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The Lake Branch West Fork of the Hood River

The Lake Branch is a major tributary of Oregon’s West Fork of the Hood River and one that I’ve wanted to paddle for a long while. It’s known for its steep, challenging rapids that tumble through a beautiful canyon.

The Lake Branch starts with a couple miles of Class III rapids that are a perfect warm-up. As the canyon narrows, the first big rapid is Helmet Peeler, which starts with a stout hole and ends with a narrow chute. It is easier to scout on the right, which is also the best side to portage using a fun seal-launch from a mossy rock.

Helmet Peeler

Chip Just Above Helmet Peeler Rapid
Chip Just Above Helmet Peeler Rapid

Soon after Helmet Peeler comes Boat Beater, a rocky rapid with a burly line on the right side.

Boat Beater

We decided to spare our boats the beating, portage the very top, and run an easier chute on the left side.

The far left line at Boat Beater
The far left line at Boat Beater

After Boat Beater the canyon grows very deep and narrow, and was amazingly beautiful with the last rays of November sun peeking through the clouds.

Right or Left

The last big rapid is Right or Left, but at the low water, we only had the right option. It starts with an 8-foot drop followed by a slalom between a shallow rock and an undercut rock.

The right line at Right or Left
The right line at Right or Left

The runout from Right or Left had a fun boof on the right hand side. Except for one small chute, the remaining rapids were Class II/III to the confluence with the West Fork of the Hood River.


It’s fun to do the West Fork after the Lake Branch, so you can leave a car at the West Fork take-out at Punchbowl Falls. If you’re just doing the Lake Branch, then leave a car at the put-in for the West Fork on Lost Lake Road where the Lake Branch meets the West Fork.

To reach put-in, drive a couple miles up National Forest Develop Road 13. Take a left on the dirt road after crossing Diver’s Creek. It’s a short drive down to the river.

Originally Published: | Updated on | Categorized under: Trip Reports

Post Author

Zachary Collier

As 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 Northwest Rafting Company offers exceptional whitewater and wilderness experiences for guests and guides alike.

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