Wind River

Download the #1 app for rafting the Wind River. Guide by Steve Merrow.

Washington, USA

Wind River Rafting Guide

The Wind River is high on the list of best rafting and kayaking rivers in the Columbia Gorge. While it shares the same volcanic headwaters as the White Salmon, the lack of glacial runoff results in a shorter winter/spring season that relies heavily on rainfall and snowmelt. When the rain does come, boaters should prioritize exploring this lush forested whitewater playground. The Wind River has an upper and a lower section, both with their own set of pros and cons.

This run should be considered only for Advanced/Expert boaters. For local comparisons; the Upper Wind at medium flows is harder than the Orletta, easier than the Green Truss, and comparable to the West Fork Hood at high water. The nature of the run requires boaters to be comfortable reading and running Class IV+, technical rapids with pushy boat-flipping features. For those searching for this environment, the Wind is a magical place. For those not quite there, wait for lower flows or hop in a raft with folks who have experience on the run. The ability to boat scout, catch eddies, ferry and communicate within a group is essential to everyone staying safe on the Wind. Wet suits or dry suits are recommended. Wrap kits are also recommended on this river as there are numerous places to wrap a boat.

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Upper Wind River – Class III, IV & V

When the water is up, the Upper Wind is the most commonly run section of the Wind River. It features easy logistics, some of the best Class IV, -V whitewater in the Gorge, and is well known for the incredibly fun Ram’s Horn Sequence. Kayakers can easily complete the run in 90 minutes, making this a great option for a two lap day! When the Upper Wind is running, the Lower Wind requires a portage around a series of substantial waterfalls and therefore the two sections are not often run together, but it is possible!

Mile 0 – Upper Wind Put-in:

Mile 0 – Upper Wind Put-in: River Right. Turn left on Hemlock Road, cross the Wind and take your first right onto Linde Road. The put-in is at the end of this street. With limited parking and the occasional raft trailer passing through, keep the parking tight along the sides of the road and turn out. You should have cell service at the Put-in, but likely not at the take-out

Mile 0.81 – Trout Creek Confluence:

River Right. Boaters have nearly a mile of Class II-III boogie water to warm up before arriving at the major rapids. Trout Creek’s arrival on river right creates a large sand bar and an ideal place to scout Initiation. Take a moment to assess how much water is coming out of Trout Creek. The same large rain events that bring the Wind to runnable levels can also turn Trout Creek into a substantial, runnable tributary. If you are on the cusp of your comfort zone and Trout Creek is juicing, you may need to re-assess running the Wind.

Mile 0.88 -Initiation Scout:

Mile 0.88 -Initiation Scout: River Right. From upstream you can see a house sitting high above the river left canyon wall. This is a good marker for Initiation. Stay to the inside of the corner and scout from river right below the confluence with Trout Creek. From shore, boaters can see the top half of the rapid, but not much else.

Mile 1.12 – Pony Tail: Class III.

Mile 1.12 – Pony Tail: Class III. From the eddy below Initiation, start left and gradually work your way right along the cliff wall. Finish right and work hard to catch the eddy below on river left to regroup for the Rams Horn Sequence.

Mile 1.23 – Ram’s Horn Sequence:

Class V. The Rams Horn Sequence is the crux of the Upper Wind. From the eddy below Ponytail, start on the left, move all the way right, then back to the center. Staying in the main flow a large boulder creates two channels. Follow the main flow to the left of that boulder and immediately start pushing back center. The entry for Ram’s Horn is all the way right, be in position for that, a challenging move with a stomping hole.

Mile 1.44 – Below Ram’s Horn Rapid:

Mile 1.44 – Below Ram’s Horn Rapid: Class III. Enter right of center and stay in the main current. Catch the eddy below on the left to regroup and catch your breath! This rapid by itself is not terribly challenging, but with exhausted paddlers and the potential for flips and swimmers in Rams Horn it should not be taken lightly.

Mile 1.62 – Balls to the Wall Right:

Mile 1.62 – Balls to the Wall Right: Class IV. After a calm pool, the river makes a slight right-hand turn. Start right and stay right as you punch through holes, diagonals, and small drops.

Mile 1.76 – Balls the Wall Left:

Class III. Start left and stay left through this straightforward read and run rapid.

Mile 1.83 – Balls to the Wall Waterfall:

Mile 1.83 – Balls to the Wall Waterfall: River Right. Below Balls to Wall Left there is a beautiful waterfall on river right. Catch one of the small eddies and hike up to the base of the falls if you are interested and have time.

Mile 1.92 – Thor’s Hammer: Class III.

Mile 1.92 – Thor’s Hammer: Class III. Similar to Balls to the Wall right, enter right and finish right of center. Thor’s Hammer is the impressive basalt wall jutting into the river from the right.

Mile 2.07 – Climax Rapid:

Mile 2.07 – Climax Rapid: Class IV. There is a horizon line of boulders and drops. Work your way left for a satisfying airplane turn off a boulder into the diagonal wave. The center of Climax also goes, but you may want to have a look upstream before deciding where be. Below Climax is roughly 3 miles of fun Class 3-4 boogie water.

Mile 3.04 – Lunch Beach:

Mile 3.04 – Lunch Beach: River Left. This beach is large enough to accommodate rafts and kayaks for a nice lunch break.

Mile 6.2 – Green Cliff Walls:

Mile 6.2 – Green Cliff Walls: River Right. A unique, volcanic deposit on river right that is softer than it looks. From here you are about a quarter mile from the take-out.

Mile 6.59 – Upper Wind River Take-out:

Mile 6.59 – Upper Wind River Take-out: River Right. Take-out for the Upper Wind. Keep the lower turnout clear by parking on either side of the hill above. Driving north on Wind River Rd; take a left onto High Bridge Rd, then a right onto Old Detour Rd. Follow Old Detour all the way to the river and expect to lose service. This road is steep and can get muddy. Depending on the time of year, 4-wheel drive might be necessary