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.
Most Photos from Carter Johnson/Vortex Events
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).)
Welcome to the Gorge
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.
map:Gorge Champs Website click on map to enlarge
Barge going downriver against waves through the outside of Swell City - photo from Carter Johnson / Vortex Events
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),…
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.”
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.
[Local PTs trainers, etc.]
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.
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.
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.