A stay at the Skamania Lodge at the Columbia River Gorge put us in within a 30-minute drive to Zoller’s Outdoor Odysseys, easily considered to be the premier outfitter for the White Salmon River in the region. Not only is Zoller’s Outdoor Odysseys the pioneer river rafting outfitter but they also have the distinction of being the longest running enterprise, going back 3 generations! Zoller’s makes 3 different day trips available to their customers…the upper Gorge, the Middle Fork, and the Lower Fork. With these 3 options, you are guaranteed plenty of excitement regardless of your skill level or which adventure you choose.
So…let’s go rafting!
Upon arriving at Zoller’s you are greeted by their incredibly friendly staff…from the folks checking you into the river guides roaming around sizing up who they will choose to ride in their rafts. Everyone is checked in, the necessary waivers are signed and then it’s out into the yard to suit up. Being that the water is a year-round 43 degrees you are offered a wetsuit, booties, spray jacket and of course a life vest & a helmet. Take them all!
As you descend the steep, zig-zag staircase to the put-in the river comes into view and you quickly realize that you are in for an afternoon of pure fun! All instructions are given, and in our case, by none other than Zach Zoller (yes…Zach is 3rd. generation family!)
Once on the river, you begin to experience the exhilaration that is unique to whitewater river rafting. Calm water is quickly interrupted by episodes of class 3 and 4 rapids with the captain calling out orders such as “2 strokes forward”. The boat spins…reverses course…bounces off rocks…and suddenly you are heading back to the whoops and hollers of your fellow boat mates.
And so it goes for 3+ hours until Zach pulls over to a quiet spot near the bank of the river to inform us that the grand finale to our lazy little river cruise is a Class V, 15 foot drop that could produce any number of interesting consequences, not the least of which would be getting pitched from, or pinned under the raft upon making contact with this mother nature induced blender.
Suitably informed of the adventure ahead we are given a last minute opportunity to “portage” (read: leave your raft and hike a short trail to rejoin your guide so as to avoid the 5 seconds heart-pounding 15-foot drop!) Well…needless to say we choose the 15-foot drop. All participants survived!
Finishing our journey with several other smaller drops we found ourselves pulling our raft up the take-out ramp, loading into the van and laughing like school kids all the way back to Zoller’s Lodge.
What an afternoon! What a journey! What a great experience Whiteriver Rating the Middle Fork of the White Salmon River on the Washington state line in the heart of the Columbia River Gorge.