Hood River

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Oregon, USA

The Hood River Rafting Guidebook

The Hood River in far northern Oregon offers rafter and kayakers the best all around Class IV whitewater in the Columbia Gorge. Options to launch on the West Fork, East Fork or below the confluence on the Main Hood provides fun, moderately challenging whitewater that can be broken into shorter sections or run as a massive day trip. Expect fantastic scenery, intimate gorges, wildlife, and wonderful geology. Given its location in the dense Oregon forest, wood debris is a big hazard on this stretch.

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West Fork Hood River – Class II, III & IV

The whitewater on the West Fork is 5-8 miles of fun, forgiving, continuous Class IV boulder gardens that only gets better as the water rises. Multiple options to extend the run upstream and downstream beyond the confluence with the East Fork, make this the best Class IV rafting/kayaking run in the Gorge. Commercial rafting companies put in at the Lost Lake Bridge where the access is relatively easy. The Lake Branch put-in is one mile upstream and adds a beautiful gorge and some solid Class III-IV rapids. The log jam on this section recently blew out, opening the section to rafts that may have avoided the arduous walk around.

The put-in for the Upper West Fork of the Hood River is three miles upstream of the Lost Lake Bridge and supports two beautiful Class IV gorges, and one Class V rapid that is typically portaged on the left at the end of the second gorge.

Mile 0 – Upper West Fork Put-in:

River Right. This is the highest put-in for the Upper West Fork of the Hood River, located along a bridge that passes over the West Fork of the Hood River.

Mile 3.0 – Lake Branch Put-In:

River Left. The Lake Branch Fork of the Hood enters river left below the hardest rapids on the Upper West Fork. Boaters can put-in here to add an extra mile of beautiful Class III-IV rapids. As the river gorges up, be aware of a log jam that must be portaged on the right. This is arduous enough to convince most rafters to put in at Lost Lake Bridge. The Lake Branch Fork is runnable in a kayak and small R2 rafts when the water is up

Mile 3.49 – Former Log Jam Portage:

While two large logs remain, a portage is no longer required. This should encourage more rafts to explore the extra mile of whitewater and tight gorges. This spot still has the potential to collect wood, so approach with caution.

Mile 3.89 – Lost Lake Bridge Put-In:

River Left. This is the commercial rafting put-in for those glorious spring days when the Hood is in. Find a poorly marked trail on the upstream side of the bridge for raft and kayak access. The property owner on the downstream side does not like boaters, steer clear. Enjoy two miles of Class II-III warm up on the way to the fish ladder portage.

Mile 3.91 – Lost Lake Bridge:

Lost Lake Bridge passes over the West Fork of the Hood River just downstream of Lost Lake Put-in.

Mile 4.62 – Shingle Creek Confluence:

Shingle Creek joins the West Fork of the Hood River at this point.

Mile 5.45 – Fish Ladder Portage:

River Left. Portage around a fish ladder on river left. A yellow danger sign on the left indicates the portage is 100 meters downstream. The eddy here is small. At medium-high water, leave enough space for rafts to be fully pulled out of the water before the next boat arrives. The warm-ups are now ever. While everything is read and run Class IV, expect the most challenging rapids directly downstream.

Mile 6.45 – Long Boulder Garden: Class IV.

Class IV. The first rapid following the portage is a long boulder garden with a slight bend to the left. There is a pool below to regroup for the more challenging rapid below.

Mile 6.83- Hardest Rapid on the West Fork:

Class IV. This top portion of this rapid feels nearly identical to the one just upstream. A long boulder garden lead in with a slight bend to the left. After the river bends, there is a stomping hole on river left. This hole is in play at medium-high flows and should be avoided all the way left or all the way right. While it is possible to boof or punch it, this hole has the potential to flip rafts, surf kayaks, and even give unlucky swimmers a few rounds of recirculation. For safety, groups should catch the eddy on the left below the hole and be ready to jump out with a rope if needed. There is a short break from any serious rapids, but the water is still moving downstream with few eddies and challenging shore access.

Green Point Creek Confluence:

River Left. The river is fairly gorged out by the time Green Point Creek enters on river left. With enough water, Green Point is runnable in a kayak but expect log jams and portages. A few Class III boogie rapids are followed by Rude Boy, the largest hole on the West Fork

Mile 7.95 – Rude Boy Lead-In:

Class III. Run this drop on the left and immediately start driving right to avoid Rude Boy. Rafts have the tendency to run the left line and get pushed left against a cliff wall. While kayakers can easily make the ferry from the left, rafts can struggle and may flirt with ending up in the large hole just below.

