Columbia River high water creates safety concerns for recreation

Crowding, strong current, mixed uses prompt caution at Hood River Waterfront

The Hood River waterfront recreation beaches and parks are effectively shrinking as high water levels in the Columbia River climb higher up the shoreline. The spring runoff is causing high water levels throughout the Columbia/Snake River system, but local concerns are focused on water safety in the run up to Memorial Day weekend.

“Kiteboard launching naturally requires a lot of open space, and right now space is tight at the Event Site,” said Port of Hood River Waterfront Manager Daryl Stafford. “With high water conditions, there are strong currents and lots of hidden debris. So, in these conditions, it’s experts-only or kite with an instructor or guide.”

Port Operations Manager John Mann said he and his staff are monitoring erosion on the jetty beach and at Event Site.

“The water is as high as I’ve seen in 30 years,” Mann said. “At 81 feet it’s higher than the flood of 1996,” but he noted that the flow speed is slower.

Several local kiting and windsurfing schools are offering guide services now to provide safety and support for the unique water conditions. Kite launching is still permitted from the Event Site, but only in designated areas. Spectators are urged to stay well clear of the launch lines and to keep dogs on leash at all times.

River current is stronger than normal at all waterfront beaches, so life jackets and constant adult supervision is a must for children swimming at the Marina Beach, the Hood River Waterfront Park beach, and even Frog Beach (aka Slackwater Beach) in the Nichols Basin.

Boaters and anglers are also urged to use caution, as the high water and stronger currents are creating navigational condition changes with hidden and floating debris in the river, including large logs. Tall mast sailboats and marine vessels are reminded that bridge lifts for navigation under the Hood River/White Salmon Interstate Bridge require 24 hours’ notice to the port. The vertical clearance when the bridge’s lift span is down depends on the level of the Bonneville pool, with clearance now at only 61 feet — seven feet less than normal.

For more information, contact the Port of Hood River via email to porthr@gorge.net.



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