Spring has officially sprung in North Central Washington, and that marks a changing of the guard in Washington’s Playground. Moving from winter coats and shovels, to splash jackets and paddles, the area’s whitewater enthusiasts are prepping their gear for what should be another amazing year for running the rapids.
The picture above shows a section of the Wenatchee River in Tumwater Canyon just outside Leavenworth, WA. Each year, dozens of kayakers compete in the Chaos Kayak Race through this thrilling stretch of whitewater.
The whitewater season in Washington’s Playground typically begins mid-April and lasts through August. With over a dozen whitewater outfitters and activity operators in the area, and the diversity and abundance of waterways, hundreds of thousands of people enjoy whitewater rafting and kayaking in Washington’s Playground every year. It’s the experience of a lifetime that envokes teamwork and cooperation, and enstills a love and respect for our natural surroundings.
The most popular beginner to intermediate whitewater rafting experience in the area is the Class III section of the Wenatchee River that runs alongside picturesque apple and pear orchards and towering Sandstone spires between Leavenworth and Cashmere. This section is also popular with kayakers who love to play in several surfing spots including “Rodeo Hole” and “Turkey Shoot.” On a hot summer day, this is a great way to cool off, spend time with friends and family, and see the area’s wildlife and beauty from a different perspective.
Looking for bigger thrills?! Some of the world’s best kayakers who are looking for the biggest and most technical whitewater in the country flock to Tumwater Canyon just outside Leavenworth. Here, the Wenatchee River squeezes through tight canyon walls that soar thousands of feet into the sky and the snow melt from these tall peaks flows down to the valley floor intensifying the river’s fury.
On the other side of Tumwater Canyon, the lower section of the Icicle River slowly winds its way from the Leavenworth Fish Hatchery down to the Wenatchee River, offering spectacular views of the famous Enchantment Peaks and other surrounding mountain ranges, as well as the area’s wildlife. During the summer months, this is the best way to relax and unwind whether riding along in a raft with your family and friends, or maneuvering a kayak, tube, or stand up paddleboard.
Most of the whitewater rafting companies in the area provide guided tours on the Wenatchee and Icicle Rivers, in different sections that offer fun no matter your level of experience or ability. They provide guides, shuttle services, equipment, and most have spent years on and around these rivers. Rafting with a permitted and licensed operator helps to make sure your trip is as fun and as safe as possible.
As the temperatures continue to rise in the higher elevations and the days get longer and longer, the snow in the surrounding mountains will melt and the water will empty into the rivers. Last season’s snow becomes this season’s whitewater. It’s a beautiful cycle that helps make Washington’s Playground such an amazing place. We invite you to visit and witness it for yourself.
Watch the video below to get a sense for whitewater rafting and kayaking in Washington’s Playground.