Mile 8.05 – Rude Boy:

Class IV. Rude Boy features the largest hole on the West Fork. It is easy to avoid on the right if you know where you are and set up early. The eddy and boils above have the tendency to push boats against the left cliff wall. Ferrying from left to right is easy enough in a kayak, but very challenging in a raft. As soon as your boat gets through the rapid above, start moving right, and don’t stop until you are past the hole.

Mile 8.25 – WF Hood Gauge:

River Left. The monitoring station for the West Fork of the Hood River is located on the river left just upstream of the Punchbowl Falls Bridge.

Mile 8.26 – The Bridge Rapid:

Class IV+. At high water the towering waves here look more like the Futaleufu than what you might expect from the West Fork. The combined elevation drop and canyon constriction amplify the whitewater here making this perhaps the most enjoyable rapid on the run. . The pools below move faster at high water so clean up any crashes quickly. Punchbowl Falls is right around the corner.

Mile 8.30 – Punchbowl Falls Bridge:

Large rapid upstream, Punch Bowl Falls 200 yards downstream.

Mile 8.38 – Punchbowl Falls Take-out/Portage:

River Right. The trail to portage or take out at Punchbowl falls is on the right as the gorge opens up. Portaging here in a kayak means walking up a steep hill then down a 1/4 mile, well-marked trail to the confluence with the East Fork of the Hood. Commercial rafts opt for lining boats over the falls and relaunching below. Taking out here in a raft is possible, but requires a laborious walk up a steep hill.

Mile 8.42 – Punchbowl Falls:

Class V. A powerful, 9ft drop finishing in a pool, Punch Bowl Falls is typically portaged on the right but can be run at certain levels. At medium-high water, a swim here could result in some serious downtime.

Dee Bridge to Columbia River – Class II, III & IV

The Dee Put-in on the East Fork provides boaters two miles of scenic Class III on the way to the confluence with the West Fork. Often looked at solely as a way to access the Hood, this brief stretch is sneakily beautiful with a bunch of fun warm-up rapids. The East Fork has no gauges so boaters typically eyeball the river from the Dee Bridge and make a decision about where to put-in.

From the East-West Fork confluence of the Hood to the Columbia, you will find a river that provides both excellent Class IV whitewater and scenery. Wide open boulder gardens with very few consequences allows boaters to explore the abundant features on a level unmatched in the Columbia Gorge. The scenery combines canyon walls and lush forests supporting wildlife like bears, ospreys, and bald eagles.

When the East Fork is too low, park at Punchbowl Falls and carry your boat a long way to the river.

Dee Put-in:

River Left. The trail here is steep. Kayaks can be carried down the hill while rafts may need to be lowered with ropes. This put-in is located on the East Fork of the Hood River, which offers 1.5 miles of Class III rapids on the way to the confluence with the West Fork. Putting in here is perfect for boaters who want the fastest, most pleasant way to the main stem of the Hood. If the East Fork is too low, use the Punchbowl Falls parking lot and trail, and carry your boats to the Confluence Put-in.

Fish Fence:

In years past, a dilapidated fish fence with exposed metal required rafts to do a quick portage. In 2022, it was easy to float through, but keep an eye out in the first half mile. Kayaks can always carefully pass through. Below this point are some fun unnamed Class III rapids before the confluence with the West Fork of the Hood River.

Confluence Rapid:

Class IV. The rapid at the confluence has changed significantly throughout the years. Three decades ago it was a nine-foot ledge drop! In 2022 it featured a powerful, Class IV hole that could easily flip a raft. Winter flooding will likely move around boulders and give boaters something new in 2023.

Mile 0 – East/West Hood River Confluence Put-in:

Putting in here you will enjoy one of the most beautiful stretches of the Hood. A high-walled canyon and fun boulder garden set the tone for this great section. Just downstream lies the Confluence of the East and West Forks of the Hood River, forming the main stem of the Hood River.

Mile 0.02 – East/West Fork Hood River Confluence:

The East and West Forks of the Hood River combine here, forming the main stem of the Hood River.

Mile 0.82 – Irrigation Canal:

Class III. A pile of boulders splits the river into deeper channels way right or way left. At high water, the center is also open. For much of 2022, a log blocked the leftmost channel. That log snapped during a high water event in November. The river is still driving into trees on the left so heads up for future tree falls.

Mile 1.48 – Aqueduct:

An aqueduct passes just overhead. Just downstream of this aqueduct lies an awesome surf wave.

