White Water Rafting on the Elwha River


By Cara Patten

White Water Rafting on the Elwha River Pt1

I arrived at Olympic Raft and Kayak with three of my best friends for a day of whitewater rafting on the Elwha River. My nerves concentrated with anxiety and excitement. As the weather of Western Washington so often disappoints, we donned wet suits, rain coats and water shoes to combat the cold and windy, yet beautifully sunny day. After being fitted for life jackets and taking pictures of our ridiculously insulated selves, we were given instructions on rafting etiquette and set off for the river.

After a short drive, we pulled over and boarded the rafts, commencing the journey with our tour guide, Heather, taking up the steering at the back of the raft. After realizing that the Class II+ rapids which we were riding were not nearly the thrashing, murderous waves I imagined, I began to relax and enjoy the scenery. We were surrounded by forests of dense, green trees set against a background of snowcapped peaks of the Olympic Mountains, Mount Carrie appearing prominent and picturesque. The Mount Carrie glacier is responsible for the icy, yet clear and strikingly turquoise water of the Elwha River.

White Water Rafting on the Elwha River Pt2

As the ride continued, we neared the section of the river named after the Chupacabra. Our guide justified this demonic name from personal experience of being slingshotted to the opposite side of the raft; however, this did not match my experience. Heather regaled us with the tale of the Chupacabra rapids. Long ago the mountains were inhabited by goats foreign to the area, which had to be transported out in nets by helicopters, but one unlucky batch were dropped into the river and drowned, giving the rapids their name.

Once the waves calmed, Heather directed us towards the edge of the river where we docked the raft and climbed out. We followed a subtle trail into the thicket of the woods where we were met by a towering Douglas-fir tree. This tree was the oldest one in the park and had grown so tall that it had reached the top of the canopy and began growing wider, shading the trees around it and weakening them. Heather also pointed out the “mouse tails and feet” scampering into the cones of the tree, demonstrating how to identify a Douglas-fir tree.

The intensity of the waves varied, at some they had me shrieking and giggling as the raft flew over rocks and the more violent rapids points. Other times however, the waves were calm and serene, during which I had the chance to take in the beauty of our surroundings.

White Water Rafting on the Elwha River Pt3

Towards the end of the ride, the rapids reached a slower point and Heather suggested we play games. My friend, Becca, bravely volunteered to be the first. She stood at the front of the boat grasping a rope connected to the raft as we paddled the boat in circles until she fell off. She splashed in and emerged soaking and bobbing in her bright yellow life jacket.

After these games, we continued to float down the river, the currents calm and slow until we reached the end of our ride. The peaceful end matched the quiet beauty of the forest and the majestic thoughtfulness of the mountains, a perfect conclusion to the ride and opportunity to not only have a thrilling time on the rapids, but also appreciate the beauty of the Olympic National Park.

If you go rafting stay overnight at the comfortable and friendly Holiday Inn Express. The hotel was clearly designed with the landscape of the Olympic Peninsula in mind. The touches of blue skies on the ceilings, wood accents and green patterns evocative of the forest of the Pacific Northwest provided for a lovely segue into the luscious greenery surrounding the Elwha River.

Directions to Olympic Raft & Kayak from the Holiday Inn Express and Conference Center, Sequim:

  • Head northwest on E Washington St toward S Rhodefer Rd
  • Turn left onto S Sequim Ave
  • Turn right onto the US-101 N ramp to Port Angeles
  • Merge onto US-101 W
  • Turn left onto S Lincoln St S
  • Continue straight onto US-101 W/E Lauridsen Blvd
  • Turn right onto Lake Aldwell Rd, Olympic Raft and Kayak will be on your left

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One thought on “White Water Rafting on the Elwha River

  1. Kirsten Pond

    we will be in your area August 5 and 6th and thought white water rafting would be fun. Any openings for 2 adults and 1 youth for any of those days?

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