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Hood River, OR (Columbia River Gorge)

"The Gorge"

Hood River, Oregon is a well known gathering/launching spot for many outdoor sports, but it is the epicenter of a stretch of river that is world famous for water sports that involve wind.

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Ana Swetish - Columbia Gorge Post Graduate

Most Photos from Carter Johnson/Vortex Events


Intro

  • Easy access, consistent wind, warm water (summer), and a great town.
  • The Columbia River Gorge acts as a remarkably reliable wind tunnel and is now a world famous destination for wind sport enthusiasts.
  • The river flows to the west and the wind generally blows to the east

Maps

  • From Stevenson, WA to Hood River, OR
    • For downwinders, use the map here.
  • Much larger stretch showing put-ins/take-outs (but this list does not show all access points, it's windsurfing site focused)
    • You may download a map of put-ins here.
  • Paddle.com boat launch map here (zoom out to see more than just nearby Hood River area)
  • Navigation Charts not too many folks seem to look at these but they can give you a better picture of where shallows are and how far they extend, along with where the main shipping channel is and the path that barges are likely to follow.

Safety

  • There can be extreme winds. You must have a dependable remount in big conditions. If you separate from your boat you will not be able to catch it by swimming. Make sure you are leashed and your leash is in good shape.
  • Watch for kiteboarders, windsurfers, wing foilers, large barges (and gill nets attached to white buoys closer to shore)

Downwinders


Welcome to the Gorge

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Click here to see descriptions of downwind runs

Click here to hide these descriptions of downwind runs

All of the following descriptions assume the much more common west wind that blows upriver. Running counter to the river current, the west wind helps build up waves like a wind running counter to a tide race current also does. (There are occasional winds from the east that allow runs in the opposite direction downriver - Gorge resident Carter Johnson reports that the east wind typically needs to be blowing at least 20 mph to make downstream downwinders worthwhile (for surfskis).)


Stevenson to Hood River

This stretch is about 18 - 19 miles. It is usually broken into smaller runs that people choose based on where the conditions they are looking for (stronger or milder) seem to be centered. The 13+ miles from Home Valley to Hood River is the traditional stretch for the Gorge Championship downwind race.

