Like the Lower White River, the upper stretch of the White offers a surprising sense of wilderness considering its close proximity to a road. The river is littered with fallen logs and log jams and, while these demand your attention, they also add a lot of entertainment as you figure out how to navigate (or carry the boat) around them. Wildlife and birdlife is plentiful along the river. And the river is just darn pretty with its glacial-blue water, its lush vegetation salted with the silver snags of dead cottonwoods, and its surrounding cast of high peaks.
Maps: USGS 7.5-minute series: Mount David and Schaefer Lake covers most of the route. The take out is on the Lake Wenatchee map. View our topo map below (8.5’x11” portrait/landscape or 8.5”x14” portrait/landscape). Note: use ‘Print Preview’ before printing to properly scale this map to a full sheet of paper.
Activity: Flatwater paddling, whitewater paddling.
Nearest Town: Lake Wenatchee.
Skill Level: 2 — Because of all the logs in the river, this route requires a modicum of whitewater skills for safe passage.
Fitness Level: 1 plus to 2 minus.
Distance: About 6 river miles.
Elevation: Starting elevation: 1943 feet. Ending elevation: 1882 feet.
Recommended Season. Mid to late summer during mid to lower water levels. At high water levels when the current is fast, the many logs and log jams in the river could make this section of river quite dangerous.
Water Levels and Difficulty. For canoeists with basic whitewater skills (ability to ferry, perform eddy turns, execute bow and stern rudders), this is an enjoyable float at lower water levels (mid to late July through much of August). The current is not strong and the riffles are class 1 in difficulty. This trip report was prepared in mid-August when the river-level gauge at Sears Bridge read 3.60 feet. At higher water levels (spring and early summer), we have been told the current is swift and, despite the absence of menacing rapids, the debris in the river makes this trip suited to more advanced paddlers. For gauge information, follow this link: White River (near mouth) – Dept of Ecology
Drive west on Highway 2 from Leavenworth about 14 miles to Cole’s Corner (Milepost 84.7) and turn right (north) onto Highway 207.
- MP 4.4: The road forks–stay left to keep on the Lake Wenatchee Highway
- MP 10.6: Turn right onto the White River Road. Reset your odometer to zero here.
- MP 2.6: The road to Sears Creek branches off to the left and immediately crosses the White River (locals call this the Sears Creek Bridge). If floating the Upper White River, use the pullout just upstream of the bridge (along the White River Road) and leave a shuttle vehicle (or better yet, a bicycle) here. The best takeout point will be another 40 yards upstream– follow a little path to the river. Just downstream of the bridge there’s a river gauge and you can easily get down to it to read the water level.
- MP 6.2: Park at the Napeequa Crossing Campground (on the left side of the White River Road) and put-in here. Note: In higher water conditions (before early August in most years), you can put in about 1.25 miles farther up the White River and carry the boat through denser vegetation down to the river. Above this put-in the White River gains much more gradient and is not suited to easier paddling trips.
Paddling Time. In lower water conditions (late July through much of August), it takes about 2 hours of paddling to reach the takeout. Leave time to laze, poke around the sloughs and marshes, look for footprints on sandbars, swim…
- From the Napeequa Crossing Campground, there are various places to reach the river. Follow your nose to an easy launch.
- Float and paddle downstream.
- There are many logs and log jams in the river and their position and the degree to which they block the river will change from year to year. Many of the jams will have a safe channel through them, but expect to carry your canoe around several jams that completely span the river. In mid to late summer (lower water conditions) sandbars make portages an easy task.
- In mid to late summer also expect to encounter a half dozen riffles that are too shallow to float without scraping bottom. Owners of plastic boats may opt to crash their way downstream, but owners of glass boats will need to be ready to hop out and wade their boats into deeper water.
- When you see the Sears Bridge you’ll want to exit on river left some 75 yards upstream of the bridge.
- The drive/bike/jog back to the put-in is about 3.6 miles.
Cons/Hazards. The river is littered with snags and log jams and a number of these require maneuvering (ferrying, drawing, bow and stern ruddering) to pass. In a few places fallen trees or log jams have entirely blocked the river and it will be necessary to carry your boat around the blockage. At high water all the logs could make this dangerous. At lower water levels the current is not that strong but basic whitewater canoeing skills are still needed for safe passage—flipping a canoe amidst all these logs is dangerous. Also, mosquitoes can be thick through much of the summer. The local variety is especially active, hungry, and annoying in the late afternoon and early evening. In midday their numbers are usually low on the river, but they’ll be happy to suck your blood if you head into the brush. Bring bug dope.
Land Designation. A mixture of Fish and Wildlife, private, and Forest Service lands.
Fees/Permits. As of the summer 2006, no permits were needed to park at the campground or the take-out. Nearby trailheads, however, did require a Northwest Forest Pass.
Trip Reporter. Andy Dappen, 8/5/06
Usage Update: September 2009. The White River at the head of Lake Wenatchee is now closed to motorized boats and personal watercraft. Chelan County commissioners just voted to add the river to the list of waters closed to motorized traffic, which also includes the Wenatchee River, Icicle Creek, Lily and Clear lakes, and Beehive Reservoir. Electric trolling motors are still allowed in the river.
Leave It Better Than You Found It. This should be every user’s goal. Pick up trash left by others, pull noxious weeds along your route, disperse old fire rings, throw branches over unwanted spur trails…
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.