What should we expect for Washington rivers and river rafting?
Sunny on the east side of the Cascades, soggy on the west. That is what is always expected out of rivers located within an easy drive of Seattle.
In other words, the spring melt off is still to come.
Temperatures will be rising over the next few days, touching the 80s in Leavenworth and, it is possible, the white water game will be on. Last season, turbulent and cold spring conditions persisted right into and throughout June, and the snow melt never built to a crescendo. River water levels - on both sides of the mountains - were sustained well into August.
There is no way of knowing just how this season is going to unfold. But it is typical for summer to come on strong east of the Pacific Crest Trail and rivers to rise on a bell curve with the peak falling in late May or early June. On the Puget Sound side of the mountains, warm spring rains usually accomplish the same or a similar pattern with rivers like the Sauk River and the Skykomish.
High water levels on Washington's western rivers certainly should be avoided by novice, inexperienced and first-time river runners. On the other hand, less technical rivers like the Wenatchee River and the Methow Rivers are more manageable at high water, but even they can reach levels that are not suitable for beginners.
So, if weather patterns and snow melt unfold true to form, you can expect lots of white water, and cold water conditions, in all of Washington's rivers from mid- to late-May through mid- to late-June. The levels should taper off throughout the remainder of the season - with the exception of the Sauk River which is sustained by glacial melt - with July being mild white water but much better air temperatures.
Speaking of the Sauk River, July is actually the ideal time period to raft the Sauk. The Puget Sound environs are beginning to show signs of summer and this Wild and Scenic river gains water as the glaciers on surrounding mountains begin to melt.
Remember the One Hundred Degree rule: If air temperature plus water temperature is 100 degrees or less, wetsuits or drysuits are required.