This guidebook entry (last updated in 2011) will show you where to get in your last high water licks before the Wenatchee River fades away for summer. Keep in mind that river features change with the water level and change from season to season, so the information here should be used considered secondary to your own observations of current river conditions.
John Marshall Photo: Paul Milem gets a squirt at Drunkard's Drop
See our introduction to playboating at this post – it applies to our entire coverage of playboating on the Wenatchee River. The play holes and rapids upstream of Cashmere are among the most popular on the river. Not only are many of these features excellent, they are convenient for boaters living in the lower valley who are looking for post-work excitement.
Wenatchee River: Cashmere Playboating
Note: All the river level information is based off the Monitor Gauge.
Rodeo Hole is one of the most popular play spots on the Wenatchee River and is reached by driving 3.2 miles west of downtown Cashmere on the Sunset Highway to an unmarked gravel road on the right (north) delivering you to a Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) property on the river. A permit from WDFW is needed to park here. There are waves and a hole on river right that come in and out of shape at different water levels. There’s also a wide wave upstream of these features running from the center of the river toward river left. Eddies on both sides of the river let you keep re-entering these features.
Between 8,000 to 10,000 cfs, a glassy wave forms on the river right. From 10,200 to 16,000 or 17,000 cfs, the wave becomes a big hole.
- At lower flows (below 4,000 cfs) the eddy and wave on river left at the bottom of the rapid become a much better feature to surf.
- At low flows (4,000 to 2,000 cfs) there's a fun wave for advanced beginners and intermediate paddlers above the Rodeo Hole that is fed by another eddy. You can often reach this feature and the eddy feeding it by riding the lowest eddy on river left as high as possible and then ferrying hard for the opposite side. If you can't make the eddy this way, walk the boat upstream a bit on river left and then ferry across to river right and catch the eddy.
Sadly the drowning of a high school boy who was swimming here took place in June of 2010. Shortly afterwards, friends of the victim painted graffiti on the sandstone slab above the hole. Although meant as a tribute, defacing public property is a misplaced means of paying respect. We recommend bringing a wire brush to the hole every time you surf and spending 5 to 10 minutes removing the graffiti so the slab will return to its natural state. People who want to honor this young man should contact the WDFW and discuss having a tasteful plaque placed somewhere on the property.
Catching a wave just above Rodeo Hole
Drunkard’s Drop is a big-wave rapid located 0.6 miles downstream of Rodeo Hole that has a variety of waves playboaters enjoy at different levels. The riverfront property here is private so you can’t park-and-play unless you know the property owner. Some kayakers play at Rodeo Hole, hit the play spots at Drunkard’s, then walk their boats back to Rodeo Hole (a 15-minute walk) along the railroad tracks on river right. This is not actually legal, so if you play at Drunkard’s we recommend floating downstream to the end of Turkey Shoot Road on river right and jogging or biking 2.4 miles back to Rodeo Hole to retrieve the car.
- When the water levels are high (10,200 to 15,000 cfs), there’s a wave at the bottom of Drunkard’s on river left that has an eddy allowing you to recycle the wave. The wave is called Trinity and Adam McKenney, owner of Leavenworth Mountain Sports, considers it one of the best waves in the country – maybe even one of the best waves anywhere. Trinity is bouncier and rougher at higher levels, smoother at the lower range listed, and disappears as a surfing wave as water levels drop below 10,000 cfs.
- At the same levels that Trinity is good, a glassy wave forms at the top of Drunkard’s Drop that is excellent to surf. Unfortunately, this wave cannot be re-entered once you’re past it. If this wave had an eddy, it would be as holy as Trinity.
- At lower river levels (5,000 to 6,500 cfs) an interesting wave forms on river right about half way through Drunkard’s Drop. You can catch this wave after shooting the rapid via an eddy on river right.
John Marshall Photo: Drunkard's isn't just for kayakers. Mike Andreini samples the Kool-Aid.
