Little White Salmon

Up until myself and Austin went out to run the Little White Salmon, my topmost best-favouritest ever creek ever in the world had been the Codi in Corsica. There are a couple of other classics on my list too – the Castro Laborario in Portugal, the Gol Gol in Chile, the Toro in Costa Rica; but Washington’s Little White Salmon is an amazing thing, to put it mildly.

First of all we had to stop off at the AT paddle factory to do a little boat repair. Check out the ‘squishing’ tool.

Nice, eh? I’d imagine Simon will be looking for one of those for his birthday this year. What better way to test out a new plastic weld than head to the river? The ‘L Dub’ as they call it.

Catching my breath halfway down I mentioned to Austin that this was perhaps the best creek ever. He agreed, saying that the Little White, running all year, was the reason he moved to the Pacific North West. Again, you couldn’t argue with that.

The first rapid is called ‘Getting Busy’ and it’s a full half-mile long. A half-mile of boulders, holes, boof ledges, must-make lines, and a paucity of eddies. It’s also got Spirit Falls, the whitewater beauty of which is almost wasted on this river because there are so many other eye-popping features. This river, half an hour from the town, is much of the reason Hood River is such a draw for kayakers, both resident and passing through.

Austin knows the ins and outs of this river like I know the ins and outs of O’Neill’s of Pierse Street, and with just two of us on the water, we were able to make good time. Without local knowledge this would have been a full-day mission. He would describe every coming section in concise form, with no drama, and finish off by saying ‘you can follow me as close as you like on this bit.’ Thus each section was like a boatercross race, with all the appearance of me chasing him down to the wire. I lost sight of him once all day…

According to OregonKayaking.net, the excellent online river guide:

The Little White is fed by an enormous aquifer that stores rain all winter and then slowly releases it late into the summer, making this a world class playground for class V paddlers when almost everything else is bone dry.

The day we were there it was running at 3.8 on the gauge (conveniently located right at the put-in). This is apparently about as big as you want to go, and I met plenty of locals well impressed at that level for a first time down. That’s the kind of news you only need to hear after you’re safely back in town. Thanks again, Austin.

My instructions here were ‘get close to the tree and boof’ – if I had gotten any closer I would have been open to accusations of being a tree hugger.

The Disco must be reading this post and thinking ‘thank Christ I wasn’t there for any of this.’

This next drop is called S-Turn Fall, I think. Dear sweet Lord, I don’t even remember running this one, but run it we did…

Waiting for me to get my act together, here’s Austin’s self-portrait. A happy boater, in his element…

There’s some nastiness over on the right, but I was moving too fast to see it.

Safety out the bottom of this one…

Our only portage was at Spirit Falls. The problem with running Spirit Falls, apart from the really obvious one that it’s a really tall waterfall, is that it commits you to a very sketchy ferry glide across the top of something known as Chaos. Austin had committed us to the portage before we even got on; at this water level, that’s a good call.

Plenty of paddlers, far better and more travelled than me, rate the Little White Salmon as the best creek in the world. If it’s not, then let me know what is…

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