The 6th annual White Salmon Riverfest was celebrated with sunny blue skies, high water, good food, and great people. On July 10th, community members gathered in recognition of one of the areas most treasured natural resources-- the White Salmon River. With dramatic changes soon to be made to the river, there was an enormous turnout with many curious locals. In less than four months, the removal of the river’s only major dam will begin to take place. This means that an entire lake will be drained, salmon will once again be free to explore the river, and a completely new stretch of river will be available to whitewater enthusiasts. The day started out with a community raft float down the middle and lower stretches of the White Salmon. As over sixty excited adventurers floated down the river, another group of ambitious whitewater lovers waved goodbye and began hiking a short distance upstream. This group was headed to the first annual BZ Falls Huckfest.On a normal mid July afternoon, the White Salmon River is running somewhere around 800 cubic feet per second (cfs), but this year the river was at nearly 1200 cfs, a huge difference to those who regularly embrace the power of the White Salmon. With these kinds of flows, the feared 10 foot drop known as BZ Falls is a river wide ledge that pours into a massively powerful recirculating hydraulic. Only four ambitious competitors stepped up for the competition, knowing perfectly well what they were getting themselves into.
After our short competitors briefing, I nervously put on my gear, grabbed my Agent 6.2 and made the short trek upstream. As I rounded the corner to get my first glimpse at the drop, I could feel the vibrations of the entire river pouring over the ledge. As I got closer, the mist from the waterfall added to my already perspiring face and beads of sweat and water rolled down my cheeks. BZ falls looked worse than I had imagined. But I stuck to my plan and knew that I would make it to the calm pool below one way or another. I watched the first competitor find his way over the abrupt ledge. Having probably the best line of the day, he was hopeless against the massive boil feeding into the hydraulic. After getting beat down for minutes, he finally pulled his skirt and disappeared for five or ten seconds popping up a ways downstream.I was next, and felt as confident as ever. My plan was to go right over the middle of the falls and attempt a free-wheel (like a cartwheel except over a wave, or in this case a waterfall). I peeled out of the eddy just above the falls and headed toward the giant misty horizon line. My freewheel didn’t go quite as planned and I ended up plugging the meat of the hole. After a healthy beat down, and no chance of escape, I reached forward to yank my skirt off. I was suddenly caught by the powerful veil of water and pushed to nearly the bottom of the river. I felt like I was swimming towards the surface for ages until I finally resurfaced at least thirty feet downstream. I didn’t get a chance to watch the other competitors, but I chased their gear downstream so they surely had the same fate as I. After the successful first annual BZ Huckfest, competitors and spectators enjoyed a BBQ hosted by Wet Planet Whitewater, a huge raffel, live music, river films and presentations on hydro-power, fish passage and more. Thanks to everyone who helped organize this awesome event! For more information on the river fest and symposium, check out http://wsriverfestandsymposium.blogspot.com/And finally, the BZ Falls Huckfest video!
2011 BZ Huckfest from Sheer Madness Productions on Vimeo.
Thanks to Nate Herbeck with Sheer Madness Productions for putting together the savage short film!