Run the river | Looking for excitement or relaxation?
Yakima may be part of the state’s desert band, but we’re surrounded by rivers — some of which are no better enjoyed than on the outer tube of a whitewater raft, paddle in hand and a face full of frothy river water as you negotiate the rapids.
In summer, each of these whitewater destinations requires a drive. And, if you’re not that experienced, you might also want to go with a guide service. Just Google “whitewater rafting Washington state” and you’ll have plenty of choices.
As for when to go and where,
here are your prime choices:
WENATCHEE: Best in May and June, the Wenatchee is the state’s most popular river, a classic “pool-and-drop” river with long stretches of rapids bearing such unnerving names like Devil’s Eyeball, Drunkard’s Drop and Snowblind. There’s a reason there are sometimes 100 rafts on the river on a busy Saturday in early June — because it’s so much wet fun.
WHITE SALMON: With last fall’s removal of the Condit Dam, this river may expand on its well-
deserved reputation as the hidden jewel of the state’s rafting industry, courtesy of its beautiful setting and narrow channel. The lower river below the dam won’t be open until at least September, but it will add a new dimension.
METHOW: It’s a longer drive than the others, roughly three hours from Yakima to the put-in just upriver of the little town of Methow. But the 17-mile run is thoroughly entertaining, very scenic and sometimes even thrilling.
KLICKITAT: It’s an even more remote destination than the White Salmon or Methow and, because of that remoteness, doesn’t have as many outfitters running it. But some rafters believe it’s the most beautiful rafting experience in the state.
And, in September, of course, the annual “flip-flop” turns the TIETON into Washington Whitewater
The question is, can you wait that long?
— Scott Sandsberry
Maybe you’d like something more relaxing ?
The Yakima River rises in the Cascade Range at an elevation of 2,449 feet at Keechelus Dam near Snoqualmie Pass. From there, the river flows through Ellensburg and Yakima and continues southeast to Richland, where it flows into the Columbia River at an elevation of 340 feet. The river is popular for rafting and kayaking and is generally regarded as a Class I float, depending on the conditions and the season.
Looking to getaway during the months without actually “getting away?”
The Yakima River might be just the thing.
The river has gained popularity as a rafting destination over the years as locals put on their swimming gear and head for the water.
One of the most popular excursions on the river runs from the Umtanum Creek Recreation Area, south of Ellensburg, and heads down to the Roza Recreation site, about 5 miles north of Selah.
The best months of year to float the river are July and August. In those months, the average high temperature ranges between
85 and 90 degrees.
Before you head out, be sure to consider safety for you and your party.
• Wear a life jacket.
• Float sober.
• Stay in the middle of the river and avoid branches and other debris.
For more information on river conditions, call 509-925-8534 and ask to speak to a marine patrol officer. You can also visit
— Scott Mayes