The Upper Wind is a beautiful and challenging river in Southern Washington. It has a an easy shuttle and is close to Portland making it a popular winter trip for advanced rafters and kayakers. It's especially popular with catarafters who use it as a training ground for rowing Class V rivers. It the most difficult section of whitewater commercially rafted in the Columbia Gorge.

The race season starts here every March with the Upper Wind River Whitewater Festival. This organized event has fun head-to-head races for rafts, catarafts and kayaks.

Kayaker Mass Start at the Wind River Festival

Kayaker Mass Start at the Wind River Festival

The difficulty of this river is highly dependent on flows which are mostly dependent on rain. The first two miles are very continuous and can be quite dangerous at flows about 6.5 feet on the Stabler gauge.

Trip Highlights

Mile 0: Put-in just upstream of the bridge at Stabler. The first 0.9 miles is a nice warm up with a fun rapid just before initiation.

Catarafting on the Wind River

The rapid just above initiation

Mile 0.9: Initiation (IV+) is the first Class IV Rapid that will give you a sense of what the next few miles will be like. This is a long rapid and would be tough to scout.

Mile 1.1: Grandmas (IV-) this is a good warm up for Ram's Horn which comes soon after. There is a good eddy on the left below this to regroup everyone.

Mile 1.2: Ram's Horn (IV+) is the most difficult and longest rapid on the Upper Wind. It begins easy and gradually gets more difficult with the most difficult part at the end. This rapid would take a long time to scout so it's good to follow someone down that knows the way.

Mile 1.3: Rapid after Ram's Horn (IV-): This one has a technical entrance and some holes scattered through the rapid. There's a sieve at the bottom on the left that's fairly easy to avoid.

Mile 1.4: Balls to the Wall Right a.k.a. BTTWR (IV) is a tricky rapid that is commonly run on the right side. There is also a fun technical line down the middle.

Mile 1.75: Balls to the Wall Left a.k.a. BTTWL (III+) has a left run against a wall and there is sometimes a hole at the bottom. There is a tricky technical line that starts right and then joins the main rapid about half way down.

Mile 1.9: Morning Wood (IV-) has a technical entrance and some boulders at the bottom that sometimes have wood in them.

Mile 2.1: Climax (IV+) is an 6-ish foot drop with 3 distinct lines. Most people take the center line.

Climax Rapid on the Wind River

Climax Rapid on the Wind River

Mile 2.25: Wet Spot (IV-) has a couple different routes of varying difficulty. This marks the end of the bigger rapids. The next few miles are full of fun Class II and III rapids with some great surf spots.

Mile 3.5: The Playground (III+) is a long rapid with a lot of fun rocks, waves, and holes to play with.

Mile 3.8: Surf City (III-) has a few fun surf waves for kayaks, rafts, and catarafts.

Mile 6.5: Take-out on river right just before High Bridge or continue down the Lower Wind.

Written by
Zach Collier