President's Corner

Four Seasons of Northwest Boating

By Scott Harvey

Scott Harvey.jpg

Greetings fellow club members,

Several weeks back I had replied to an individual’s Facebook posting where they were asking for advice regarding cleaning and proper stowing of their cat-boat. Since apparently wherever this individual was located, their boating season was over until next spring. My reply to their post had nothing to do with cleaning or stowing of a cat-boat but as a light humored reminder for the rest of America reading this posting, the fact remains that for us northwest river-rat folks tucked away up here in the evergreens of Oregon and Washington, our boating season never ends! We just change with the seasons that roll through yearly and either add or remove another layer of polyester fleece clothing under our drysuit. We are fortunate up in our corner of the world to have such variety within a day’s drive. I refer to it as the four seasons of northwest boating!  


Winter Boating (November thru February)

Winter boating is for those who enjoy the sport of river running during a period of time where the weather is questionable and the crowds are non-existent. Ambient conditions are usually cold, but the heavy rains of winter usually open the window of opportunity for a chance to get out and explore our local rivers that normally wouldn’t be boatable during the warmer seasons. Coastal rivers, mid to lower elevation Westside Cascade Mountain rivers and creeks are some of the drainages available for boating during winter months.  Conditions can be dicey and an individual must keep diligent attention to river flows, weather and river conditions through social media.  


Spring Boating (March & April)

March and April is very similar to winter boating but the weather conditions are somewhat more favorable. Spring boating is more of a combination of rain showers or rain and mid level snow-melt. Other rivers that become available for boating during this season are the Northern California drainages of the Smith and Cal Salmon Rivers, Illinois River and Umpqua Rivers of Southern Oregon, the Crooked River, Owyhee, John Day and Grande Ronde River drainages of Eastern Oregon and the Olympic mountain range in NW Washington.  Again the window of opportunity can open for most of the northwest rivers when the conditions are right. Longer daylight, along with warmer temperatures makes this a prime season for boating in the Northwest.  


Late Spring/Early Summer Boating (May thru July)

May through July is a combination of warmer temperatures, mid and upper elevation snow melt and occasional showers. This is also a great time for lengthier overnight camping river trips. Almost anywhere in the state of Idaho and Montana is a prime destination during these months along with Eastern Oregon, Northern Washington Cascades and the Sierra Nevada Mountains in California.   


Late Summer/Fall boating (August thru October)


August through October are the dry months and in the northwest the rivers are mainly dependent on hydro dam releases and reservoir draw downs. The main reason for the fall season reservoir draw downs are usually for fish passage, irrigational needs, hydro-electrical power production and lowering of the reservoir pool levels to accommodate for the winter rains and flood control. We have longer seasons for boating in late summer/fall because of year round reservoir releases on such rivers as the Rogue River drainage, Upper Klamath (Hells Corner), Middle Fk Willamette, McKenzie, North Santiam, Tieton, Lower Deschutes, Snake River below Hells Canyon Dam and the North Fork and Main Payette Rivers below Lake Cascade Reservoir near McCall, Idaho. Also, August and September can be a good time to venture out and visit our neighbors to the north in British Columbia. Numerous whitewater rivers can be found in abundance and boatable within the providence of BC such as the Chilko, Taseko, Chilcotin, Fraser, Thompson, Nahatlatch, Chilliwack, Squamish, Lillooet, Babine, Clearwater, Kicking Horse, Elk and White Rivers to name a few. Do your research, it’s all out there! 

So there you have it folks! Most whitewater boaters in other regions of our country might not say it, but for those in the know, we are the envy of the boating community across this land (at least I like to personally think so) for our diversity, variety and proximity to such outstanding rivers and most are with-in reach of just a couple hours if not a weekend!  

Cheers and Safe Boating,

Scott Harvey