stevenson_hrmap.jpg

map:Gorge Champs Website click on map to enlarge


  1. Stevenson, (WA) to Home Valley (WA) (5.5 miles)
    1. Put-in (Bob's Beach county park) and takeout (Home Valley county park) on Washington side of the river.
    2. Or put-in at Skamania County Fairgrounds adding 0.6 miles or so to run (launch from pond by fairgrounds and paddle out under a bridge into the river).
    3. On the Washington side of the Triangle Rock at the end of the run there are rocks that can damage your ski. Best to go on the Oregon side of Triangle Rock to avoid potential damage. Home Valley Run - Hitting Rock Video
  2. Home Valley (WA) to Drano Lake (WA) (7 miles)
    1. Put-in (Home Valley county park) and takeout (Drano Lake) on Washington side of the river.
    2. Home Valley has a large park with ample parking (usual launch site for Gorge Downwind Championships)
    3. Drano Lake is on north side of Washington Hwy 14. You have to paddle under bridge to leave river and go into lake.
    4. There is public boat ramp with ample parking for put-ins/take-outs at Drano Lake - turn off on north side of Hwy 14
    5. 2 Alternate Drano launch/takeouts on west end of lake along road that goes to Little White Salmon Fish Hatchery. But parking is very limited and involves somewhat steep walk between road and Drano Lake. There is a rail and ramp for the easier one to walk farther down the Hatchery road and a steep narrow trail for the one close to the Hwy 14 turn off.
    6. During salmon fishing seasons (spring and fall runs) there can be a large circling group of fishing boats on the “lake” side of the entrance from the river - do your best to travel in the same direction, possibly on the outside of the circlers and try to avoid interfering with shoreline fishing lines. Usually a friendly bunch if you avoid getting too much in their way. Drano fishing video
  3. Viento (OR) to Hood River, OR (8 miles) Downwindfun
    1. Put-in (Viento State Park) and take-out (Hood River Waterfront Park or Event Site) on Oregon side of the river.
    2. A good line can be working the Oregon side for the first half of the run and then ease over toward the Washington side for the second half for the fastest runs. [On bigger days as you approach Swell City, anything from mid river almost to the Washington shore can get cross-waved, big, and challenging - to get somewhat less turbulence, either stay well right or go all the way left and hug the Washington shore. But unless you get to the Washington shore well before Swell City, you will have to go through turbulence to get there.] Slight changes in the direction of the wind can change the line and can make the end of the run huge or flat. The flow rate will change where the eddy lines are.
    3. Remember that you are paddling upstream so the biggest runs are often stacked in the strongest opposing current and the fastest line is usually somewhere between the biggest runs in the current and the flatness over to the side (some sections have little or no flat on side - depends on contour of river).
    4. The Hatchery (WA) (Washington side in the later part of the runs to White Salmon and Hood River)
      1. Spring Creek Hatchery State Park - An excellent place to practice by doing laps. Ride downwind and use the shoreline eddy to “easily” paddle the upwind section of your laps (skirt the edge between getting too far out and into the waves and getting too close to shore and shallow rocks).
      2. Site for a Gorge Small Boat group weekly get together for laps, food, and socializing on Thursday evenings (as of 2023 a growing group social sometimes with demos or skill presentations)
  4. Drano Lake (WA) to White Salmon River (WA) (Washington side alternative to Viento run - 6-7 miles).
    1. See info above (from Home Valley run to Drano Lake) about Drano Lake
    2. Take out at White Salmon River (just as you pass Underwood, WA. across river from Hood River)
    3. The White Salmon takeout is on the east side of the White Salmon river mouth up a steep hill to limited parking. DO NOT attempt take out on west side small marina after turning into the river mouth. The marina is Native American private property and carefully guarded.
  5. White Salmon River Mouth Laps (WA)
    1. The stretch upstream from the Hatchery to the mouth of the White Salmon River can also be an excellent place to do laps (sometimes with large waves). The river bends and typically will have much less upstream waves close to the Washington side so going downriver should be reasonable to return to your wave catching starting point. There is a green buoy a ways out from the shore at the mouth of the White Salmon River that you may want to aim for when your are riding waves upstream to keep you in the waves until you get close to shore for your turnarounds.

Mouth of White Salmon River

whitesalmon1.jpg

Hill Climb at White Salmon Takeoutwhitesalmon2.jpg

photos: Paul Reavley


Barge going downriver against waves through the outside of Swell City - photo from Carter Johnson / Vortex Events

swellcitybarge.jpg


East of Hood River Event Site


east_hr.jpg

map: Columbia Gorge Wind & Water Association launch sites - click on map to enlarge, view with full launch site key (but it does not include all of the reasonable launch sites for downwinders)



Go East My Friends!

Davies Dictum (like a Mocke Maxim) = “Don’t leave good wind for better wind.

Kiesling Caveat = “It’s OK to leave mediocre wind for outstanding wind.

This stretch (east of Hood River) can involve some driving particularly if you go to the far end upstream, but not all of it is that far away.


Hood River Event Site (OR) (I-84 exit 64 - mile 0)

Bingen(WA) (mile 2) sailboard park next to harbor is one launch

Mosier(OR) (mile 7.3)

Lyle(WA), (mile 13.2)

Rowena(OR) (mile 14.5)

Doug's Beach State Park(WA) (mile 15.9)

The Dalles(OR) (mile 22)

The Dalles Dam (mile 24)

Celilo(OR) (mile 34)

Deschutes River(OR) (mile 37.4) (Hell's Gate Canyon is on the Washington side of Miller Island just upstream from the Deschutes)

Maryhill(WA) (mile 41)

Rufus(OR) (mile 47)

John Day Dam (mile 49.5)

Blalock Canyon Boat Ramp(OR) (mile 66)

Sundale(OR) (mile 70.2)

Roosevelt(WA) (mile 75)

Arlington(OR) (mile 75)

Quesna County Park (3 mile Canyon)(OR) (mile 89)

