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Wenatchee River2022-12-06T16:32:49-08:00

Wenatchee River Rafting Guidebook

The Wenatchee River is known as “Washington’s Greatest Play Run” for all the surf spots peppered along the way. You’ll find rafters, kayakers, SUPs, and river boarders in droves most weekends in the spring and summer or during winter and fall rains. At super low flows (<3,000cfs), prepare for a significantly less splashy, technical run with a good bit of flat water. At moderate flows (3kcfs – 10kcfs), you’ll find a lot of good, clean lines with the waves and holes just growing as the flows do. Higher flows can flush some features out, but it also brings other random spots to life. Be prepared for the waves and holes; there are many opportunities to show off your ability to flip a raft.

About This Guide

This guide covers the major features of the Wenatchee River. We cover the stretch from the Put-In in Leavenworth to the Take-out in Cashmere.

Safety

The Wenatchee is an intermediate run. You should have some experience with whitewater if you plan to raft it. Wet suits or dry suits are recommended in the springtime.

Permits

A permit is not required to run the Wenatchee.

The Wenatchee is runnable from 2,000 CFS – 20,000 CFS.
Low Flow: 2,000 – 5,000 CFS
Medium Flow: 5,000 – 12,000 CFS
High Flow: >12,000 CFS

Link to USGS gauge.

Wenatchee River Flow
Gauge data provided by USGS

Wenatchee River Map & Guide

WARNING: Conditions change frequently and may make this guide useless. This guide is NOT a replacement for sound judgment or experience.

Point of Interest

Bridges, private property, etc.

Raft Surf Wave

Indicates well known surf waves.

Put-In / Take-Out

The most commonly used access points.

Class II Rapid

Class II rapid or river feature.

Class III Rapid

Class III rapid or river feature.

Wenatchee River – Class II & III

The raftable section of the Wenatchee River runs from Leavenworth, WA to Cashmere, WA before joining the Columbia River.

Length

Leavenworth Public Boat Launch Put-In to Cashmere Riverside Park is 14.7 miles.

Difficulty

Moderate

Average Gradient

The Wenatchee River drops ~21 feet per mile.

Shuttle Time

Leavenworth Public Boat Launch to Cashmere Riverside Park is 35 minutes round trip. Google Map directions.

Mile 0 – Leavenworth Public Boat Launch: River Right. The Leavenworth Public Boat Launch is a public access point on river right located off of East Leavenworth Road. Featuring a maintained boat ramp, this starting point has a good amount of parking that tends to fill up on weekends. Use this access point to launch for the “Play Run” from Leavenworth to Cashmere. There are no permanent amenities, but there are usually a few portajohns here during the summer months.

Mile 0.15 – Cupcake: Class II. The first rapid of the day is really just a little riffle after Barnes Beach (located river left, abutting the city of Leavenworth) as the river bends left and out of sight. A large boulder river right at the crux of the turn makes a nice boof into a boiley eddy at higher flows. Otherwise, it is a nice, crisp eddy line. There’s a collection eddy river right immediately following the curve that can fit more than 12 rafts and is a great place to gather a group before heading down the straightaway to Boulder Bend.

Mile 0.59 – High Bridge: This first bridge (Highway 2) is the marker for the Class II lead-in to Boulder Bend. Wave trains in the center of the channel are generally friendly, though you want to be working right as you approach the river’s right bend and the river appears to widen. At lower flows (<7,000 CFS), fun ferrying moves can be made from one bank to the other. Strong lateral waves and some boiley holes develop on the right side at higher (>8,000 CFS) flows.

Mile 0.95 – Boulder Bend Rapid: Class III. This rapid is Class III below 13,000 CFS and is Class IV above 13,000 CFS. When approaching the first rapid of this run, avoid the big wave hole in the center, known as the “Flapper” or “Aguirre,” then stay right of the pile of boulders that is in the middle of the river until this stretch opens up into a read-and-run series of big holes and waves, avoiding the left side of the river where wood tends to collect. It would be prudent to scout the river left lines, as the outside of this curve can collect a good amount of wood. Learn more about Boulder Bend Rapid.

