The Lower Wind River
Kayakers usually opt to run the the Lower Wind in the summer at low-water when the big drops at Shipherd Falls are clean. During winter and spring flows, Shipherd Falls isn't runnable by most paddlers, and it's difficult to portage.
Length: 5 Miles
Gradient: 56 fpm
Put-in: High Bridge
Take-out: Old Hatchery Road
Season: Winter and Spring for Rafting/Kayaking. Kayaks at lower summer flows.
The Lower Wind run begins just above High Bridge at the take-out for the classic Upper Wind. Combining the Upper and Lower Wind makes for a great full day on the river.
Just below the put-in is High Bridge Rapid, a long technical series of moves with nice drops and plenty of eddies.
At the bottom is a narrow, beautiful canyon followed by the confluence with Panther Creek, which enters on the left. There's about a mile of easy rapids before the Flume.
The Flume is a steep rapid that’s tough to scout but it’s also tough to mess up if you’re a confident boater. It’s a little intimidating from the top, but once you get in you’ll have a great time. There’s a good sized pool at the bottom and a beautiful waterfall that enters on the left.
A bit beyond the Flume is the Fish Ladder, also known as Beyond Limits. Pull over and scout this one on the left hand side. It's a steep drop into an intimidating hole.
The beta on this rapid is that the hole is backed up by a rock and sticky. Tim has run this rapid many times on both commercial raft trips and in a kayak. His advice was to “give ‘er” - so we did.
We all gutted this intimidating hole and everyone powered through it. Both kayaks went deep and resurfaced, and all 7 catarafts powered through it as well. One of the bigger cat boats rode up on the wall at the bottom and flipped.
Soon after the Fish Ladder, you’ll see a bridge above the river signaling Shipherd Falls. This series of ledge drops are runnable at low summer flows, but not at higher winter and spring flows. The tricky portage around here is one of the main reasons this run is rarely done at high flows. Word on the street is that you can't legally portage on the river left side.
There is a hot spring just below Shipherd Falls on the left and then another mile or so of Class II rapids before the take-out.
Logistics: Get on Washington’s Highway 14 and head towards where it crosses the Wind River east of Stevenson. Just east of the Wind River, head north on Old Hatchery Road to a parking area next to the river. Make sure you pay for parking here or you’re likely to get a ticket.
To get to put-in, head back to Highway 14, drive west and cross the Wind River. After crossing the Wind, immediately take a right to head north on Hot Springs Ave. You’ll enter the town of Carson where Hot Springs Ave. ends at Wind River Road. Take a right on Wind River Road and a few minutes north of town, take a left on High Bridge Road (if you cross High Bridge you’ve gone too far) and then a right on Old Detour Road. You’ll drive through a short residential neighborhood – PLEASE DRIVE SLOWLY! Continue down the dirt road at the end of Old Detour Road down to the put-in. Please park your vehicle out of the way so that so trucks with trailers have room to turn around.
Thanks to Tim from River Drifters for showing us the way down.