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Wind River
 Stabler, WA

April 27, 2003

The Wind River is one of the premier white water rafting trips in the Pacific Northwest.  Class IV and V rapids highlight this stretch of river, with almost solid whitewater for the duration of the eleven-mile trip.   Cutting through a hundred-foot deep canyon, about 90 miles east of Portland, the Wind River is one of most scenic and picturesque rivers in the northwest.  You'll find a hot springs (beware of naked men), a cliff for diving, excellent fly fishing, and secluded swimming holes, along with the thrilling rapids.  The Wind River is only runnable from November through May.  The best time of year to run is probably mid- April.  Water temperature runs a chilly 40F.

The trip begins in the tiny town of Stabler, Washington, about ten miles northeast of Stevenson, and about eleven miles north of Home Valley.   The first mile or so consists of "warm-up" Class III rapids.   At the confluence of Trout Creek, the river doubles in volume and really starts to rock.  For the next three miles, the river drops at over 100 feet per mile, with nine big Class IV+ to Class V rapids, including Initiation, Rams Horn, Balls to the Walls, Beyond Limits, and Climax.   By the end of this stretch, you'll be ready for a breather, and most of the guided tours will stop for lunch on the beach at this point. 

Back in the boat, you'll slam through High Bridge (named for the bridge high above the canyon), the Flume, and Fish Ladder Falls, each a healthy Class V run.   Fish Ladder Falls is a double whammy, as you crash through the first stretch, and hardly have time to catch your breath before dropping over a ten-foot drop.   You'll have to portage around Class VI Shepherds Falls, which is unrunnable to sane individuals, though we were told that our guide had run it in a kayak.  The portage is fairly dangerous, as you first do some Class V climbing up  a rock face, then scale the face through poison oak , until your lower yourself down on a rope to the trail below.  There is a side trail to a good spot for some cliff jumping here, just below the falls.

Past the falls, the river flattens out, as you come by the river side hot springs at Carson.  We didn't realize we were coming up on it until there were naked men on the beach!  We quickly moved on past, though you can stop there for a dip and some sunbathing if you like.  You'll enjoy some leisurely floating as the water warms up and becomes quite nice for swimming, picnicking, or sunbathing.  It is a nice change of pace after you've exhausted yourself on the constant pounding of the rapids on the section above.

You take out at the parking lot at the mouth of the Columbia, along Wind River Highway, just north of its intersection with SR-14.  A full-day guided trip along the Wind River runs about $90/day, and is only offered by a few companies.  We went with All-Star Rafting, who were excellent.  The guides were knowledgeable and fun, and really knew how to handle intense situations.   We would definitely go with All-Star again in the future. 

This stretch of river is fantastic, both in its excitement and in its beauty.  It's also quite uncluttered with rafts, though you're bound to meet a few kayakers and fishermen.  However, Class V whitewater is not for everyone.  You need to be in good physical shape, and prior Class IV experience is a must.  If you're not sure if you can do Class V, don't do it.  If you're at all unsure about your capabilities to handle this trip, ask an experienced guide service such as River Drifters.  They take your safety very seriously, and make extra sure that you have the knowledge that you need to stay safe.  Their level of caution may come at the expense of a little excitement, but we felt very confident in their ability to take care of us.  We pass along this advice with the knowledge that this river has claimed the life of more than one boater over the years.  In fact, we saw it happen on this trip!!!

In Memory of Lauren Orton

Wind River Guided Rafting Trips

Wind River Guides

Safety Information

Other Wind River Trip Info.



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