First of all, thank you Jean Luc for a great description of the Wenatchee and surrounding rivers. Also, please remember that it’s all about perception: one guy sees a class 6 hole and the next guy jumps in it and throws a bunch of tricks.
The Wenatchee river valley provides a diverse drainage for the whitewater adventurers of all types. Most whitewater enthusiasts view the trip down the river in an inner tube with a waterproof camera and six-pack of beer as the trip of choice, while others live for the trill of braving the churning twisting oftentimes-violent Icicle Creek Canyon in kayaks and boofing until the hearts are content.
The Wenatchee River from Leavenworth to Cashmere is the section commercial trips take place. The rafting season is directly related to snow pack, or the lack there of. On the eastern slopes of the Cascades the river levels are rise with the temps however early in the spring heavy rain fall along rising freezing levels in the mountains will bring the rivers up in about 36 hours. Some seasons, early warm temps can melt a substantial amount of snow pack in just a few weeks. This early fun on the river comes at a cost for its still colder than most river enthusiasts would prefer to venture out on the river. This scenario is what river guides dread because when the summer heat finally arrives and the look-e-loos are ready to get wet the river flow is not much to write home. Ideally, most river guides are praying for average to heavy snow pack and cooler spring temps until the mid-May insuring an exciting season through August.
For kayakers, traveling to the area all you need to bring is you’re play-boat, Creek-boat, and don’t forget the sunscreen. There are number of different runs in the Wenatchee drainage.
Tumwater Canyon is a great class 4-5 river run at flows between 600 cfs and 15,000 cfs at the USGS gauge in Plain. This section for most kayakers including locals is run at flows of 4000cfs and below. On the other hand if you are more in touch with your destiny or you have a good set of lungs and comfortable running big volume class 5 then higher flows are good to go.
Washington’s classic roadside class 5 creek run is Icicle Creek. Paddlers from all over the world make the pilgrimage every spring to hone and test their boating abilities. The Icicle is the most beautiful run in the Wenatchee drainage with tall snow caped peaks and alpine wilderness gives one the feeling of being in on a remote expedition however if you’re not feeling it you can easily abort mission and find the Hwy.
If you are just cutting your teeth on creeking; Peshastin Creek is a good class 3 – 4 creek run. The Peshastin is pretty continuous and narrow almost like paddling an oversized drainage ditch however much more charming and cleaner.
Finally the Wenatchee River from Leavenworth to Cashmere sixteen miles of 3-4 big volume play boating and really it’s technically class 2. The biggest hazards on this run are the low head dam in Dryden and all the bridge pillars. If this is your first time to the area you should start in Leavenworth and tackle the whole run especially if the river is above 10,000cfs. On the hand, if the river is 11 to 15 grand and you have been sitting in a car for way to long, chomping at the bit and ready to get on some big river waves and holes you’ll want to start 4 miles west of Cashmere at Rodeo hole. Rodeo hole to Cashmere is the standard play run for those seeking to defy gravity in a kayak. This section produces some of the biggest standing waves found anywhere in the United States if you can do it, it can be done here. Starting at Rodeo Hole, the prime levels being 12 – 14.5. The main hole at these levels is so much fun. One can choose to get pummeled in the meat or scramble to the surfer’s right shoulder and enjoy the sun. Actually rodeo hole is not that bad however it can leave a paddler very humbled at the end of a session. At the next rapid Dunkard’s Drop one can find some of the most powerful waves on the river. The most well-known wave at this rapid is Trinity. Trinity starts to form at 10,500cfs on the Monitor gauge and really comes into its own from 11,500cfs to 14,000cfs. The feature is world class the few that have surfed there return every year and if not they are dreaming of their next encounter. The raw power of this wave is hard to describe and can launch kayaks into the air without notice. To say that takes a few rides to get this wave dialed is an understatement. Trinity doesn’t have a smooth glassy face to make it easy to set-up for each move but that’s part of the fun. One ride you may actually throw a few consecutive moves and the next you just pearl drop in on the wave followed by multiple window-shadings. Once, you’ve had your fill at Trinity you can float down to Turkey Shoot or as my good friend Marco calls it Chick Stop. Turkey Shoot is right across from the Cashmere gun club hence the name. This feature works pretty well from 6000cfs to 15,000cfs. Between 6000cfs and 9000cfs one can learn most hole oriented moves and 9000cfs to 15,000cfs it starts to form a nice wave. The difficult thing this feature is the inconsistent shape of the wave or the extreme surges. Above 10,000 the wave will go from big and beautiful to flat and nonexistent and if you just finished a session at Rodeo and Trinity this can be frustrating. On the other hand, this wave will help any paddler refine their technique and teach how to watch the wave for the most power. Turkey Shoot is about finesse not power, maybe that’s why the girl’s really enjoy playing there. Floating down stream, next you will find Pipe. This feature has waves forming and disappearing so quickly the guy in front of you might have the best wave wheel of his life then by the time you get there you are wondering what in the world he threw it off of. Don’t think about it too much because after a little stretch of flat water you will come to Snowblind. Snowblind has the highest surfable wave count of any rapid. When coming into this rapid set your ferry angle up stream and look over your shoulders. Everything here is catch on the fly and if your wave count is less than four when your through this rapid you need to eddy out and start hiking back to the top of the rapid cause missed a lot and you could use the practice catching waves. If the river is above 20,000cfs you will always find locals hiking this rapid. At that flow not much else is working on the river and what you will find here rivals any wave found worldwide. The last and finally rapid is Granny’s. Granny’s has one of the best wave trains on the river at any level.
Here is a brief description of some of the runs:
Little Wenatchee River
Length 3.5 miles
Average gradient 95 ft/mile
Trip time: 3.5 hrs
Icicle Creek: Ida Creek to Snow Creek Falls
Class 4-5 (6)
Length 9 miles
Average gradient: 105ft/mile
Trip time: 2-4 hours
Wenatchee River: Tumwater canyon
Class 4-5 (6)
Length 8 miles
Average gradient 70 ft/mile
Trip time: 2-3 hours
Wenatchee river: Leavenworth to Cashmere
Length 16 miles
Average Gradient 20ft/mile
Trip time: 4-5 hours
Length 9-10 miles
Average gradient: 85ft/mile
Trip time 2-3 hrs
So, when you finally roll into town on that dusty horse of yours tired and dehydrated stop by one of the shops in town listed below and ask for more specific beta each run.
Leavenworth Mtn Sports ( Adam, Cheryl, Jean Luc)
220 Hwy 2
Leavenworth, WA 98826
509 548 7864
Osprey Rafting (Gary )
9342 Icicle Road
Leavenworth, WA 98826
Also, another source for river beta online:
American Whitewater for river levels and conservation stewardship: www.americanwhitewater.org/