Guidebook Title

Wind River title
(Stabler to Columbia River)

Wind River info boxThe Wind River is a classic Oregon/Washington run. Only 45 minutes from Portland, the Wind has long season and can be run at a broad range of flows. Except at high water, the Wind is manageable by intermediate/advanced boaters. The scenery is excellent throughout the run and boaters get a strong sense of isolation once on the river. The river is usually divided into an upper and lower section with the upper section being more popular.

River Description(Kayak/Canoe/Raft)
Upper Section (6 miles)
The river at the put-in gives little indication of the rapids lurking just downstream. After a short warm-up section, Trout Creek enters on the right and the fun stuff begins. The river doubles in size and begins a long section of boulder gardens. At high water there is very little calm water between rapids but at most flows, the large boulders form a multitude of eddies and short pools for boaters to catch their breath.

The first rapid of consequence is just around the corner from the Trout Creek confluence. Initiation begins with a tricky ledge drop in the middle of the river before the river bends left and drops through a slalom of large boulders. There is a short recovery pool below Initiation before the river gets steeper and begins a long series of drops which culminate in the biggest drop on the upper section, Ram's Horn. There is a large eddy on the left just above Ram's Horn but getting out of your boat is tricky here. A better option is to stop on the right about 50 yards above Ram's Horn. Ram's Horn can be portaged on either side of the river.

Below Ram's Horn is a fun boulder garden that contains some big holes at high water and then the river bends to the right and funnels along the right wall. This is BTTW Right (Balls to the Wall Right). Just downstream is BTTW Left. A couple more boulder gardens and then boaters reach Climax; a sharp ledge drop that forms a nasty hole at high water. At most levels you can just bust down the middle with momentum but I'd suggest sneaking down the right side at high water.

Below Climax the river gradually starts to ease off and then eventually flattens to Class 2 for a couple miles. There are a few play-spots here and there but for the most part just relax and enjoy the scenery.

Lower Section (5 miles)
The lower section begins with a challenging rapid, High Bridge Rapid, about a 1/4 mile below the put-in. High Bridge is very similar to many of the drops in the upper section and contains a tricky ledge just before boaters pass under the bridge. This ledge has a potential pin rock in the center at low flows so be careful. Once below High Bridge the river enters a short, beautiful gorge.

Many fun Class 3 rapids frequent the river for the next couple miles until boaters reach an obvious horizon line with steep canyon walls on either side. This is the Flume. As the river constricts and drops through the Flume, several big waves lead boaters into a huge wave/hole at the bottom. This wave/hole has been known to throw kayakers completely out of the water at high water! Big fun! There is a big recovery pool at the bottom of the rapid and a pretty waterfall enters on the left. The Flume can be scouted easily on the right but the portage requires a tricky seal-launch into a boiling eddy. I've always thought it was better just to run the rapid.

Just around the corner is a short drop with a big hole at the bottom. About 50 yards downstream is Beyond Limits, a difficult waterfall. If something happens above Beyond Limits, be sure to get out of the river on the left. There is a potentially hazardous fish ladder along the left side of Beyond Limits. Both of these drops can be scouted/portaged easily on the left bank.

Below Beyond Limits is one more big rapid before the river calms down and boaters approach Shipherd's Falls. Look for the suspended bridge high above the river and be sure to get out on the left well before the actual falls. The small drop directly above the first falls is tricky because a lot of water is channels into a dangerous fish ladder on the left. Most boaters I know portage this drop on the left and then continue to portage the falls along the fish ladder. The 4 drops that make up Shipherd's Falls have been run at a variety of levels but they are probably portaged more than they are run. Decide for yourself once you are there.

There are several options if you choose to portage Shipherd's Falls.
Option 1: From the river-left edge of the bridge there is a narrow trail that travels along the face of the rock wall and eventually around and down below the falls. Watch your footing!
Option 2: From the downstream edge of the fish ladder, haul the boats about 15 ft. up the rock face to a platform overlooking the pool below the falls. Toss boats and have people jump into the pool. The trail from Option 1 is also accessible after hauling the boats up the cliff.
Option 3: Hike across the bridge and follow the trail up the canyon to the Carson Hot Springs Resort.

Below the falls the river is mainly Class 2 and then flattens completely at the Columbia River. There are some nice natural hot springs less than a 1/4 below the falls on the left. The take-out is on the right about a mile below the falls just past the Little Wind River which enters on the left.

Scout Initiation and Ram's Horn your first time down. The stretch just above Ram's Horn can get hectic as the water increases so stay in control. There is a good fishing trail on the left at Ram's Horn in case someone needs to get out of the canyon. It ends up at a parking lot along the highway. At low flows, the top of High Bridge Rapid gets tricky for rafts due to a big rock in the middle that splits the current. Scout The Flume on the right and Beyond Limits on the left. Be careful as you approach Shipherd's Falls to avoid getting sucked into the fish ladder on the left.

How to get there
Take-out-Lower (GPS:45o43.562'N, 121o47.688'W)
The Wind River is near the town of Carson, Washington. Turn onto Wind River Road about 2.75 miles east of Stevenson. At the 4-way stop sign in Carson, turn right and look for signs to the Carson Hot Springs after about a mile. Turn left towards the hot springs and then take an immediate right on a road that turns to gravel and winds down to the river.

Take-out-Upper (GPS:45o45.226'N, 121o50.496'W)
Travel north on Wind River Road about 2 miles from the 4-way stop in Carson and turn left onto Old High Bridge Road. Turn right at the next road and follow until the road turns to gravel and continues down to the river.

Put-in-Lower (GPS:45o45.226'N, 121o50.496'W)
See the direction to the take-out for the upper section.

Put-in-Upper (GPS:45o48.514'N, 121o54.556'W)
Turn left on Hemlock Road about 7.3 miles from downtown Carson. Either park at the bridge over the Wind River or turn right at the next road and follow to a small parking area near the bridge.

Alternate upper put-in: For some extra rapids, boaters can continue on Hemlock Road and turn at the first left which is Trout Creek Road. Put-in near the bridge over Trout Creek. You also might be able to find a put-in near the dam on Trout Creek which is further up Hemlock Road.

The river is usually runnable when the Clackamas River reads 1,900 cfs or more. The EF Lewis gauge should be at least 1000 cfs. Water level can also be estimated at the take-out for the upper run by looking at the pointed rock in the middle of the river. The river has been run when the water level was a foot below the upstream edge of this rock but it is better when there is some water flowing between the two pointed parts of the rock. If the rock is covered, be ready for some continuous Class 5 rapids.

More Info
Check out Jason's description of the upper section and the lower section.

Photo Gallery

Lead-in to Ram's Horn
(Low Water)
Ram's Horn
(Low Water)
Middle of Initiation
(Low Water)
Portaging Shipherd's Falls