Mile 1.77 – Apple Juice Pipeline: After the Class II run-out of Boulder Bend, catch your breath and look up to see the Apple Juice Pipeline. If you see any commercial trips on the water, ask a raft guide to explain how it got its name.

Mile 1.79 – Hippo Holes: Class II. So-called because the rocks making up these holes on river right look like hippos lying in wait under the surface. They become pretty retentive for both rafts and swimmers at most flows when they’re pour overs and holes, however, the top hippo becomes a good hit around 9,400 CFS. Don’t touch the hippos at moderate flows (6,000-8,500 CFS) – deceptively munchy hits can pack a serious bite and flip even the most T’d up raft. At lower flows (<6,000 CFS), the hippos are fully exposed and become a fun slalom course for R2’s and kayaks.

Mile 3.29 – Happy Wave: Class II. River-wide, disorganized waves make a splashy tenth of a mile. Rafts, kayakers, and river boarders find a wide, eddy-service wave close to the river right bank. Best for kayakers between flows of 5,000 CFS and 6,000 CFS, this wave comes back into play between 13,500 CFS and 14,500 CFS.

Mile 3.29 – Happy Wave Beach Club. Private Access River Right. Owned by Osprey Rafting Company, this access point is on private property. Purchase an annual pass from Osprey for $50 or a day pass for $5 to rip the eddy-service waves and use the beach as an alternate put-in and take-out.

Mile 4.09 – Abandoned Helicopter Landing Shack: River Left. With a couple river-wide riffles that turn into shallow rocks at lower flows, an abandoned helicopter tour office sits watch over the Wenatchee on river left.

Mile 4.63 – Peshastin Bridge: Leading up to the Peshastin Bridge, zig zag around to play in the waves and holes that polka dot the Peshastin Flats between Happy Wave and Rock and Roll. At the town of Peshastin, you will encounter a small bridge. Look up while you’re under the bridge to admire the mud and spit nests of a colony of cliff or cave swallows.

Mile 5.33 – Peshastin Put-In: River Left. Also known as Fisherman’s or School Street Put-In. This is a primitive put-in without any amenities, and requires a Discover Pass. Easy raft access, room for several trailers, and an eddy large enough for a small handful of rafts. Putting on at Fisherman’s cuts out 4 miles of flatwater and still allows you to run one of the punchiest rapids of this section, Rock and Roll.

Mile 6.17 – Rock and Roll Rapid: Class III. The second major rapid of this stretch occurs just as the Wenatchee splits into two channels. Most boaters head to the river right channel with most of the current, finding their way around the two main features: Satan’s Eyeball (center right) and Satan’s Asshole (center left). Approach both features with caution, as the fatal Dryden Dam lies approximately half a mile downstream. Hitting the Eyeball requires a calculated effort at most flows (4,000 CFS – 14,000 CFS), and the Asshole can be trouble at nearly all levels (washes out at 9,000 CFS). Learn more about Rock and Roll rapid.

Mile 6.78 – Peshastin Creek Confluence: River Right. Peshastin Creek enters the Wenatchee River on river right above the Dryden Dam. Peshastin Creek can add anywhere between 20-2000cfs to the Wenatchee, with those greater additions coming during the peak snow melt. Just downstream lies the Dryden Dam portage, so start moving to the right bank once you hit this creek. At high Wenatchee flows (>10,000cfs), crossing the Peshastin stream might require more of an aggressive upstream ferry pointing towards river right. Continue bobbling downstream beside the right bank until you pull into the eddy behind the brush above the dam to make the portage around the Dryden Dam.

Mile 6.92 – Dryden Dam Portage: Class VI. The Dryden Dam has a dogleg quality to it, with the right side that is perpendicular to the river being a low-head dam. Catch the eddy above the dam on the right side and make the easy walk around. We do not recommend running this rapid.

