Trip Report: A Mid-Week Float on the Klickitat

A Mid-week Float on the Klickitat

Submitted by Alex Johnson

12/22/20 Klickitat Hatchery to Leidl Campground, 1500 cfs at the Pitt Flow gauge

Klikitat 1 by Alex Johnson.jpgLooking to explore a new river, try out what looked like a fairly close and simple day trip and shake off the quarantine rust, a group of five boaters (featuring 2 OWA members) set out for an impromptu mid-week wintertime float on the Klickitat. Given how short the days are and our unfamiliarity with the Klickitat, we aimed to spend four hours or less on the water and focused in on either the Upper Klickitat (Parrot’s Crossing to Klickitat Hatchery) or the next section down. Ultimately we chose the Klickitat Hatchery to Leidl Campground section, just thinking that it looked less likely to have new large wood to watch for. Our only info on the section came from the short trip description on Whitewater Guidebook.

Photo: Klickitat Crew Selfie - by Alex Johnson

IMG_2387.JPGThis stretch also has only a 20 minute self-shuttle, so we also reasoned that this was a safer option for boaters from different quarantine bubbles given such little time spent in a car (even so, done with masks and windows down). We dropped a car at Leidl and met at the Hatchery at 10am. The put-in at the hatchery isn’t very noticeable at high water – there’s just a couple sections of grass that are a bit flattened on the side of a fish rearing pond. We set up the boats and then took our trucks back up to park at the marked visitor’s parking section. No cell phone reception at the hatchery or really anywhere along the trip including at takeout.

The water was slightly turbid from recent rains, the river was at around 1500 cfs at the Pitt flow gauge (right in the middle of the recommended range). Air temperature was in the mid to high 30s and got up around 45 in the sunlight – pretty perfect weather when in drysuits. Very few clouds, no rain, a light breeze picked up as the day went on.

IMG_2386.JPGIt ended up being a great float – at the water level, there are still plenty of rocks to dodge but very few large hazards that would present a real risk. Continuous class II and III rapids kept us thinking and moving pretty constantly. The first bridge we came to was at about the halfway point for the 10 mile float, and we got there in about an hour. We stopped for lunch shortly after just to slow the day down a bit and really maximize our time out on the water. The ecology of this section of the Klickitat was really cool to experience – a lot of both wet and dry sections, with the eastern bank featuring much more dry oak savannah sections as well as towering rock spires and cliffs. Wonder Falls was really gushing big flows on the west bank fairly early on in the float so that was great to slow down and check out as well. 

Photos: A beautiful day on the Klickitat -  by Evan Thomas; Santa's "Sleigh"? - by Isaac Hainley

waterfall view by Alex Johnson.jpgThe second half of the float mellowed out a lot with fewer instream rocks or ledges. We were sorry to see Leidl Campground come up when it did, but it was easy to spot the takeout as it was just after the second bridge of the float, on river right. We were off the water before 1:30pm and back in our rigs with boats packed up by 2:30pm. Very few things to pack up on such a short day trip so it was speedy getting in and out of the water. We recommend this section highly as a winter day trip (or even overnight if the weather was as good as we got it) and all five of us said we’d love to get back on it again soon – likely this coming spring of 2021.

Photo: Cruising by Wonder Falls - by Isaac Hainley