• Paul Clark

Tieton River Paddle Boarding

It's been an amazing season traveling across the Western US paddling rivers and meeting the growing population of river SUP paddlers. 

As the summer season wanes, one Pacific Northwest river stands out. The Tieton in southern Washington is mostly dorment all year, kept restrained by the Rimrock dam and reservoir. To supply water to the Yakima valley and maintain riparian habitat, the Tieton is opened every September for a single month. 

Paddles from across the PNW converge on the river. It's pretty much the last commercially rafted rivers of the season. For many private boaters it's the last hurrah before the winter.

Whitewater Paddle boarding the Tieton

Swift, shallow, and with few shoreline eddies, the Class 3+ river is not without it's consequences. There are a few named rapids such as Hause Rock, High Noon, and Waffle Wall. There is a spillover dam that people run center-left. For the most part everything is straight forward. Just don't swim! You can easily be swept into the shrubery and wood along the banks.

For people unaccustomed to river SUP the Tieton appears too much a river for paddle boarding. However, experienced paddlers with find the Tieton a marvelous run with river-ready equipment (whitewater SUP, helmet, PFD, shoes).

SUPPAUL on the Tieton

It's one of those rivers I'd much rather SUP than kayak. It may be a bit borning for Class 4 boaters, but dangerous for beginners. Swimming from a kayak would be very problematic. Though most moves are through Class 2 style bumpy water and pushy corners, the consequences of getting caught in sweepers are real. With a board, if you fall in you have a large floatation device you can crawl quickly back on to and paddle, even if capsized. 

(If you you wear a leash on swift water always wear it above the waist with a quick release mechanism.)

I had the great fortune to return to the Tieton during the high flows in September, around 1400cfs+. I spent a week doing lap after lap of the 12 mile commercial run and hitch hiking back to the top. I met up with friends and fellow paddle boarders who paddled with me on the weekend. Splash and giggles for all.

Dropping the Tieton Dam on a paddle board

There are many non-service camp sites for free and a couple pay-to-stay camp grounds. I parked myself along the shore of the Waffle Wall rapids allowing me to session the rapids and fall asleep to the sound of the river.

Good times!!

View Garmin Connect maps/data of run here