Mile 6.92 – Dryden Dam River Access: River Right. A Discover Pass required. The Dryden Dam Public Access is a popular put in for commercial and private boaters. There are no permanent restrooms at this location, though a few Port-a-Johns pop up during the summer months. There is a primitive boat ramp that enables boaters to back a trailer practically to the water, and loads of parking. Be prepared for a busy parking lot on spring and summer weekends, and make note that low flows and hot days will bring locals to one of their favorite swimming spots. Known as going “Dam Down” (i.e. the Dam to Cashmere Riverside Park), this nearly eight-mile stretch is the most bang for your buck. The gradient picks up and rapids are closer together following the dam, though the pool-drop nature of the Wenatchee is maintained.

Mile 6.94 – Indigestion/Gopher Holes: Class II. At moderate to high flows (>3,000 CFS), Indigestion or Gopher Holes is a splashy stretch of waves and holes immediately following the Dryden Dam. Big waves and good hits are found along the river left side after you pass the dogleg of the Dam. The initial channel gets technical at low flows (<3,000 CFS), with rafts pivoting and spinning to avoid shallow rocks before they make it to the main flow.

Mile 7.55 – Upper Gorilla: Class III. Catch a slight break as the river bends to the right and the third bridge of the run comes into view. Enter Upper Gorilla through the middle arch of this bridge – the typical line is near the right pillar, as several very sticky holes develop (4,000-9,000 CFS) near the left pillar. Those holes on the left become a rowdy wave train around 7,500 CFS, and become a bit more predictable above 9,000. At low flows (<2,000 CFS), attempt to catch the eddy behind the right pillar to set yourself up to avoid the boulders that emerge immediately after passing below the bridge.

Mile 7.63 – Wenatchee River Bridge 3: This third bridge is Highway 2 and passes over the Wenatchee River just above the Upper Dryden Public Access.

Mile 7.72 – Upper Dryden Public Access: River Left. A Discover Pass required. A very rarely used access point on Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) land just below the third bridge and above Lower Gorilla. This small, cobbled beach on the left-hand side of the river is nestled in amongst private property. There are no amenities available, and if you are going to use this access point, make sure to be courteous to the property owners.

Mile 7.8 – Upper Dryden Riffle: Class II. Also known as Lower Gorilla or Shark’s Tooth. This is Class II at flows >10,000 CFS and becomes pushy with some big holes that can feel like Class III. There’s a rock on the outside right that has a sharp quality to it that has popped a few rafts and earned the name “Shark’s Tooth”, but at moderate to low flows (<7,000 CFS) a creeky, slalom line around these boulders is revealed. Above 12,000 CFS, head left early to avoid the strong push to the outside right where wood tends to collect.

Mile 8.12 – Auto Return Eddy: Class II. Also known as Arco. As the river bends to the left, some fun surf waves with eddy service develop on river right. Great surf spot around 9,800 CFS which stays good down to 5,500 CFS and gets spicier – still surfable – at much higher. flows The eddy on the right has strong upstream current, so much so that it is said to auto return boaters to the top. The eddy fence is powerful and swirly enough that it has sucked tubes and flipped rafts trying to make it downstream through the waves.

Mile 8.19 – Wenatchee River Bridge #4: Highway 2 crosses over the Wenatchee again, the first of three overpasses you’ll experience in quick succession. The general line is to go straight through the middle, but at higher flows the right portal also goes. Commit to one side or the other at flows >10,000 CFS, or else Arco’s eddy line is likely to push you into a wrap on a pillar.

Mile 8.20 – Boney and Shallow: Class II. After the first of the triplet of bridges, this shallow section of river is just splashy waves. Meandering your way to the left sets you up for a fun wave train under the railroad bridge at almost all flows.

Mile 8.36 – Wenatchee River Bridge #5: Main Street connects Upper and Lower Dryden overhead as you pass under the fifth bridge of the stretch and the second of the triplet.

Mile 8.37 – Wenatchee Railroad Bridge #1: This is the first railroad crossing of this stretch of the Wenatchee river. In a mile or so, this track crosses back over the river.

