River Spotlight: The White Salmon River
The White Salmon is truly a special river, tucked away in the Columbia Gorge, closely surrounded by trees and wildlife. Glacial waters of Mt. Adams combine with water of numerous springs providing a sufficient flow for whitewater boating year-round, bringing joy to rafters and kayakers alike, 365 days a year. The principal tributaries of the White Salmon include Trout Lake and Buck, Mill, Dry, Gilmer, and Rattlesnake Creeks.
99 years ago, Condit Dam was completed on the south-end of Northwestern Lake on the White Salmon. Its main purpose was to provide electrical power for local industry. Although the project was successful, it created negative outcomes – detrimental to salmon spawning blocking salmon and steelhead runs and damaging the river’s ecosystem. In 2011, utility company PacifiCorp elected to remove that dam rather than install costly fish passage structures.
Currently, steelhead are swimming upstream, marking the first upstream fish migration since the dam was built there nearly a century ago. Biologists are now waiting to see if Chinook will return to the area to spawn in September. Workers are continuing to remove the concrete structure of the dam by the end of August.
Here at Blue Sky Outfitters, we raft what is known as the Middle White Salmon and Lower White Salmon – the section of the river from BZ Corner off of Alt Hwy 141 to Northwestern Lake (or where it used to be before the removal of Condit Dam). The Middle White Salmon, from BZ Corner to Husum, is a very exciting and challenging section of the river that both intermediate and beginning rafters enjoy. The Lower White Salmon, from Husum to Northwestern “Lake”, is a great run of the White Salmon for beginners with its calmer waters. This run from BZ Corner to Northwestern Lake is one of the best heavily forested gorges in the Pacific Northwest. The White Salmon is great for experienced rafters and adventurous beginners alike. Here at Blue Sky, we are excited to be rafting this beautiful and historic river.