Boardman(OR) (mile 102),…


  1. Hood River (OR) to The Dalles (OR) approx. 18 - 22 miles
    1. Mosier, OR - The Dalles, OR 13 - 14 miles video
      1. put-in - Rock Creek Beach (OR) (mile 7.3) (I-84 exit 69) ($ parking) - popular kite/sail/wing launch. If river is low and wind is pushing you to the right as you head upstream you may need to paddle across the river a ways to avoid getting pushed into sandbars on the right just upstream from the launch.
      2. take-outs - There are large power lines crossing the river shortly downriver from the Dalles take outs. Avoid the dead end channel on your far right (that you see looking up river) where the lines cross the river, pass under the lines more or less river center then head right to your landing beach.
        1. Kiwanis Pocket Park at Klindt Cove (OR) (I-84 exit 82) This is a mile farther up river than Taylor Lake (passing the Veterinary Hospital and Google Data Center), but the road is all good, there's a nice parking lot, bathrooms, and grass to put your boat on. Also a shorter carry from the river.
        2. alternate - Taylor Lake (OR) (I-84 exit 82) gravel road can be potholed (not good for low clearance vehicles). From small parking area → bridge over lake then asphalt paved trail leads to river.
    2. Rowena, OR - the Dalles, OR 6 - 7 miles
      1. put-in - Mayer State Park East (approx. mile 14) (I-84 exit 76) ($ pay/state pass for parking) - Take the Rowena exit (I-84 exit 76), then make a right after the bridge (and after the rail road). Continue to the park. Not considered the best put-in, slippery rocks and not a lot of protection from the wind (maybe a little better at the far east end?).
      2. take-out - see take-outs above in Mosier, OR run description
  2. The Dalles Dam (mile 24)
  3. Celilo, OR - Rufus, OR 13 - 14 miles
    1. put-in Celilo Park (mile 34) (I-84 exit 97)
    2. take out (I-84 exit 109) kite/windsurfer launch off of Rock Beach Ln., waves are often better if you go on Washington side of Miller Island, but stay away from either shore particularly at upstream end of island to avoid shallows/rocks.
      1. OC1 Celilo - Rufus Part 1, Part 2, Part 3
  4. John Day Dam (mile 49.5)
  5. Blalock Canyon Boat Ramp (OR) (mile 66) to …
    1. put-in Blalock Canyon Boat Ramp (OR) (I-84 exit 129) take Blalock Canyon rd. under I-84, turn right on Blalock Port rd. - short distance to boat ramp. launch and take water passage to left under railroad out into the river.
    2. take out Arlington (OR) (I-84 exit 137) 9-10 miles. The takeout is not very straight forward the first time you do it. Arlington is about 10 miles upriver and is visible by the grain silos (Pacific Grain/Port of Arlington). There is a rock jetty sticking out into the river and if it's really windy, there will be waves breaking into it, throwing huge spray and looking a little intimidating. You need to paddle around the jetty and then hook a hard right into the entrance to the lagoon. Continue paddling east, go right under the RR tracks and then up to a nice lawn area at the Arlington beach (Earl Snell Memorial Park). )
      1. Roosevelt Park Recreation Area (WA) From foiler on standupzone.com: “ I hope you guys get to see Roosevelt on a good day. The river is really wide there (over a mile) and the wind and swell is super smooth. Even when the river is flowing fast elsewhere current is mellow there due to the width. On a great day it will blow your mind. Huge, long, and smooth swell. Arlington shares the same water but on the Oregon side. Roosevelt has a grassy park and a long stretch of flatwater before it swells up. It is a drive but its worth it.”
    3. take out Quesna County Park (OR) (I-84 exit 151) 22.5 miles

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Gorge Sternwheeler, RIP? (no, it's back!)

Click here for more about sternwheeler wake rides

Click here to hide sternwheeler wake rides

  • We used to be able to hop on the wake of the Sternwheeler and ride it up and down the river when the wind wasn't blowing, but unfortunately that option is not available for the forseeable future. Announcement of Service Cessation Jan 1, 2023 (there are still tour boats on the river, but no true paddlewheelers with such quality wakes )
  • UPDATE August 2023 announcement via “The Sternwheeler” facebook group is that the Sternwheeler is back!
  • Some days are better than others for wake riding Jan 2024 Storm, but when conditions are good it's the ultimate party wave

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Video/Photos


Races


Season/Conditions

Click here for information about weather and seasons

Click here to hide weather and seasons

Seasonal Variations

from Sam Taylor on surfski.info:

Gorge DW season runs roughly April-October, though the early season (April-May) and late season (October into early November) are less reliable and can be affected by high current early, and more wind variability later. You can sometimes get great East wind runs into November- early December but it gets cold and is not dependable.

