Washington’s White Salmon River has been in the spotlight a lot in the past couple years with the removal of Condit Dam. It’s been over a year now (Oct. 26, 2011) since the Dam was blasted, the lake was drained and the river started pushing the sediment from behind the dam out 3.3 miles to the Columbia River. Access to the lower section of the river was closed by PacifiCorp to ensure that the sediment would settle and push out as much as possible before allowing anyone in the canyon.
On Oct. 31, 2012 access was re-opened to the lower section of the river. I recently took a trip down the un-dammed section of the river from Northwestern Lake Site to the Columbia, about 5 miles total. Less than a half mile down from the put in the canyon walls grow high overhead and there a couple old rope swings nearly a hundred feet overhead that look oddly out of place. It’s mostly moderate class III rapids in the old lake section. Once we arrived at the dam site I almost paddled right by it without noticing. The dam debris at river level has been wiped clean and the sediment has pushed out and down to solid bedrock again. We had just paddled through a section of river that had been underwater for the past hundred years!
The last time I paddled that section was a couple years ago, on top of the lake. It was incredible to see the change in scenery and to see how deep the lake really was. The rest of the river continues into a section called the narrows, which climaxes at class IV Stealhead Falls and the overhanging cliff walls below. The rest of the run is a nice class III paddle as the canyon opens up and mellows out down to the take out just before hwy 14. This section of the White Salmon River is as unique and as beautiful as the runs upstream. With the removal of the dam brings migrating fish upstream for the first time in over a hundred years as well so for all the fishing enthusiasts, you have a new area to explore as well. I highly recommend that you put this one on your Outdoor-To-Do-List for this spring and summer.
Written by Ryan Scott of Gorge Hits