Mile 8.57 – The Cave: Class II. The Cave comes into view around the bend following the first Railroad Bridge overpass. A double wave train protects an interesting geological feature of the Wenatchee. Swirly eddies line the cliffside above the Cave, and can be fun to catch and play with edges and tubes. At most flows, catch the eddy on river right and you can ferry into the cave, or try surfing the double wave upstream of it. The eddy line gets really strong above 10,000 CFS, so be prepared for tube suck as you make the move.

Mile 9.0 – Lunch Island: Lunch Island splits Pig Snout and Pinball. Private groups like to stop here by catching an eddy from the left channel (known as Pig Snout).

Mile 9.0 – Pig Snout (Left Channel of Lunch Island): Class II. The “usual line” is to take the left channel around Lunch Island and through Pig Snout at most flows (>1,900 CFS). Avoid a sneaky little pourover to enter a wave train that leads smack into a cliff that oddly resembles a pig’s snout. Swirly eddies abound on either side of the main current. If you’ve got kayakers along for the lap, tell them about a fun, but shallow, eddy line for stern squirts that develops on the island’s bank around 9,000 CFS.

Mile 9.09 – Pinball (Right Channel of Lunch Island): Class II. If you’re running the Wenatchee below 2,000 CFS, think about taking the right channel around Lunch Island and running Pinball instead of Pig Snout. A read and run boulder garden: the shallow rocks are the pins, your boat is the ball trying to make it to the exit on the right.

Mile 9.24 – Waterfall Eddy: River Left. After the currents meld behind Lunch Island, an eddy with an irrigation-fed waterfall can be seen on river left against the cliffs. In late summer, locals use the Lower Dryden Access Point to get to a popular swimming spot.

Mile 9.38 – Lower Dryden Public Access: River right. Discover Pass Required, pit toilet available. Another rarely used WDFW put in or take out, besides for summertime swimming.

Mile 9.49 – Barking Dog: Class II. A little riffle as you come around the bend and the next sets of bridges come into view. There are some fun waves to try to catch on the left side of the island at higher flows (>8,000 CFS).

Mile 9.78 – Wenatchee Railroad Bridge #2: Remember that railroad from a mile or so ago? Here it is again.

Mile 9.77 – Killer Pillar: Class III. Killer Pillar is named after right-most pillar of the highway bridge, which has flipped/wrapped more than a few rafts. Flows greater than 5,000 CFS bring to life a strong wave train that pushes up against the Killer Pillar of the Highway Bridge. It is pushiest around 7,500 CFS. Set up by being just to the left of the center pillar of the railroad bridge, bust through a couple big waves with a left-angled, and keep paddling until you’ve made it past the Highway Bridge.

Mile 9.88 – Killer Pillar Bridge: This is the bridge with the Killer Pillar. Highway 2 crosses back over the Wenatchee River one final time.

Mile 10.06 – Roadside Access: River right. No pass required, no amenities. Kayakers frequently use the Roadside put in for pre- or post-work surf-heavy laps. There are two areas commonly used to put-in here: a steep, bouldery bank and a small, tree-lined eddy. Neither is very convenient for rafts, but with the right crew of folks you can lower a raft down the bouldery bank.

Mile 10.83 – Rodeo Hole: Class II <2,500 CFS, Class III+ >7,500 CFS. A great play spot for rafters, kayakers, and river boarders alike. Coming around the bend backed up by the cliff and following the mobile homes, you’ll find a fun wave hugging the cliff face that can be hit anywhere from 7,500 CFS to 13,000 CFS. Plenty of other, smaller waves speckle the intro to Rodeo proper, allowing many fun, splashy lines. Eddies on either side to the final, largest wave, with “normal” service being river right. Learn more about Rodeo Hole.

Mile 10.95 – Fox Miller Public Access: River Right. No boat ramp, Discover Pass required, pit toilet. Can be a pain to get a raft through the trail on this WDFW site. Locals just call this “Rodeo” or “that one swimming hole” once the weather warms up and the flows drop out, turning the surf wave into a great spot for the family to take a dip. Watch for poison oak along the trail to the river.

