Flood Rush

After a long, dry season, the high water comes all at once. In a week, it’ll all be gone. Which river do you choose?

November 26, 2005

When the rivers drop too low and the rocks become too abusive, you reluctantly decide to store your kayak in a more permanent place than on your Subaru’s roof racks.

You’ll pull it back out just as soon as the rains revive the Gorge’s countless rivers and creeks, you tell yourself.

That could be anyday.

But it never rains.

And slowly, perhaps reluctantly, you turn to other activities to help you enjoy the stinging summer heat.

Maybe swimming. Or fishing. Or mountain biking.

Eventually you forget about kayaking.

And then one day, it rains. It rains so hard every river in the area has transformed from a glistening trickle into a mocha-colored torrent, rushing into the Columbia like a liquid locomotive.

Every river is running. The ones last spring’s snowmelt couldn’t get quite high enough.

The ones that you never paddled.

All at once. They are all gushing. Which one do you do?

This annual scenario is both exhilirating and overwhelming.

Exhilirating because it’s like a land rush. It’s all there for the looting. All you need is time.

Overwhelming because it’s well into fall by now. Sunlight disappears by 5 p.m. And temperatures never get warm enough to hide your breath. Not to mention, you haven’t paddled in … when was the last time you paddled?

So you’re rusty.

And paddling a flooded river is like riding a bike on Interstate 84.

Brown water conceals boulders.

High water uproots trees, morphs sequential rapids into a blur of detonated chaos.

Mostly, however, it’s overwhelming because in a week, it’ll all be gone. In a day, the Washougal will be too low. In three days, the Hood River will again be scraping over boulders.

So, I ask you again: which river do you do? If you plan it right, you can experience six or seven of the year’s best whitewater kayaking days now. Run the wrong rivers on the wrong days and you’ll be wondering what’s so gosh darn fun about this flood rush.

Fortunately, we at the News have established a flood boating itinerary for you.

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