The merging of two rivers is always an auspicious place for rafters and kayakers, and one of my favorite confluences is that of the East and West Forks of the Hood River. Not only is this a beautiful place to go for a swim on a hot day, but it also serves as the put-in and take-out for several great whitewater runs.
Western Rivers Conservancy recently purchased 102 acres of land which encompasses this confluence and the amazing Punchbowl Falls, a stunning 15 foot waterfall that plunges into a huge pool. The land was purchased temporarily, with a plan to protect it and eventually sell it to Hood River County who hopes to turn it into a park and salmon sanctuary.
The take-out for the West Fork of the Hood River (the best class IV run in the gorge) is immediately above Punchbowl Falls. For kayakers, this means a tricky scramble, up a steep slope, followed by a 5 minute walk to the parking lot. Rafters and catarafters have a much more difficult time getting their boats up the steep slope, and because the take-out is too much trouble, many rafters don’t get to experience the West Fork.
There is also a fabulous class III/IV run from the confluence and into the town of Hood River. This section has a 4-mile class III warm-up before a fun series of class IV rapids. However, this whitewater run is also plagued by poor access. To reach the confluence from the parking area it’s a 15 minute walk that ends with a steep, narrow trail. Most boaters get around this by putting in at Dee on the East Fork, but river access at Dee is tricky and that section of the river is swift and often blocked with logs. Easier river access at the confluence would open up a wonderful run for a solid class III boater looking to test the waters of class IV rapids.
The boating community will have the opportunity to shape the future of the Hood River Confluence and Punchbowl Falls area. American Whitewater has joined Western Rivers Conservancy to help Hood River County raise enough money to purchase this land. The Collins Foundation has made a $60,000 grant that is contingent on receiving matching funds from the public.
Small donations from the general public show grassroots support and are important for gaining other large public and private donations.
A donation of any size would really help this purchase go forward. Please join me and consider donating $10 or $20 (or more!) Donating is VERY easy and can be done by writing “Punchbowl Falls” under the comments section of the American Whitewater Donation Page.