Saturday, April 24th, 2010...12:43 pm
Palouse A Goose!
I know school is supposed to be all about studying in the library until the wee hours of the morning, but there’s got to be some flexibility in that. I found some of that flexibility mid-week, as the Palouse, a river that rarely has any water, rose to about 800 cfs. Most years there are a couple of weeks when the Palouse runs above 1,500 cfs, but with the pathetic snow-year and early irrigators, this looked like it might be our only chance to head out. Luckily for me, my wednesday afternoon class was canceled (for non-related reasons), and with the cars loaded up, we headed off just after lunch. Here are some picture, and continue reading for a full description of the wonderful whitewater-fest that followed.
There are a few issues with this run, such as the fact that it is dead center in the middle of nowhere, and the shuttle alone takes over an hour. But to make up for that, it’s got 3 fun waterfalls (not counting the really big one at the takeout). We finally got on the water, to see that the irrigators were already pumping the meager amount of water that was flowing down the channel. After about a mile of flatwater, from the put-in at the bridge in Hooper, we came to an area where the river channeled out and there was a dilapidated farmhouse on the left bank surrounded by dead poplar trees. There are two channels on the first falls. The left channel seems really shallow, so we’ve always stuck to the far river right bank. This time, however, the water was low enough that the furthest right chute was too shallow. We opted instead for the furthest left chute, still in the right channel. It’s easily scouted from the island in the middle of the river, and after a few folks went pretty deep, we decided that hitting the bottom isn’t too much of a concern, although penciling in is still a bit sketchy.
After the first falls its a bit over a mile to the slide. At this water level (the gauge was broken, so somewhere around 600), there was a semi-runnable spot right in the middle, but it looked pretty shallow so none of us opted to run it. There’s an easy portage line down the left bank. If you decide to portage on the right, bring a long throwrope or be ready to huck your boat off of a cliff.
A few more miles of flatwater through a beautiful canyon, under a bridge, and past a ranch, and you get to the last rapid. You’ll be able to hear it, and there is grafitti on the some rocks on the right when you want to take out and scout. This one is easy to walk, as the takeout is right there, but it’s runnable at higher water. Just be careful of the 185′ waterfall about 1/4 mile downstream. The hike out goes from the last rapid through a level area, up an enormous embankment to the railroad tracks, left along the tracks for about 100 yards, then up a trail to the left to a road that leads to the parking lot.
This is a great run for someone who is stuck in Eastern Washington without much else to do. 800 cfs is definitely on the low side, I think it would be most fun over 1500. To get there, drive E from Walla Walla on highway 12 to the left turn for “Starbuck”. Take this road NE, cross the Snake River at Lyons Ferry, go up the hill, and turn right into Palouse Falls State Park, the takeout. To reach the put-in, take a right out of Palouse Falls State Park, drive until you go through a town. At the end of the town is a big intersection. Take a right and drive for about 5 miles. There will be a right turn for “Hooper”. Take this turn, cross the bridge over the river, turn right on a dirt road immediately after the bridge, and voila, your at the put-in.