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Trip Report: The Orletta section of the White Salmon

This last Sunday, October 26, my brother Skip and I decided to put our new 10′ Avon to the test. With no recent rain, most of the steep creek and epic raft runs of the Pacific Northwest are still dried up and waiting for the first big storm. When this is the case, the Middle White Salmon (MWS) is a great back-up run. It is fed mainly by spring water so it always has a decent flow.

A great addition to the MWS is the two-mile stretch above the typical put-in at BZ Corner. This is known as the Orletta section because access is via the hike down Orletta Creek. When there is more run-off, the Green Truss (class V / V+) offers an exhilerating run for rafts and a slightly easier put-in. For this Sunday, however, Orletta was the way to go.

It took roughly half an hour to get our boat from the road to the actual river. This was due in part to our lack of insight into the Orletta Creek drainage. In hindsight, it is heinous to carry an inflated raft down the drainage. However, we thought that to save time we would, 1) not bother to “scout out” the hike-in, and 2) carry everything down in one trip. So, we blew up the boat and threw all of our gear inside the inflated raft. Thus, we made it as heavy as possible.

Here we are going underneath the highway, not realizing what was ahead (courtesy of Ryan Morgan):

Here we are, realizing that we are boneheads for not scouting Orletta Creek (courtesy of Ryan Morgan):

After finally reaching the river, we realized that we had left our water bottles in my truck. After sweating prefusely to reach the river, this made each of us fairly disappointed in our poor planning. Nevertheless, we pushed off and headed downstream.

The Orletta stretch offers some great class IV whitewater. At this low flow, it was fairly technical but in our nimble boat we made it through everything just fine. After two quick miles of continuous whitewater, we reached BZ Falls. We scouted it briefly but the decision was easy: neither of us wanted to swim and explore the nasty-looking undercuts at the base of the falls. We ghost-boated. Skip pushed the raft off as I waited downstream. The raft had a great line, I jumped in the river, climbed inside the raft, and paddled the boat to shore.

Rosie, the Little Boat that Could, about to run her first waterfall:

Below BZ Falls is the typical MWS run. It offers mainly class II riffles with a few class IIIish drops. Until Husum Falls, which is a very clean 8′ drop at the take-out. We styled it and paddled to shore where our take-out rig was.

Going over Husum Falls (courtesy of Ryan Morgan):
We had a great time paddling the White Salmon and we are looking forward to taking this boat on more of the classic runs of the Pacific Northwest.

-Will V.

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