Skip to main content

River Rafting in Washington State

River rafting in Washington state peaks during the month of July, in terms of the number of people getting out and white water rafting. However, every season, regardless of the depth of Washington state's snowpack, the peak flows happen much earlier.

I have been organizing, leading and rafting rivers in the state of Washington since 1975. I have seen every imaginable description of the snowpack. I have been rafting for so long in the Pacific Northwest, I remember when they changed (read: downgraded) the definition of 'average' snowpack in the Cascades because the snowpack was no longer accumulating to the extent it once did in earlier part of the 20th century.

I have also been guiding and rafting for long enough in the Northwest to report that, no matter what the snowpack is in February, or March, you would be presumptuous to state that the white water rafting season is doomed to bad water level conditions. This is because the spring could be colder than normal, drier than normal, wetter than normal or the snowpack could increase due to late snows, or the water content might increase due to cold spring rains, etcetera.

But, I am also aware that, as the recreational white water rafting industry in the state of Washington has matured, river rafting clients, who are averse to donning tight-fitting neoprene suits and layers upon layers of synthetic fabrics, continue to choose to raft when they are nearly guaranteed warmer weather and, hopefully, sunshine. Thus, the great majority of river rafting users journey over the mountains late in the spring, or early in the summer, sometime around the end of June, and what they are likely to find is low water.

That will definitely be the case in 2010.

If you are planning a river rafting trip in the state of Washington this season, and you are hoping for a memorable white water trip, I urge you to reserve your trip for May or early June. Beyond June, the best white water rafting trip will be the Wild & Scenic Sauk River which flows faithfully off the glaciers of Glacier Peak and should be navigable throughout the month of July. Which is another observation I have made over the decades.

A Seattle Times article today states that the snowpack on the western side of the Cascades is appreciably better than the easter side of the mountains.

Popular posts from this blog

Spring River Guide Training

Time to sign up if you want to be a guide, or if you just want to feel comfortable on the river on your own.
Only a few weeks away from our annual seven day guide training odyssey on the Deschutes River in north central Oregon and - as the senior instructor - I am beginning to feel the undertow of another river season.

Orion's guide training course kicks off every whitewater season and is comprised of seasoned and salty veterans, women and men, wide-eyed whitewater neophytes, those who revel in the adversity and those who are challenging their ordinary state of being, whatever that may be.

It is a time for ditching cellphones and the comfort of our creature habits.  Sharing and laughing and looking one another in the eye.  Being physically present have to be to deal with the circumstances of being out amidst the elements.  Setting up tarps in windstorms and cooking over fires.

It will be a memorable trip.  Even for those of us participating in it for the 40th time.

River Rafting is Good for You

I have been rafting for a long time.

My first rafting experience was in the fall of my first year in college.  As a matter of fact, after matriculation, it was the very next thing I did.  The river rafting trip, regarded as my wilderness orientation to Prescott College, was a month long affair.

One month in the wilderness after having spent the majority of my life in well-ordered suburbs where my primary contact with the outdoors involved sports.

You can imagine it was an eye-opener in a number of ways.

My wilderness orientation, which took place over four decades ago, brought me serendipitously to this place.

Overnight raft trips are the single easiest method to 'leave it all behind.'  The 'behind' we referred to leaving used to just mean the traffic and the stressors of modern day life, ringing phones, the hustle and bustle of humanity and bills coming due, responsibilities to uphold.

Now, we are saddled with the ubiquity of always being connected to what is going o…

The Phenomena of People

I do not have a river story for you this week, but I had a visit from a good friend from Bellingham and our reunion reminded me of one of the other reasons I have persevered with this little cottage industry.

I wrote a story a few years back titled "Why I (Continue to) Raft" and the gist of that column was that I realized how much I enjoyed getting people out on the water and watching the transformation.  It ended with the brief tale of my very young nephew from Dallas who floated the Skagit and - at first - was terrified of the moving, darn-cold-if-you're-from-Texas water.  And, despite being on a trip surrounded by a large Y group of boisterous Northwesterners who could not get enough of swimming, it appeared he would endure the trip and be ecstatic to see the takeout and a warm, dry car.

When we were halfway down the river, his entire attitude did an about face.  And by the time we hit the takeout he WAS ecstatic, but not about being finished and back to dry land.  …