Prime time is mid June-August; current drops, is blowing most days (sometimes we get a lull for a week or so, but more often than not there’s wind), water temp is ~70 or so… paradise.

Chart of Annual Monthly Wind Averages

Current Conditions and Forecasts

  • River Flow and Temperature
  • Immediate Forecasts from Knowledgeable Locals
  • Wind App Forecasts
    • Wind Alert Detailed forecasting for free or an upgrade for a subscription.
    • iWindsurf Pressure Gradients from Dwight on standupzone.com: “If you see the gradient up from PDX to the Dalles you are going to have west wind in the central gorge. If the Dalles to Pasco is up then out East works better. When they are both strong that means the whole gorge is funneling wind. If the gradients are bigger out east those are the driving days! If it warms up and goes easterly for a while and then the coast to PDX cools off quickly, those are your epic days.”

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Webcams

Click here for webcam links

Click here to hide webcams

Most if not all of these are periodic snapshots - not live streaming cams. Web cams are notoriously flaky and unreliable. Don't be surprised if you see no picture or one that is 3 months old.

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Injury and Recovery

[Local PTs trainers, etc.]


Repairs

  • See JD Davies (you will have to expand the “Surfskis / Paddling Gear (Rent/Buy)” section to see JD's info
  • Phil - Vancouver, WA area, Sam Taylor reports: “has extensive experience and does great work. I've used him for repairs and refurbishment for the college rowing program I coach (ed. note - Lewis & Clark U. Portland) and the boats come back looking like new- he's also done work for some local ski paddlers and outrigger clubs. Great workmanship, great guy, fair prices…” phil@boatworksnw.com

Support the Gorge


Coaches

Click here to see information about Coaching

Click here to hide Coaching

Local (and Nearby)

  • Carter Johnson who lives part of the year in the Gorge and organizes the Gorge Championships (he also started the Vortex race series but they have been passed on to other organizers as of 2023) is occasionally available for coaching and downwind runs in a double ski. But he can be quite busy (carterjohnson25 at gmail.com)
  • Sam Taylor
    • Head Rowing Coach at Lewis & Clark College (Portland, OR) with 20+ years of collegiate coaching experience. I've also worked with junior, masters, and pre-elite athletes in both sculling and sweep. I'm USRowing Level 3 Elite Coach certified and a Coaching Education Instructor, and I'm also a life long endurance athlete with experience in rowing, cycling, running, and paddlesport.
    • coachsamt@gmail.com
  • Van Douglas Salmon Bay Paddle based in Seattle employs Van as their Gorge based surfski coach - as of 2023

Special Circumstance and Farther Afield

  • Gorge Champs Week
    • Online Coaches some of these regularly are on hand for the Gorge Championship week so you may be able to combine online with some onsite coaching.
    • The world's best surfskiers and OCers have traditionally offered Seminars and Coached Downwinders during “Gorge week” before the Gorge Championships. This was interrupted by Covid and has been a bit slow in getting re-established but in 2023 some of these are coming back - such as the ones being offerred by Michele Eray and Maggie Hogan - Three Oceans Gorge Lessons
    • Well known instructors from Bellingham frequent the Gorge for the Champs and various other races and might be available for scheduled consults

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Clubs

Surfski

  • Gorge Small Boat Group (facebook) (paddlers welcome) During paddling season there are regular Thursday night paddles at the Hatchery with munching and socializing afterward. They will also announce workouts on their facebook page.

OC


Gorge “Small Boat” Paddlers

2016 - 2019

2021


Lodging

Click here for lodging information

Click here to hide lodging

Usually there are plenty of options, but with the Gorge Championships every July the more convenient and popular options tend to book up earlier, some many months in advance of summer. There are some Airbnb options (not super-numerous) including some that are pet friendly. Since 2021 the Gorge Championships have been centered more on the Washington side with hqtrs at the Skamania County Fairgrounds and may continue to be located there in the near future, so it may be more convenient to secure lodging on the Washington side for upcoming Championships. If you stay on the Oregon side, you may want to invest in a Toll Bridge Pass.

Camping

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Food

Click here to see some dining options

Click here to hide dining

We hope that good eateries are staying in business. But with recent boom in real estate since Covid recovery, it has become very difficult for service folks to find affordable housing, rent or own.

