long as we were following our guide’s instructions.

Going over Husum Falls

But now it was decision time: get out of the raft, or stay in and go over Husum Falls. We heard all about the reasons not to go, and recent injuries of rafters who had stayed in the raft. It ranged from concussions to broken limbs to muscles strains and pulls. Two in our group decided to get out, and take pictures! Rosalie and I decided to stay in. We committed to finish the trip as we started – rafting all the way.

Coming out from Husum FallsRichard spent about 15 minutes reviewing the process for going over the falls: on his commands, paddle hard, then paddles into raft without hitting anyone, grab the outside line with one hand – strap with the other, anchor feet, and drop to the bottom of the raft, knees up by ears – and do it all in about three seconds – right before going over the falls. We also re-arranged our seating, moving closer to the rear of the raft. By then another guide had joined us to balance out the weight, so we had four in the raft.

Coming out from Husum Falls

So it was time. We were the first to go, and as we pushed off, Richard slipped in his mouth guard – he broke two teeth on Husum Falls last year. Even though we were ready, nothing can quite prepare you for that moment when you sink in the raft, and hold on as you drop over the falls into water that surrounds you on all sides, raft submerged under water, and then popping up to the surface. And everyone still in the raft! It was great, and since we had gone first, we paddled to the side to watch the rest of the rafts in our group come over the falls. There were a few minor mishaps, and one person fell in the water, but all were fine. It was a great way to end a very enjoyable trip.

PeachGal Jane Warren is a resident of Atlanta, Georgia and the publisher of towabletubesdirect.com, a website that provides information on boating tubes and other water sports products including Sanyo waterproof cameras, which comes in handy on rafting trips! She also loves to travel, and takes several trips each year with family and/or friends.

2 Comments on "White Water Rafting on the White Salmon River"

  1. Oh, I wonder if I’d take the plunge (pun intended) and choose to go over the scary falls! Thanks for a great post about your whitewater adventure, Jane!

  2. Enjoyed your post. Must have been super-exciting to go over the falls! And the snaps add to the thrill! Keep posting!

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