Turkey Shoot or Gun Club Wave. This wave/hole forms near the left river bank slightly downstream of the end of Turkey Shoot Road. Park at the end of the road (a WDFW site that requires a permit), ferry across the river, and drift about 150 yards downstream to the hole/wave. A wave or weak hole is almost always present and, at lower flows (3,000 to 5,000 cfs), it’s an excellent place for less experienced boaters to cut their teeth learning how to surf, side surf, and back surf. The wave is not that great at high flows (above 13,000 cfs). After playing here, ferry quickly back to river right, pull out by the Gun Club, and walk 0.3 miles along a gravel road paralleling the train tracks back to Turkey Shoot Road to fetch the car.
Photos. Top: Jenny Colella back surfs at Turkey Shoot. Bottom: Kelly Gillespie buries the nose of his kayak at Turkey Shoot to create the pop for a front flip.
Snowblind. Is a rapid 1.5 miles downstream from Turkey Shoot that has many excellent play spots for advanced boaters who can catch these features on the fly. The rapid is not conducive to park-and-playing so consider using a 2.75-mile run or bike shuttle between Riverside Park in Cashmere (take-out) and the end of Turkey Shoot Road (put-in).
At high water levels (17,000 to 23,000 cfs), look for Goliath, a wave train on river right that has monstrous standing waves. These huge waves provide exciting surfing and hard-core boaters work the waves, exit on river right, and walk the train tracks back upstream for another circuit. The train tracks are, of course, private property so this is not legal. We’re not recommending this deplorable behavior—we’re simply recording the fact that it occurs.
At many water levels (and particularly levels below where Goliath forms), there are good glassy waves to surf left of center as you approach the rapid. These often look like nothing from a distance but actually have five-foot troughs. They form at many water levels but are best between 9,000 and 15,000 cfs.
At many medium to medium-high levels (6,000 to 12,000 cfs) there are excellent surfing waves in the center of the river as you shoot the rapid. Hawaii 5-0 is one of these and it forms a curling wave that looks like a pipeline. It sits a bit left of center about halfway through the rapid and, if you catch it, you can park there for 15 minutes. It’s good from about 6,000 cfs on up. We’re not sure where it washes out, but know it provides good surfing at 13,000 cfs.
At lower water levels, Snowblind forms two nasty holes near the bottom of the rapid that are very retentive. One hole (Snowblower) is left of center; the other (Safeway) is right of center. Safeway is so named because if you wash in you’re likely to end up swimming to escape—then you can go get a beer at the Safeway while you figure out how to retrieve your boat, which will still be rolling around in hole. Snowblower isn’t quite as retentive but it munches many boaters as well. As of 2009, these holes were at their worst between 3,000 and 7,000 cfs. One day they may be quite harmless and the next, as the water drops, they may be man-eaters. In August 2011 when the river was running 2,300 cfs, we watched a one-person whitewater canoe recirculate in one of these holes for an hour (we left before the boat washed out).
John Marshall Photo: A frequent result of playboating.
Granny’s. Is located about a third of a mile upstream of Riverside Park in Cashmere. It isn’t a convenient park-and-play rapid but, with local knowledge, can be played with a short walk. A good playboating option that let’s you take in Turkey Shoot Wave and Snowblind is to float between Turkey Shoot Road and Riverside Park in Cashmere and use a 2.75-mile bike shuttle to retrieve the car.
Granny’s has some massive waves and advanced playboaters like the wave/hole that’s about a third of the way down the rapid and on the left side of the big water. You can catch the flat water on the far left and ferry into the wave/hole. This wave has changed over time. Right now it surfable at 5,000 to 8000 cfs and gets munchie around 9,000 cfs. Above 10,000 cfs, it turns into a glassy wave with a foam pile on top. The guides working for Orion call this feature Fluffy Bunny.
There used to be more of an eddy below the wave and you could walk the gravel island back for a repeat performance. The gravel island is washing out and now, at levels above 10,000 cfs, you can’t get back up. Around 9,100 cfs and below, you can walk the island back up.
Suffocator was a retentive hole that used to form at the bottom of Granny’s. This hole hasn’t formed the last few years. Now big, irregular waves are forming at the bottom of the rapid. These waves are moving targets but sometimes you can hit them when they’re just the right shape and get a good ride.
