The Lower Wind River

by Zachary Collier

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.

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.

The Wind River Below High Bridge

The Wind River Below High Bridge

Just below the put-in is High Bridge Rapid, a long technical series of moves with nice drops and plenty of eddies.

High Bridge Rapid on the Lower Wind

High Bridge Rapid on the Lower Wind

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.

Heading into the beautiful canyon at the bottom of High Bridge Rapid

Heading into the beautiful canyon at the bottom of High Bridge Rapid

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.

The Flume

The Flume

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 Fish Ladder on the Lower Wind

The Fish Ladder on the Lower Wind

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.

Cataraft in Beyond Limits (aka Fish Ladder)

Cataraft in Beyond Limits (aka Fish Ladder)

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.

Below Shipherd Falls

Below Shipherd Falls

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.

Beautiful Columbia Gorge sunset at the end of the day

Beautiful Columbia Gorge sunset at the end of the day

Thanks to Tim from River Drifters for showing us the way down.

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Author

Zachary Collier

Owner of Northwest Rafting Company, Zach Collier combines international guiding experience in places like Siberia, Bhutan, and Chile with a natural business acumen for systems and logistics. Whether he’s on big water or in the back office, Zach strives to ensure NWRC offers exceptional whitewater and wilderness experiences for guests and guides alike.

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