What falls as snow in the Cascade Mountains, it funnels down through the valleys making its way to Icicle Creek and Wenatchee River in Leavenworth, eventually emptying into the mighty Columbia River. Spring and early summer rains combine with the melting snows causing peak flows in the rivers, usually in early to mid May. When the water is at its highest, seasoned boaters can enjoy some of the biggest whitewater in all of Washington State. As the last of the snow disappears from the surrounding high peaks and ridgelines, the water drops to a level that is more suitable for moderate to beginner boaters and remains that way through the end of summer.
View wildlife including deer and the occasional bear, osprey and eagles, salmon and trout, and even otter and mink. If it’s late afternoon approaching evening, you might see a circling raptor high above dive into the river and come up with a wiggling fresh fish for dinner. Witness deer grazing on the river banks or even on one of several islands that make perfect spots for your own riverside picnic.
Our Whitewater Playgrounds
Wenatchee River from Leavenworth to Cashmere – As the Wenatchee River flows through Leavenworth, there’s a 10-mile stretch of mostly class III whitewater all the way to Riverside Park in Cashmere, WA. This is easily the most popular stretch of whitewater in all of Washington State as thousands of people each year ride down river to cool off on those hot summer days and enjoy an adventure with family and friends. With rapid names like “Boulder Bend,” “Rodeo Hole,” and “Rock & Roll,” you’re sure to feel the thrill of riding the waves. Between Leavenworth and Cashmere, witness the changing landscape as you travel from the foothills of the Cascade Mountains with high rocky peaks in the near distance, down into the Columbia Valley passing orchards, sandstone spires, and rolling grass-covered hills.
When you’re itching to get on the water, head over to Leavenworth, WA to satisfy all those cravings. If you’re new to whitewater, there are multiple companies in Leavenworth who provide equipment, gear, and guided trips for beginners and enthusiasts alike. To see a list of whitewater outfitters and activity providers located in Leavenworth, visit https://www.leavenworth.org/experience/rafting-kayaking.
When you’re on your way to Leavenworth, the closer to town you get, the more and more bright-colored kayaks on roof racks and rafts on trailers you’ll see. That’s when it’ll sink in. You’ve almost made it to whitewater paradise.
Icicle Creek in Icicle Canyon – Starting northwest of Leavenworth, the narrow and steep Icicle Creek cuts through Icicle Canyon serving up intense class IV – V+ whitewater for experienced kayakers. You can warm up with a lap on the 2.2-mile class IV+ Lower Icicle Creek section which runs from Snowcreek to the Fish Hatchery, then head upstream to the more challenging 7-mile class IV – V+ Middle Icicle Creek section between Johnny Creek and Snowcreek. There are multiple spots along this section of river to put in and take out, with the road usually within sight on river left. Take notice of private property and use discretion when entering and exiting the water. This section of river should only be attempted by very seasoned and experienced kayakers. For more information on where to put in and take out, visit https://www.americanwhitewater.org/content/River/state-summary/state/WA/ and scroll down to the three Icicle Creek listings.
Wenatchee River in Tumwater Canyon – On the other side of Icicle Canyon lays the world-class Tumwater Canyon where the Wenatchee River provides what’s been called the best, high-class roadside whitewater in the entire United States. Ranging from class IV to class V+ depending on water levels, this section of the Wenatchee River plays host to hundreds of kayakers each year who are looking to up their game and test their prowess against some of the biggest rapids with names like “Perfection of Whitewater,” “Chaos,” and the largest “Exit Drop.” Running right alongside scenic Highway 2/Stevens Pass Highway, this 7.5-mile section of river should only be attempted by very seasoned and experienced kayakers. A quick YouTube search for “Tumwater Canyon Kayaking” will result in a plethora of videos that show everything from competitive races to heart-pounding high-water adventure. There are multiple different places to put in and take out on this section of river. For more info, visit https://www.americanwhitewater.org/content/River/detail/id/2266/.
The common put-in location for private boaters is a public boat launch on East Leavenworth Rd in Leavenworth across from the popular swimming area at Barn Beach. At the other end, Riverside Park in Cashmere also features a public boat launch for the take-out, as well as a children’s playground, bathroom facilities, and picnic tables. The parking lot near the boat launch is the perfect place to leave a vehicle when setting shuttle for your own trip down the river.
During high water each spring to early summer as mountain snows melt and spring rains fall, several rapids along this section of the Wenatchee River can reach class IV whitewater status including “Tinley Falls,” “Snowblind,” and “Granny’s Wave” offering huge waves and the wildest of whitewater rides. If you’re looking for the most intense whitewater rafting experience in Leavenworth, that’s the time to visit.