Trip Report: Hood River - Feb 10, 2018 - 4.75 ft

Rips, Flips and Silver Linings

Submitted by Cheryl Ford

We had the great luck to run the Hood River, with Zach Collier leading on 2/10. Our group included Shakya, Chris, David, Oliver, Zak, Don, Linda, Mark, Cheryl and Randy, two pumas, two kayaks, and the rest catarafts. We started on the east fork section, at Dee, through the confluence of the west fork and then on to the mouth at the Columbia River, a total of 12.5 miles with the 7.5 miles above Tucker Bridge where many kayakers take out, but which is difficult with larger craft.

The weather couldn’t have been better, with spectacular blue skies and water level at 4.75’, low by most standards. The put in is on river left off the side of a gravel turn around at Dee. Even though permissible by powers that be, it is a tenuous privilege requiring efficient belaying of the boats down about a 50-100’ hillside to a rocky, log strewn put in.

Please remember to catch any trash and to park across the street after unloading to not endanger the use of this put in.

If there is one word to describe the Hood, it’s busy, from the moment you put on. You need to be at attention. A mile down the river is “S turn” that at this low level was very manageable. Unfortunately, Chris paid a price for this low level by finding something sharp that ripped his IK in two places. Zach crashed his helicopter drone also, so it was an expensive corner.

Just shy of another mile is the confluence of the west fork, with a fairly straight forward run but needing a hard pull away from a basalt cliff on river right. The river for a mile or two after the juncture is extra stunning, basalt cliffs reminiscent of the Klickitat and a broader, river basin of shallow rock dodging.

It’s wise to grab some lunch at one of the sand bars prior to the III-IV section which is about three miles below the confluence. This is about a third of the distance, but about half way down timewise. Once in this steeper section, the river narrows and it is hard to even get a drink of water. What a yahoo, high five, splash in the face, fun filled stretch!! At this lower level, there was a lot of dancing, but I can see if it was much higher this section, would be quite pushy. At the lower end of this section, we had our first flip of a puma that got sideways in one of the drops just upstream of Tucker Bridge. I got to watch Zach Collier stand on his kayak in the river and wright the puma.

After Tucker Bridge, is the lower 5 mile section, which still keeps you on your toes. Even though not difficult, it is necessary to pay attention, dodging rocks all the way to the end. Where Powerdale Dam (more commonly known as Copper Dam) was removed, at this lower level, the only route was an extreme left run, at least for cats.  At the bottom of Copper Dam Rapid #1, a basalt cliff took possession of Shakya’s oar, stuffed it in her PFD and flipped her in slo mo. Unfortunately the Hood slows for no one and she had to swim CD Rapid #2 before she got hauled out.

We took out at Port Marina which involves lifting the boats up 15’ of boulders right at the mouth. The put in and the take outs for the Hood River are Class III+, IV, for sure. We came with butterflies in our tummies and left with ear to ear grins on our faces. What a day. Thank you Zach for your leadership.