Warning. River features (like waves and holes) and how they respond at different water levels can change from season to season. Our information applies to what was observed in 2009 and what has been observed as of the end of June in 2010. Take this information with a healthy grain of salt, knowing that what was observed about waves and holes in 2009 and early 2010 is not an exact prediction of how that feature will behave in the future. With time some features become more retentive than they had been in the past, others become less retentive. As always, it’s up to you to study these features as you float the river and decide for yourself whether you’re boating skills will allow you safe playing and safe passage.
Maps: 1) Playboating Cashmere map 2) also see Playboating Leavenworth.
More Playboating: Read this post for info about playboating around Leavenworth.
River Levels. All the river level information is based off the Monitor Gauge.
Skill: 2 (intermediate) to (expert). Depending on the feature and the water level, this portion of the Wenatchee River offers playing that will attract Class III to Class IV+ boaters.
Low Water Conditions:
tend to give up on the Main Wenatchee between Dryden and Cashmere somewhere between
2,500 and 2,000 cfs, but paddlers (kayakers and canoeists) in plastic
boats will still find adequate water and enjoyable waves and foam piles
to play in at 1,800 to 1,900 cfs. Below these levels, the river is still
runnable by kayakers and canoeists, but is a little more challenging to navigate. We
kayaked the river at 1,550 cfs (Monitor gauge) and still found this
stretch of river awfully fun. Yes, there were places where it was hard
to avoid dragging bottom or playing bumper cars with a few rocks, but we
found good play features at the following locations (descriptions below
correspond to this river map):
1- Cave Rapid. Medium-small wave on river right serviced by small eddy.
About 1/3 of the way down the rapid and immediately across from the
2- Train Wave or Trestle Wave. Medium-sized wave and foam pile on river
right immediately past train trestle about 150 yards upstream of Killer
Pillar. Serviced by small eddy.
2- Killer Pillar. Medium-sized wave in middle of rapid. Catch on the
fly, no eddy. Also a shallow foam pile to surf about 50 feet upstream of
the first bridge pillar from which this rapid gets its name..
3- Middle Rodeo Hole. Medium-small wave and foam pile on river right
about half-way down rapid. Serviced by good eddy. Very shallow.
3- Lower Rodeo Hole. Small wave on river left at bottom of rapid. Serviced by eddy.
4- Drunkards Drop. Medium-sized hole and wave at very bottom of rapid on
river left. Serviced by small eddy. Eddy is a pain but the wave is a
5- Rookie's Rock. Many ledges with small waves to catch about 1/4-mile
upstream of Turkey Shoot Wave. First wave on river left is serviced by
6- Snowblind Rapid. Many waves in the rapid but they form around very
shallow shelves -- bad place to tip. Nice medium-sized wave right of
center at bottom of rapid - catch from eddy forming behind hole in
center of river.
7 - Upper Granny. Large wave and foam pile on river right. Then another
large foam pile just slightly lower in center of river (potential
helmet-banging rock reported if you tip in this second foam pile).
7 - Middle Granny. About half or two thirds of the way down, nice green wave on river left with foam pile out in center.
7- Lower Granny. Several medium and medium-small waves and foam piles
to catch on the fly on river left. No eddies to service any of these
waves but easy to walk the boat up left bank to re-run most of the
Additional Information. This information from World Kayak Blog has much of the same info as above but mentions a feature or two that we missed, it also has good information about river levels for different features.
Also, for a complete list of access points on the Wenatchee River, check out this information prepared by Richard and Kathy Spencer.
Reporter: Andy Dappen 7/5/2010. Special thanks go to Adam McKenney, who supplied most of the information pertaining to how water levels affect these different features.
More Whitewater: Maps and details of over 35 regional whitewater trips in this guidebook.
Leave It Better Than You Found It: This should be every outdoor user’s goal. Pick up trash left by others, pull some noxious weeds along your route, throw branches over unwanted spur trails, don’t ride or walk wet trails when you’re leaving ruts/footprints deeper than ¼ inch…
Disclaimer. Treat this information as recommendations, not gospel. Conditions change and those contributing these reports are volunteers--they may make mistakes or not know all the issues affecting a route. You are responsible for yourself, your actions, and your safety. If you won’t accept that responsibility, you are prohibited from using our information.
Photos: More Turkey Shoot shots. Jenny Colella (top) and Kelly Gillespie (bottom).