Kayaking the Palouse River

I recently created a meetup group, so I’d meet some adventurous people who like getting outside and doing things. My first scheduled trip was to kayak the Palouse River, something I’d never done before.

There is a very small window of time that this river can be kayaked. I know people who have done it Memorial Day and scraped rocks in some places, but it was perfect on the day we went in late April. Unless it rains quite a bit more this spring, we may have hit it on the last great day for 2018. The high was 77 on the day we went, which was very much appreciated, because we all got wet, especially the canoers who tipped twice.

We put in at Hayton-Greene Park under the bridge near the parking lot. By putting in here, we had to quickly paddle out to the center of the river to avoid an overhanging, branchy tree. But it was a nice put-in due to the fact that you could unload  your stuff right from your car.

Our put-in

When I’d scouted out this trip the week before, I’d discovered another put-in spot behind the basketball court in the same park. That put-in doesn’t give you the access to your vehicle, but you would avoid this first obstacle with that tree. But none of us had problems with that tree, even those in the canoes, which were a little harder to manage.

The first half of the trip was very nice. But the second half was exceptional. This river is somewhere between a Class I and a Class II. It’s described as a Class I+ in 2 of my paddling books. I used an inflatable kayak, and there were 2 others in our group in inflatables. Two people were in a 2-person canoe and one person was in a 1-person canoe.

Our take-out was the first bridge you get to in Elberton. It took us 4 hours and 10 minutes of paddling time, which included 2 canoe tipovers and gathering floating items. We also took a 40 minute lunch break, so it took 4 hours and 50 minutes total. A friend of mine was paddling the same day we went, and he and his friends put in at Eden Valley and took out in Elberton as well. This trip takes about 2 1/2 – 3 hours. I now understand why one would opt for this route. The water is faster and the scenery is prettier on this stretch. But if you have 5 hours, I recommend the entire stretch, because it’s all great.

An image you see a lot of on the Palouse
We had all just read about this train derailment a couple days ago in the paper. They were trying to get it back on the tracks while we kayaked by.


  • Unless you like going in the water, don’t take a canoe on this river when the discharge rate is at 1260 cu ft/sec at Hooper (found under Whitman County when clicking here).
  • Bring paddling gloves when kayaking for more than an hour. Since I have Hobie kayaks, I pedal way more than I paddle, so I wasn’t aware of this. No one else had them, but I felt like I was going to have blisters the next day. I didn’t, but I felt the burning while paddling.
  • Inflatable kayaks are the best option for this river. You can rent them at WSU and U of I. Tri-State Outfitters might also rent them, but Hyperspud doesn’t. I don’t think my 16′ Hobie kayak would’ve worked for this trip even with the pedals removed. It’s too long and wouldn’t have allowed me to turn as quickly. The 12′ 1-person canoe worked well for an experienced paddler in our group. Don’t know how it would’ve been for a novice.
  • Bring a pump with you when you’re using an inflatable. We didn’t puncture any of the kayaks, but one had a very slow leak, so we did use the pump to add more air when we stopped for lunch.
  • You can’t do a bike shuttle from Palouse to Elberton. You need 2 vehicles.
  • If you get cold easily, like me, start anytime between 10:30 and 11:30. We meant to put in at 11 but didn’t get in the water until 11:30, which was fine, but I wouldn’t want to go any later than that. It starts cooling off at 4 in the shade in the spring, plus you get wetter during the last 1/2 of the trip.
  • Don’t schedule this trip with a group of people if you have a son playing high school baseball. I had to cancel and reschedule this trip so many times because of baseball games being rescheduled due to rain-outs. Luckily everyone involved was very understanding.
  • Meetup.com is a great way to meet super cool people!

7 thoughts on “Kayaking the Palouse River

Add yours

  1. Hi Sharon! Enjoyed reading your blog-looks like a great day for that trip! I signed up to follow you and some other meetup groups. Thanks for taking the time to put down your thoughts and suggestions…Ted

    1. Thanks, Ted. Glad you joined some groups. Meetup is a great way to meet people who share your interests. I’m sitting here this morning drinking my coffee and going through my paddling and hiking books figuring out what my next trip’s going to be. So much fun!

    1. Thanks! And I did meet some new people 🙂 5 new very nice and fun people actually who I wouldn’t have ever met if it hadn’t been for meetup. Do they have those in the Netherlands?

      1. They maybe do, just I have never even thought about it. I have a few I follow here via their blogs. They also have kayak clubs. I was a member for a couple of years but then I didn’t have time. It was a great way to learn new skills and everyone was helpful in learning new things.

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