PADDLING – Kayakers have largely bailed on a special event just for them.
Whitewater kayak events through the exhilarating but short Chelan River Gorge will become a once yearly rather than four-times yearly event as interest among expert boaters has declined, Chelan County PUD commissioners learned this week.
The PUD and American Whitewater hope the once-a-year release of water from Lake Chelan through the gorge will lead to a more consistent kayaker turnout.
The new plan calls for a water release this year on Sept. 15 and 16 regardless of how many kayakers sign up.
Only about a quarter-mile long, but treacherous with Class 4, 5 and 6 whitewater during spill events, the gorge is navigable only by expert boaters.
The PUD’s federal license to operate Lake Chelan Dam originally ordered four annual releases of water through the gorge for white-water recreation, two in July and two in September. The change comes after a 3-year study revealed not enough interest among boaters to justify four events.
In July, kayakers are spread out among many Northwest rivers, said Thomas O’Keefe, American Whitewater’s Pacific Northwest spokesman.
Even if enough kayakers showed up to run the gorge, Lake Chelan water levels were sometimes low enough in mid summer that it was impossible to release water, PUD officials said.
Flow will be increased to 375 cfs on Sept 15 and to 400 cfs on Sept. 16.
Boaters must register online prior to the event.