Winchester Wasteway

Spend a day or overnight sea kayaking or packrafting 16 or 24 miles on a stream that meanders through wetlands and sand dunes in a WDFW-managed wildlife area in the central Washington desert. Paddling is Class I for the first 16 miles to the first take-out option; the downstream 8 miles includes 2.5 miles of Class II on the Wasteway and about 5.5 miles of flatwater on Potholes Reservoir.

FLOW

  • At a currently-inactive stream gage at Road C on Winchester Wasteway, historically flows averaged 120 cfs, 10-yr minimum flows were 72 cfs, and 10-yr maximum flows 209 cfs. Between December and mid-April flows, 10-yr monthly average flows have been between 85 and 105 cfs; mid-April through June, 10-yr monthly average flows ranged between 110 and 130 cfs.

Put-in

Dodson Road

The State of Washington maintains a parking area and public boating access at the intersection of Dodson Road and the Winchester Wasteway. To get there, take the Dodson Road exit off of I-90 and drive about 3.5 miles.

Take-outs

One can paddle about 16 miles to a take-out at Road C or an additional approximately 8 miles to a boat ramp in Potholes Reservoir State Park.

Road C

Take Road C north from Highway 262 about four miles west of Potholes Reservoir. Road C crosses the Frenchman Hills Wasteway before arriving at a gravel parking area and a footbridge at the Winchester Wasteway.

Potholes Reservoir

After paddling to Potholes Reservoir, paddle a winding path in the reservoir through sand dunes to the take-out at Potholes State Park boat ramp.

ON THE RIVER

Spring is a good time to paddle the Wasteway. Flows are generally suitable and reliable, although flow rates can vary depending on irrigation demands and weather; mosquitoes are generally not out until early summer; and water birds are abundant. Fall brings waterfowl-hunting season and a greater likelihood of high flows.

The paddling between Dodson Road to Road C is Class I and the approximately 2.5 river miles between Road C to Potholes Reservoir is Class II. A two-stage falls must be portaged downstream of Road C and just upstream of Potholes Reservoir.

Camping is available on stream-side sand dunes, surrounded by the sounds of coyotes and bird calls.

Dodson Road to Road C (16 miles)

In the first few miles, the channel can spread out and the main channel can be difficult to find, making aerial imagery and GPS useful. After these first few miles, a well-defined channel with a generally slow-moving current meanders through a field of sand dunes.

Road C to Potholes Reservoir (8 miles)

The 2.5 miles of the Wasteway between Road C and Potholes Reservoir is steeper and narrower. Once stream-side Russian olive trees have leafed out, it can be difficult to see ahead. Wood from streamside trees can present hazards. A two-step waterfall just before reaching Potholes Reservoir is a mandatory portage; there is an easy take out in an eddy on river right. Paddling the remaining approximately 5.5 miles, in Potholes Reservoir, threads between sand dune islands to Potholes State Park; here, too, aerial imagery and a GPS can be useful for finding a course.

LOGISTICS

Permits

  • A Discover Pass is required to park at Dodson Road, Road C, and in Potholes Reservoir State Park.

Guides, Maps & Online Resources

Car Shuttles

  • The shuttle between the Dodson Road put-in and Road C take-out is 15 miles each way; from Dodson Road to Potholes State Park boat launch is 17 miles each way.

Water

All drinking water should be carried. While water is generally clear it contains farm chemicals.

  • Suitable Activities: Packrafting, Sea Kayaking
  • Seasons: Year-round, March, April, May, June
  • Weather: View weather forecast
  • Difficulty: Class I River, Class II River
  • Length: 24.0 mi
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