Wet Planet Whitewater adventure rafting near Columbia River Gorge

Julie Henning runs Road Trips for Families, a resource for families love to get out on the open road and let their adventures unfold. 

Fed by underground aquifers and the glacial melt of nearby Mount Adams, the second-tallest mountain in Washington State, the White Salmon River never runs dry. A brisk 40 degrees, anyone venturing out on the river encouraged to wear a wetsuit, booties, fleece, a splash jacket and anything but cotton.

white-salmon

Running fast and high in the spring melt, the river was generating between Class I and Class IV rapids when I embarked on a half-day rafting adventure with Wet Planet Whitewater in mid-April. Wet Planet Whitewater is a rafting and kayaking outfitter located in Husum, Washington just off the Columbia Gorge Natural Scenic Area near Hood River, Oregon.

After receiving safety instruction and practicing paddling techniques on terra firma, our group of four women and one guide dropped into the middle of the rapids six miles upstream at the BZ Corner launch site. Thrilling as much as invigorating, we passed under majestic pines and along waterfalls tumbling into the river canyon that was once a lava tube (in fact, we made a brief stop into a shallow basalt cave formed by lava as it cooled millions of years ago).

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Depending on the time of year the White Salmon River runs faster or slower (but never dry). In the summer months, groups may have the opportunity to make a 10-food drop down Husum Falls. Too dangerous during our visit, we gladly made a small portage around the falls as the rafts were roped downriver—a group of kayakers received our collective cheers as we watched them plummet through this rocky passage.

At this point in the trip, true thrill seekers may opt to jump into calmer waters from atop the Husum Street Bridge. If you decide to mark this off your bucket list, keep in mind the water temperature and know you might be chilly until the sun dries your clothes.

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Immediately following Husum Falls and the bridge jumping is “the rattlesnake,” a series of rapids where Rattlesnake Creek runs into the White Salmon River. It’s here where rafters have the opportunity to “ride the bull,” a maneuver where everyone moves to the front edge of the raft and plunges feet-first into a concave wave of whitewater. Our guide described this experience as nature’s nasal cleanse and I ended up swallowing and then spitting out a giant gulp of the river.

Wet Planet Whitewater photographers meet up with the rafts at different points along the river and capture groups mid-adventure. The sequence of before/during/after shots of our group “riding the bull” were my favorite (for a laugh, click through some of the shots posted on the Wet Planet Whitewater flickr stream).

The remaining two miles of the eight-mile run remained scenic, but a bit calmer (more waterfalls, majestic pines, red tail hawks circling from above). Our guide explained how the area was impacted by recent flooding and talked about the history and controversy around the removal of a dam that transformed Northwestern Lake into Northwestern Park (and, consequently, led to a resurgence of salmon and steelhead populations in the White Salmon River).

Traveling back to Wet Planet Whitewater by van, we changed into dry clothes and reviewed the photos of our trip. Visitors in the summer months are encouraged to linger over a burger and a beverage on the shaded deck of the Wet Planted Whitewater café. Day-trips include a riverside lunch, but it’s still fun to linger and recount the day’s adventure.

Worth noting is the minimum age requirement for the half-day trip (rafters must be ten and older, and sometimes sixteen or eighteen depending on the trip). That said, Wet Planet Whitewater offers outdoor programs, adventure camps, and youth kayak camps specifically designed with kids in mind.

Please enjoy this video, embedded with photos and sound from our adventure on the White Salmon River. Special thanks to our Instructor and Trip Leader Giani Benevento for his interview and insight.

 

 

 

 

Date last visited: April 2015

 

Distance from the interstate: 15 minutes from Highway 84/downtown Hood River, Oregon. Note: You will need $1 to cross the Hood River Bridge between Oregon and Washington.

 

Pricing: Pricing varies based on the length and duration of the trip (note the minimum age requirements). I participated on the $65/person Half Day trip on the White Salmon River. Food is available seasonally at the Wet Planet Café.

 

Accommodations: Lodging is available in Hood River. For families, the best bet is the Hood River Inn or a vacation home available through the Oak Street Hotel.

 

Directions: Wet Planet Whitewater is located at 860 Highway 141 in Husum, Washington. From Oregon Highway 84 take the Button Bridge Road exit and cross over the Columbia River on the Hood River Bridge. In Washington State, take the first left onto State Highway 14 (Lewis and Clark Highway) and then turn right onto State Highway 141. Continue 6 miles on 141. Wet Planet Whitewater is located on the right-hand side of the road.

 

I received a complimentary half-day rafting trip on the White Salmon River from Wet Planet Whitewater for the purposes of this review. All opinions are my own.

 

 

 

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