The Tieton River is just outside of the hops central of Washington State, Yakima. The scenery starts to change as you leave the city and drive along Highway 12 towards the Cascade Mountain Range. Garry oak trees, aspens, cottonwoods and willows dominate the foliage beside the river. Walls of basalt columns can be seen in hills of the canyon where the ancient lava flows ended their path from the East Cascades.

A release in September from the Rimrock Reservoir provides irrigation for farmers, more water for the Chinook salmon run, and a river full of water for recreational paddling. When the rest of the rivers in the state are drying out, the release of the Tieton gives boaters somewhere to play in some bigger waves.

This is a fast and continuous run of whitewater that has characteristics of a river in flood. There are very few eddies to catch along the way and the few around are often times crowed with trees and brush swept downstream from the reservoir. Be on the lookout for trees in many of the various channels the river makes.

The first few miles of river contains fun small boulder gardens with lots of playful boofs and waves. The road parallels the river allowing for boaters to use the highway mile markers as a guide.

Trip Highlights

Mile 0: Put-in just past mile 167 at a big dirt pullout.

Mile 5.8: There is a lowhead dam, well marked by signs along the river. The far left side of the dam has a good passage for boaters to run down. An easy eddy catch on river left allows boaters to scout the dam and see the runnable wave train.

Mile 6.8: High Noon Rapid. This is a boulder garden rapid where, at levels above 2,000 cfs, a big hole in the center of the river can form. The hole is avoidable by taking the river right side of the rapid.

Mile 6.9: The second bridge after the dam, behind Trout Lodge, sits right about a good park and play wave. Eddy access to the wave is best from river right.

Mile 7.5: Waffle Wall Rapid. Stay center left to avoid being pushed into the right wall of this rapid. This is also a great alternative take out spot with good eddy access above or below the rapid. The next 4.3 miles to the campground can be long and windy with no significant rapids.

Mile 11.8: Take out at Windy Bridge Campground