White Water Rafting on the White Salmon River

 

White Water Rafting With Nephew.

‘White Water Rafting’ on the White Salmon River, was to be my destiny after I had agreed to accompany my nephew on a raft trip. A small 44 mile tributary of the lower Columbia, the White Salmon River begins its journey from the glaciers, snow melt and tarns of Mt Adams WA. From the mountain slopes through heavy bush and cleared farmland the very scenic and beautiful white salmon river, until 2011 supported a hydro electric dam constructed primarily to supply power to a paper mill. For environmental reasons The Condit Dam was decommissioned after 98 years of service with both direct and indirect loss of many jobs. However the destruction of the dam and Northwestern Lake provided white water rafting opportunities as I was to find out.

A Family Affair

Two nephews and a fiance, a niece and a boyfriend, brother in law Ted and my vacationing self roll out our camping gear and got a fire going near the White Salmon River. Having already eaten, the evening was very pleasant and simple. The morning brought a heavy drizzle and with little thought and or knowledge of what lay ahead I was content at this stage to do what the others did. We found the canoe operators and donned up with a wet suit and life jacket, then a spiel about how it all worked.

We were assigned two rafts, each with an operator who coached us as we negotiated the more tranquil beginnings of our trip. My raft was loaded with three of us including the guide and as the gradient increased it became clear there was no turning back. As we descended more regular rapids, although working quite hard we were gaining more confidence and self esteem. Apparently in order to attempt the finale, the Falls. Orders were constantly coming from the rear, ‘paddle harder to the right’, ‘keep away from that rock’, ‘which rock’, I was thinking as we rounded the last corner before the falls. The water began to eddy as the spray from the falls became obvious. ‘Now we only get one chance, line up to the right of that high protruding rock, paddle like hell, make sure we are square on, lean forward and hang on’, screaming at my rear as our inflatable rafts’ angle rapidly changed to a vertical nose dive. They were the last words I heard from our guide while  on the river.

My New World In Turmoil

A sea of white all around, a complete loss of buoyancy while being tossed this way and that, which way was up, which way was down.’Was I vertical, no horizontal, hang on what was that’? A boulder, I didn’t want to get wedged under that, pushed off, a bump on my shoulder, ah that might be the bottom, turned and pushed hard off that and what seemed like an age I popped to the surface rather relieved. Plenty of buoyancy up here and air was very welcome too. Everyone else by this time were safely on the bank being rescued by life buoys thrown with ropes attached. I was too far away for them to reach when brother in law Ted’s raft maneuvered along side and hauled me aboard. ‘Thought you were a goner’ a couple of them said. ‘No worries, nothing to it’ I lied.

Back on shore, knee caps still shaking slightly, I quizzed the bleeding bite marks on the back of  brother in law Teds’ bald head. Ted gave a wry look as he nodded to his raft guide who behind a bunch of blood clearly had a broken nose. Unlike ours, their raft stayed the right way up, but as the bow leveled out at the trough of the falls, the raft sandwiched like a closing hinge bringing the guides’ nose and teeth in severe contact with the back of Ted’s head. All of the younger folk came through unscathed, is that trying to tell us something?. ‘Would I go White water Rafting again’?, ‘Of Course’.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Come Rafting With Us Uncle Dave

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