River Trails Section 7


Wanapum Dam to Priest Rapids Dam

(Section 7)



Length of this water section: 19 miles
Lake formed behind Priest Rapids Dam: Priest Rapids Lake
Dams completed: Wanapum - 1963; Priest Rapids - 1961


Landscape: The land on both sides is similar to the stretches that rest above and below, meaning plenty of bluffs and hillsides and solitary shorelines. Wildlife, in particular waterfowl, abound. Desert Aire is a community featuring a good number of vacation homes, a golf course and some services.

Put in: Huntzinger
Take out: Priest Rapids Recreation Area at Desert Aire
Elevation drop: From 571 to 488 feet above sea level
Water character: Flat

Navigation tips: This water section is short, but paddlers should take heed of the wind and debark if the waters become too dangerous. Water released from the dams can create hazardous boating conditions and abrupt river flow fluctuations can impact water levels greatly. If you have some extra time, explore lower Crab Creek a bit. Flanked on the south by the Saddle Mountains, it is one of the few perennial streams in the Columbia Basin.

Navigation links: Wind conditions - River flow; Link 1 - Link 2

Paddler on-river facilities (north to south on river):

  • Huntzinger (Mile 19, west shore): Boat ramp, toilet
  • Crab Creek (Mile 14, east shore): Toilet
  • Buckshot Recreation and Wildlife Area: (Mile 5, east shore): - Camping, RVs, boat ramp, toilet
  • Priest Rapids Recreation Area at Desert Aire (Mile 2.5, east shore): Campground, marina, boat dock and ramp, toilet, store

Places to eat/drink: Your choices are limited to Desert Aire, a small community near Priest Rapids Dam, and Mattawa just north of Desert Aire.

Other lodging: Desert Aire has a motel and an RV park. After that, your best bet is to head southeast about 55 miles to the Tri-Cities, a metro area of about 150,000 people, where you will find ample accommodations.

If you have a vehicle: The Mattawa area, located just six miles north from Desert Aire on Highway 243, has several wineries.

Links of interest: Priest Rapids Dam | Center for Columbia River History | Desert Aire | Wanapum Heritage Center | Wanapum Dam

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