The White Salmon River is a natural-flowing, glacier-fed river in Washington. What does that mean exactly? The river is not dammed and flows freely at all times. The source of the river is snow melt from a glacier on Mt. Adams, a nearby dormant volcano. Mt. Adams has a glacier called The White Salmon. When the sun melts the snow, the glacier directly feeds into our river, giving us the water we raft on!

Mount Adams, the source of our river, in all its glory.

Unpredictable flow

Since we never know how much snow will fall over the winter, we can only predict what the water level will be depending on the different months of the year. There is always an average of past years, but we can never be certain what the season will look like. The sun starts to melt the thick snow on Mt. Adams around April. This is when the process of the river bed filling up begins again. Glacier water is the only water source, besides rain here and there. Earlier in the season the water is higher, which means bigger rapids and less rocks! But as the summer advances you will come to find the river being visibly different.

Changing river

Month by month the river starts to change. We said the early season is when the water is higher. More water means faster trips because of the large amount being pushed down the river. If you were to book a trip in June you would most likely have an average flow. It is an easier run than low water, but more rocks start to show up to get in your way. Anywhere between 2.5-3.4 feet is looked at as an easier flow and the most “fun” to run. If your trip was around July, that is when the water starts to get lower and lower. By late July or early August, the water would be low enough to open up Husum Falls! Our wonderful 12-foot, class 5 waterfall that we have to wait to open until the water has dropped enough. With too much water in the river, Husum Falls can get a little feisty, so we wait until it is low enough to be extra safe. 

White Salmon Rafting Whitewater
Husum Falls is ready to go at the end of July! Are you in?

Low water

As the summer advances, the sun runs out of snow to melt on the White Salmon Glacier. This allows for natural springs to pop up and become a source that helps to feed the river. Water dropping means more rocks appear, and more rocks mean the river becomes more technical. Less water also means the river slows down a little and rapids can begin to channelize. This ultimately is why trips in different months can almost be like experiencing a completely different river! By the beginning of October, the water gets so low we stop running trips until the following year.

All summer the trips are catered to your liking and everyone can have a wonderful experience no matter when you book a trip with Zollers Outdoor Odysseys. Rafting a glacier-fed river in Washington is like having multiple rivers all in one, and we love it that way!

Allison Schatz has been a guide for Zollers since 2023.
She is a lover of the river and what the Pacific Northwest has to offer!