Mile 10.99 – Wenatchee Railroad Bridge #3: Just below Fox Miller Public lies a railroad bridge, and the last time you’ll encounter any railroads. The line at low water (<3,000 CFS) is to the left of the gravel bar above the bridge and then continue through the left portal to avoid getting caught up on a shallow shoal of rocks.

Mile 11.50 – Drunkard’s Drop: Class III. Drunkard’s Drop has waves at all flows above 3,500 CFS, multiplying and towering higher as the flows increase. At most flows(>3,000 CFS), and especially moderate and beyond (>5,600 CFS) flows, tall waves are found on the very left or center left, the most predominant being Hawaii 5-0. Find it beside the cliff and T-up; you’ll end up riding the train through to the end. Flows less than 3,000 CFS mean bedrock ledges and a slightly-less-shallow channel running right to left from the top. Proceed with some caution, but you’ll get down eventually. Learn more about Drunkard’s Drop.

Mile 12.32 – Turkey Shoot Access: River Right. Discover Pass required, no boat ramp, pit toilet present. A rarely-used access point, especially for rafting groups, as it’s just a bankside slow spot and not much of an eddy.

Mile 12.52 – Turkey Shoot: Class II. A popular play spot for kayakers, rafters also enjoy surfing this wave when flows are above 5,000 CFS. Eddy service on river left allows crafts of all kinds multiple reps on the wide wave. A tuned-up R2 will find it easy to catch the wave around 9,000 CFS, and higher flows make the wave that much more retentive. Lower flows (<2,000 CFS) will require tight maneuvering through shallow shoals and bedrock ledges.

Mile 12.90 – Railroad: Class II. A fun, read and run wave train as the river bends to the left. The left side of the wave train is longer. The center has boils that at have the power to suck a tube at flows >9,000 CFS. The right side of Railroad rapid eventually carries you towards the left.

Mile 13.34 – Goodwin Road Bridge: This is the final bridge before the take-out. It was recently replaced, and now has only one pillar in the middle of the current.

Mile 13.75 – Snowblind Rapid: Class III. Snowblind has three different moods: low water (<2,000 CFS)- uptight technicality; moderate flows – playfully consequential; high flows – paddle hard and line it up straight. Flows below 2,000 CFS require a Z-shaped rapid line, from 2,000 – 9,500 CFS anywhere goes with the biggest holes in the bottom center, and above 15,000 CFS a huge wave at the top right known as “Avalanche” comes in ready to toss your raft even before you make it into the rest of the melee. Learn more about Snowblind Rapid.

Mile 14.2 – Granny’s: Class III. Granny’s is the final rapid of the stretch. In a paradoxical sense, the waves of this rapid only seem to get larger and more punctuated as water levels drop, until flows reach around 2,500 CFS. A fun wave train with towering, breaking peaks runs down the right side of the river while a behemoth of a glassy wave topped with a very sticky foam pile sits on the left. That glass wave is known simply as “Granny’s Wave”, and, if your boat can catch some slack water on river left and you’ve got the right skills, it can be surfed in a raft. Careful! Coming into the foam pile without being T’ed up is likely to at least accidentally surf you, if not flip’n’strip your boat. Regardless of your wave choice, head left once you are through the first train and aim to catch the last big wave train. What was once “Suffocator” – a demon of a hole on the bottom river right – is now “Fluffy Bunny”, a wave/hole that won’t leave you quite as breathless as before.

Mile 14.44 – Take-out Bridge: This final bridge you will see lies just above the Cashmere Riverside Park Take-out is Aplets Way. Be in the right portal and then hug the reeds/gravel to prepare to catch the takeout eddy. At lowest flows (<2,500 CFS), drop paddlers under the bridge behind the right pillar and then R1 your raft to the takeout.

Mile 14.64 – Cashmere Riverside Park Take-out: River Right. A maintained boat ramp waits for paddlers at Cashmere Riverside Park. It is a tight turn into the boat ramp. Hug the right reeds and shoreline, then when you see a break in them, angle your boat and get going. If you have never run this section, make sure to scout the take-out when you are setting shuttle. If you miss the take-out, your next option is in Monitor, 4 miles downstream. Learn more about Cashmere Takeout.

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