Wind River Rafting Guidebook

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.

About This Guide

This guide covers the Upper and Lower sections of the Wind River.

Safety

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.

Permits

A permit is not required to run the Wind River.

Wind River Flows:

Timing is everything on the Wind as the difficulty varies significantly with water levels. Keep an eye on the gauge to see which way the river is trending and how fast. When in doubt, it is always better to catch the river when it is dropping rather than rising. Be sure to consider Trout Creek when evaluating flows. This tributary joins the Wind below the Stabler gauge and can significantly impact water levels. There is no gauge for Trout Creek, but it is quite easy to drive past the Put-in to the Trout Creek Road Bridge for a look.

Low Water: 500-700cfs (4.5ft – 5.5ft)
Medium Water: 700-1000cfs (5.5ft – 6.6ft)
High Water: 1000-1450cfs (6.6ft – 8ft)
Very High Water: >1450 (8ft

Wind River Flow
Gauge data provided by Dream Flows

Wind River Comprehensive 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.

Put-In / Take-Out

The most commonly used access points.

Surf Wave

Common surf waves.

Class III Rapid

Class III rapid or river feature.

Class IV Rapid

Class IV rapid or river feature.

Class V Rapid

Class V rapid or river feature.

Portage

Portage required.

Upper Wind River – Class III, IV & V

When the water is up, the Upper Wind River 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 in, 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!

Length

The Stabler Upper Wind Put-in to the Upper Wind Take-out is is 6.59 miles.

Difficulty

Intermediate – Advanced

Average Gradient

The Stabler Upper Wind Put-in to the Upper Wind Take-out drops ~80 feet per mile.

Shuttle Time

The Stabler Upper Wind Put-in to the Upper Wind Take-out is 25 minutes round trip. Google Map directions.

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: 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 0.92 – Initiation Rapid: Class IV. As the name indicates, Initiation begins the hardest section of Whitewater on the Upper Wind. This super fun boulder garden will test your read-and-run abilities, so a scout is recommended to all boaters. At low-medium water, begin left of center with the goal of navigating between two “goal post” boulders in the center. At high water an easier right sneak line opens up. Punch the hole below the goalposts and move right. Follow a left-angled tongue and punch another hole. Below the hole is a pyramid rock notorious for pinning/flipping rafts. Be prepared to go right or left, with the goal of finishing right.

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. Lasting about 300 yards, this a complicated, maze-like boulder garden that finishes with Rams Horn Rapid, a challenging move with a stomping hole. Learn more about the Ram’s Horn Sequence.

Mile 1.39 – Ram’s Horn Rapid: Class V. The hole in Rams Horn Rapid is the largest feature on the Upper Wind and can easily flip a boat. Without the option to scout, following an experienced boater down will make a big difference.

At medium/high water, a lot kayakers and light rafts book it hard left to the eddy above the boulder. Nervous boaters who want the rapid broken down as much as possible will appreciate this line. From the eddy you can paddle left of the boulder with a start left, stay left strategy of avoiding the hole which is just below the boulder on the right. While this “conservative” line is a good one, heavy rafts might struggle to catch the eddy, and all boats are less able to build momentum away from the hole. Laterals coming off the left wall can easily push passive paddlers into Rams Horn hole, so stay aggressive out there!

The other option when the horizon line comes into view is to position all the way right . Punch through a couple descent size holes and ferry hard right to left below the boulder. This momentum should take you down and extremely fun tongue, avoiding the hole on the left and crashing into towering waves at the bottom. Both of these lines work and should be considered based on water levels, boat, and group ability.

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: 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: 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. 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: 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: River Left. This beach is large enough to accommodate rafts and kayaks for a nice lunch break.

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: 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

Lower Wind River – Class II, III & IV

The Lower Wind is a gorgeous run that sees way less traffic because when the Upper is running, there is a labor-intensive portage around Shipherd Falls. The huge advantage of the Lower Wind is how long it runs. While the Upper Wind loses viability around 400cfs, the Lower Wind is regularly run down to 90cfs, extending the season well into the summer. Shipherd Falls at low water is an excellent place for kayakers and rafters to gain experience in a lower-consequence environment. Add in a riverside hot spring into the mix and the Lower Wind is one of the more underrated sections in the area.

Length

 The Lower Wind Put-In to the Wind River Boat Ramp Take-out is 5.1 miles.

Difficulty

Intermediate – Advanced

Average Gradient

 The Lower Wind section drops ~60 feet per mile.

Shuttle Time

 The shuttle from the Lower Wind Put-In to the Wind River Boat Ramp Take-out is ~30 minutes round trip. Google Map directions.

Mile 6.59 – Lower Wind River Put-in: River Right. Keep the lower turn out 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.

Mile 7.01 – High Bridge Rapid: Class IV. At most runnable flows, this is a long, continuous, read-and-run boulder garden. At high water, it becomes a fun and powerful wave train.

Mile 7.03 – High Bridge: High Bridge passes overhead as you run High Bridge Rapid.

Mile 7.36 – Panther Creek Confluence: River Left. Panther Creek enters the Wind River from the left-hand side, adding a solid amount of water to the river.

Mile 8.76 – The Flume: Class IV+. Scout on the right and look for a punchy line down the middle.

Mile 8.88 – Unnamed Chute: Class III. Run down the center.

Mile 8.93 -Beyond Limits Rapid: Class IV+. Beyond Limits is the next horizon line. Scout on the left and be aware of the fish ladder. The hole below this six-foot drop can be intense at high water. Rafts often portage here at all but low flows while kayaks may choose to run it higher. From here you are less than a mile from Shipherd Falls

Mile 9.63 – Shipherd Falls Entry Rapid: Class III. There is an entry rapid on river left that leads to the scout/portage of Shipherd Falls. Be aware of an easy-to-avoid opening in the fish ladder as you come through the rapid. The location of this rapid can feel intimidating and is not a must-run. You can walk along the left bank to the scout/portage.

Mile 9.65 – Portage Trail: River Left. At flows above 400cfs (4ft), all three drops should be portaged.

Mile 9.66 – Shipherd Falls 1

Mile 9.69 – Swinging Bridge: Swinging Bridge sits directly above Shipherd Falls.

Mile 9.71 – Shipherd Falls 2

Mile 9.74 – The Weir Rapid: Class III-V+. At flows higher than 400cfs (4ft), the Weir is very retentive and should be portaged. A shame as the first two drops are good to go at higher flows, but the danger of the Weir is immense. At lower flows, the Weir becomes runnable on the left, but be sure to use good judgment.

Mile 9.76 -Portage Jump: River Left. From this cliff, throw your boats into the eddy and jump 25 feet into a deep pool to retrieve them.

Mile 9.93 – Shipherd Hotsprings: River Left. These riverside hot springs are 1/4 mile below Shipherd falls on the left.

Mile 10.61 – Little Wind River Confluence: River Left. Just upstream of the first take-out is the confluence of the Little Wind River on the left-hand side.

Mile 10.68 – Below Little Wind River Take-out: River Right. This take-out cuts off the last mile of flat water as you approach the Columbia, which can be a good choice on a windy day.

Mile 11.7 – Wind River Boat Ramp: River Left. Easy access take-out. When this is loaded with trucks and fishing boats, use the upstream take-out.