Our Lyle to White Salmon route takes us along the Lewis and Clark Hwy (SR-14), but bikers may want to take Old Highway 8 just across the Klickitat River. Klickitat County encompasses the towns of Lyle, Trout Lake, Bingen, and White Salmon.
Lyle to White Salmon
Klickitat County is a transition zone between the maritime climate of the Pacific Ocean and the arid interior plateau of eastern Washington. Our route cuts through basalt, shaped over milinia by volcanos and ice ages.
The Klickitat Trail is a 31-mile non-motorized, multiple use trail that follows an old railroad corridor that once linked the towns of Lyle and Goldendale. The Balfour-Klickitat Trail (4414) meanders near the west bank of the river and Klickitat County Park, a few miles up the east bank, makes a nice picnic spot. The Columbia Gorge Windsurfers Association is strong here since the wind is funneled through the Gorge.
Klickitat Log & Lumber ran their # 7 steam train up until 1964.
Bingen is directly across from Hood River and is a great place to watch or participate in water recreation.
The Port of Bingen has set aside a picnic spot and a boat ramp by the river, but the most interesting busines here is Insitu, which makes survellence drones. Oregon is one of seven areas in the country with designated drone testing areas, which include Pendleton Test Range, the Warm Springs Test Range and the Tillamook Test Range.
The Columbia Gorge Kiteboarding Association has more info on Kiteboarding. Gorge Gradients, a kiteboarding school, is at Bingen Point. Several companies offer tandem rides and/or lessons including Cloudsurf Paragliding, Discover Paragliding, Flystyle Paragliding, Max Roc Paragliding, and Northwest Paragliding.
The Gorge funnels the wind making windsurfing popular all along the river. Windsurfing (Sailboarding) uses a sail on a surfboard. Kiteboarding utilizes a large kite to propell a surfboard across the water. Paragliders don’t use surfboards — riders fly suspended under a kite. Powered Paragliding uses a motor for propulsion.
The town of White Salmon sits on a bluff overlooking the Columbia River and Bingen. Art, restaurants, lodging, and recreational activities bolster the city’s retail economy. It was part of the home of the Klickitat Tribe, now a part of the Yakama Confederated Nations.
The White Salmon River runs wild and free through a generally inaccessible, deep, basalt-walled gorge, across Class III-V rapids and over two major waterfalls. Raft trips generally are generally offered between early May and early October. A highway trestle bridge over Husum Falls is probably the most accessible vantage point to watch the action on the river, and you’ll often see tourists lining the rail to watch the rafts and kayaks plunge over the falls.
The Condit Dam was dramatically removed from the White Salmon River in 2011. The Condit dam blocked 30 miles of fish habitat and now adult salmon and steelhead have returned to spawn. Upgrading the dam to meet today’s standards would have cost three times the $33 million price tag for taking it out. It’s the second largest dam to be removed for fish passage in the U.S.
The White Salmon River, near the town of White Salmon, offers some of the best one-day rafting trips in Oregon or Washington. Zoller’s, a rafting outfitter, offers trips on the Klickitat River as well as the White Salmon River. Now, with the removal of the Condit dam, they offer rafting trips on the Upper and Lower sections of the White Salmon which compliments their Middle Gorge trips.
The Elwha Dam near Port Angeles, Washington was the largest dam to be removed.
The Elwha river mapping project (above) captures images and data from both above and below the water line – in 360 degrees. The fish population appears to be rebounding well there as well.
Barely a year after the breach of Condit Dam, all of the concrete has been removed and the White Salmon flows freely. By all counts the dam removal has been a success–salmon have returned and spawned above the site, rafters and kayakers are regularly paddling the river, and the whole effort happened without major incident.