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Things to Do in the Gorge


Toll Bridge

  • Crossing between Oregon and Washington at Hood River (and downstream at the Cascade Locks bridge) there is a toll.
    • 2023 (various rates for Motorcycles and Commercial vehicles)
      • Hood River Bridge
        • Passenger Car - $3.50 pay at you go, $1.75 BreezeBy
      • Bridge of the Gods (Cascade Locks)
        • Passenger Car $3.00 pay as you go, $1.25 BreezeBy
    • BreezeBy accounts Set up an account and get an electronic sensor at the Port of Hood River office just west of the bridge in Hood River (or you can create an account online). There is sometimes a small delay between setting up an account and getting your sensor - so you may save time by setting it up online and either picking up your sensor when you get there or having it mailed to you.

Surfskis / Paddling Gear (Rent/Buy)

Click here to see information about paddling gear and surfskis

Click here to hide gear rent/buy

Surfski/OC Rental

General Rental Advice

  • Gorge Champs Rentals Page in 2023 Carter Johnson is offering some of his own surfskis for rent, and he has a list of contacts on the rental page who may have skis to rent. (do we even see a couple of OCs on Carter's list??)
  • The supply of local surfskis and dealers may fluctuate. Dealers do send trailers of surfskis for the Gorge Championships and if you work on this early enough (long before the race) you may be able to reserve a rental surfski for Gorge Race Week from one of them. Such rental surfskis are often sold at a discount by the dealers after the race, so this can be a way to pick up a relatively new surfski at a discount. You may also want to check with the Gorge Small Boat Group or Whatcom Paddlers Discussion Group (both are easy to join) and ask them if they know of available surfskis or OCs…

Paddle Clothing

  • Giant Fish Portland, Oregon - high end, high quality lightweight/medium tops and bottoms, limestone neoprene. Small online company with products designed and dedicated for paddlers
  • Immersion Research White Salmon, WA. . They make their boating gear - whitewater oriented including paddle tops, pants, drysuits… local custom fitting may be an option for walk in customers.
  • Promotion one of their bases is in Hood River where they have a large water windsport clientele. They make their gear onsite and have been known to quickly make custom versions of their water protection clothing on request if you visit their store and they can measure you. They also offer a large selection of deeply discounted factory second wetsuit gear at their store (if the reason for the discount is a cosmetic blemish - who cares, right?).

Safety Gear

  • North Shore Inc - water/wind sports including safety gear 1020 A Wasco St. Hood River, OR 97031

Surfski Dealers

USA West Coast Dealers will typically bring boats to rent and demo during the Gorge Championship week (often you will be demoing a boat that is rented for the race). They also sometimes may drop by the Gorge for demos if they are delivering sold boats nearby or along the West Coast. They may hook up with the Gorge Small Boat Group for demos during their Thursday evening paddles at the Hatchery or schedule a trip to coincide with another race like one of the Vortex series races.

  • Carbonology/Fenn
    • Ocean Paddle Sports in California coordinates with west coast representatives and makes periodic trips through the west coast to deliver purchased surfskis.
  • Fenn/Carbonology/StellarOcean Flight - Bob Schade 858.335.8586 Stevenson, Washington
  • Epic - Epic has important parts of its operation based nearby in Washington state. Also Kenny Howell (kenny.howell@epickayaks.com) may bring surfskis up from California for Gorge Champs rentals or demos at other times. JD Davies (see below) is the local Epic dealer and may have Epics to demo/buy.
  • Outrigger Zone - JD Davies - Can advise on boats, equipment, repair options, demos and keep an eye out for used boats for sale. Large OC & surfski sales/distributor for Pacific Northwest, located in Carson, WA. spends winters in warmer climes, summers in Gorge
      • Epic, Kai Wa'a Surfskis
      • P.O. Box 1038 Carson, WA 98610
      • Phone: office: (509) 427-2727 cell: (541) 400-0187
      • jd@nwoutrigger.com
  • Nelo USA, Nordic Kayak Three Oceans Co - Michele Eray & Maggie Hogan are major distributors of both brands - based in the Gorge.
  • Think Daryl Remmler Vancouver, BC

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Denise Weeks finishing an epic Viento runDenise Weeks 'n da Hood