Mile 1.51 – Aqueduct Surf Wave:

A sharp s-turn under the aqueduct bridge leads to the best surf wave on the Hood. With eddy service on the right and a pool below, this is a spot worth spending some time. Expect the wave to be washed out above 6.5ft.

Mile 4.97 – Pipe:

A pipe passes overhead, just upstream of an island in the Hood River.

Mile 5.41 – The Wall Rapid:

Class IV. As the river splits, stay with the main flow to the left. The right channel has a log jam. The outside of this turn both drives hard into a wall and has a powerful hole. Cut to the left early to avoid it all. The wave train directly after is super fun.

Mile 5.57 – Upper Tucker Park Rapid:

Class IV. Stay left through this boulder garden. The low water right channel has a log jam.

Mile 5.61 – Tucker Park Put-In

River Right. Tucker Park to Powerdale is the most popular section of the Hood. This five-mile run is close to town, needs less water, and is considered slightly easier than the sections above. At 4.5ft there is enough water to kayak and the run feels Class III-IV. Boulder gardens, eddies, surf waves, and boofs make this the perfect training ground for all boaters to improve. Rafters should target flows above 5ft. Above 6ft this run gets big and feels very Class IV, but the hazards are still low. Boaters who feel confident here would also do well putting in at the confluence or at the East Fork. Boaters coming down from the confluence or higher should consider taking out at Tucker Bridge to add another mile of awesome Class IV.

Mile 5.67 – Lower Tucker Park Rapid:

Class IV. If you are putting in at Tucker Park, this is the first rapid of the day. Navigating through this fun boulder garden sets an early tone for the vibe of this section.

Mile 6.07 – Big Boulders:

Class III. While kayaks should navigate these large boulders with ease, rafts need to boat scout a good line through to avoid pinning.

Mile 5.67 – Tucker Bridge Rapid:

Class IV. The waves above Tucker Bridge will be some of the biggest of the day. Fully formed around 6ft, these liquid towers are always a highlight.

Mile 6.36 – Tucker Bridge Put-in:

River Right. Boaters can both put-in and take-out downstream of the bridge on the river right side. While finding a place to park can be a challenge, boaters coming down from the confluence or higher will enjoy the extra whitewater gained by not taking out at Tucker Park. From here the rapids are slightly easier than upstream, but there is still plenty of excitement. This is also the location of the river gauge, found on river right.

Mile 7.28 – Island 2:

Class III. Both sides of the Island are good to go.

Mile 7.8 – Ivy League Rapid:

Class IV. As the river turns right and it pushes hard into a left cliff wall blanketed with lush green vines. A beautiful scene best appreciated from the inside of the turn, rather than in the holes along the wall. The following short rapid leads to the former Copper Dam site.

Mile 7.93 – Copper Dam Site:

River Left. The Copper Dam existed for nearly 100 years before its removal in 2010.

Mile 7.98 – Dam Rapid:

Class IV. With so many notable rapids upstream, the Dam Rapid often gets overlooked but is incredibly fun. This boulder garden is among the steepest, creating an exhilarating and complicated maze of whitewater. This is the site of the former Copper Dam which was removed in 2010.

Mile 9.68 – Big Waves:

Class III. At medium-high water, a set of stomping waves forms on the right. Even with the knowledge that everything flushes downstream into a pool, these waves are very intimidating. While easy to pass on the left, adventurous boaters will enjoy a brief heavy-weight boxing match on the right.

Mile 10.25 – Flume Bridge:

Take the right-most channel after the bridge. You are one mile from the Powerdale Take-out.

Mile 11.18- Powerdale Take-Out:

River Right. This a popular take-out for boaters and a recreational area for hikers, dog walkers, and fishermen. Powerdale Road has substantial potholes that may not be suitable for low-clearance cars. Be aware the gate up top is also closed in the evenings and when there is too much snow. If Powerdale is not an option, take out at the Hood Waterfront 0.75 miles downstream.

Mile 11.67 – US 30 Bridge:

The US-30 passes overhead.

Mile 11.8 – Last Rail Bridge:

A railroad bridge passes over the Hood River just upstream of the I-84 Bridge.

Mile 11.87 – I-84 Bridge:

I-84 passes overhead, just before the Waterfront Take-out on river right.

Mile 11.91- Waterfront Take-Out:

River Right. Good alternate take-out for vehicles that cannot handle the Powerdale Road, or boaters that wish to park closer to the waterfront. The trail is on river right just past the footbridge.