Sunday, July 14, 2013

Floating the Yakima River

This weekend Joel and I joined up with Andi and Mark to float the Yakima River. We were so excited to spend the weekend on the sunnier side of the state. We started our river float just south of Ellensburg at the Big Horn Campground and we got out of the river at the Big Pines Campsite (see a map here). After inflating the tubes, dropping off a vehicle at the exit point, and putting the drinks on ice, we were set to go.

Joel and I used our River Run II float for this trip.
It has a cooler in the middle which will hold 20 beers plus a bag of ice! Perfect!
The river was very cold, but we quickly became numb adjusted to the temperature. As we drifted down the river, we were surrounded by the beautiful landscape of Eastern Washington; dramatic basalt cliffs, sagebrush covered hillsides and rock faced canyons. I kept my eye out for deer or big horn sheep, but I didn't see any. The river was higher than normal for this time of year, which means the water is running faster and colder than normal. Our trip should have taken us about four hours to complete, but it was closer to three.

The launch site: Big Horn Campsite.
The Yakima River.
This is why you should always bring a boyscout on outdoor trips; rope tying!
Also, Andi and Mark brought this floating cooler holder, which meant there was no shortage of cold beverages!
Joel is enjoying himself while looking silly in his loose life jacket.
I am so happy I wore my Keens during this trip.
They proved to be very helpful when I fell out of my float and had to swim to shore!
Mark and Andi!
Andi and Me!
Mark decided to jump in for a freezing refreshing dip.
The beautiful view as we drifted down the river.
Sun + water + great friends = a perfect weekend!
As Joel stated later that night, "looking back, we probably shouldn't have gotten as drunk as we did". We did have a bit of a hairy ending to our float.  I remember Mark telling me to grab onto a branch that was hanging out over the river. I did. Bad idea. The next thing I knew, I was was floating in the river, behind our group. It was good thing I had my life jacket on, because the water so cold that both my legs cramped up and went numb in minutes. I wasn't worried because I figured I would catch up with the group and get back in, but that didn't happen.

Instead I floated along down the river by myself. Eventually, had to let go of the eight foot branch I was still on to, like a champ. I tried to stand up so I could wade to shore in the four foot deep water, but the current was so strong that I couldn't stand, not even for a second. I stayed calm, remembered what I had been taught from our White Water Rafting Trip, and I worked my way toward shore. I used the paddle I miraculously still had in my hands to steer myself toward shore, while trying to brake myself using my feet on the river bottom. I am so thankful I had my keens on, the rocks and branches on the bottom of the river were not kind to my feet! Eventually I was able to work my way toward shore, pull myself out of the river, and catch up with the rest of the group who had managed to get ashore, not too far down river.

Glad to be on shore again!
Ha - look at that Farmer's tan!
We were all so happily buzzed that we had no idea how dangerous the situation really was. So my recommendations to anyone who decides to float the Yakima River are to:
  1. Wear a life jacket. I don't care how good you think you can swim, that current is strong and the water is cold. I am sure it saved me. We rented our life jackets from here.
  2. Bring paddles. Every person should have a paddle. It helped to keep us in the middle of the river and steer clear of the debris that could have popped our floats.
  3. Have fun, but be safe (aka don't drink a lot). Things could happen that will make you wish you had a clear head.

Even though it was pretty exciting, I would float this river again in a heart beat! We loved it!

How was your weekend?


  1. Couple additonal highlights:
    * Breaking the oar with your guns
    * Mark claiming he was drunk 20 minutes into the flaot
    * the lost unopened beer
    * The dead bee in the plastic bag 5 mins into the trip
    * new found love for mikes "harder"
    * the brownspot on your bathing suit

    What a great weeekend!! Was just talking to Mark telling him I wish I was on my floaty! : )

    1. Ah! How did I forget these gems? Good thing you are here to keep me straight. Let's do this again, SOON!

  2. Well we do have that weekend after roosevelt.....maybe we could do a bham float on saturday so you can be home sunday!

  3. Is the yakima river the one that goes through just west of cle elum? We used to float that every summer.I love floating the south fork of the nooksack too!

  4. Oh and we have that same tube. Haha