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Boating The Hanford Reach

Girls In KayakBoating on the Hanford Reach can be a memorable experience. But without proper equipment and safety it could be your last! The Columbia is a cold, powerful river that has claimed lives. By following these safety suggestions your visit to the Monument will be a fun-filled event.

Be Aware of River Mileage: The Hanford Reach is the last non-tidal, free-flowing section of the Columbia River in the United States. The total distance from Priest Rapids Dam to Richland is 51 miles, a trip that can last over 16 hours in a non-motorized craft. There are minimal facilities along the river, with the only access points at Vernita Bridge, White Bluffs Boat Ramp, Parking Area 7 and Ringold Fish Hatchery. It is recommended that a full length float trip be divided into two day-trips with take-out at White Bluffs and Ringold. There are no camping facilities on the Monument, so vehicles need to be shuttled between access points. Inquire locally for up-to-date weather and river conditions.

River Conditions: River flows are regulated by Priest Rapids Dam, operated by the Grant County PUD. River levels can change dramatically, rising and falling up to 10 feet in a short time. While stopping along the river, be observant of changing river conditions and anchor your watercraft well above the high water line. Be aware of strong and swirling currents and gravel bars that can ground and swamp your craft.

Weather Conditions: Like the river, the weather can be very dynamic. Temperatures in summer can reach well above 100 degrees and winters drop below zero. Wearing sunscreen and carrying plenty of water is recommended. Winds also can be troublesome, especially for non-motorized craft experiencing a strong headwind. Plan ahead for the time needed to reach your destination.

Wear your Personal Flotation Device (PFD): The majority of boating fatalities on the Reach have resulted from boaters not wearing their PFDs. One Coast Guard approved PFD is required for each passenger. Be sure to follow state and federal boating laws requiring that proper safety equipment be onboard for your specific type of watercraft.

Observe Closed Areas: Both for your safety and that of the wildlife, please observe all closed area restrictions. The Department of Energy's side of the river, south and west shores, are closed above the high water line. All federally owned islands are closed for cultural resource protection and wildlife resting and nesting. Observe and enjoy wildlife from a distance and never remove—or even move—what might be an artifact.

Boat Launches: The Wahluke Unit provides two boat launches. The White Bluffs Boat Launch is concrete with a narrow, two-lane capacity. Please be aware that the White Bluffs Boat Launch is closed to launching of motorized craft from November 1 through June 30; this stretch of the river is a sanctuary for over-wintering waterfowl. The gravel/cobblestone launch at Parking Lot 7 is usable seasonally by four-wheel-drive vehicles.

Just outside the Monument boundary, the Ringold Fish Hatchery, operated by the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, has an undeveloped launching area.

There are about 13 boat launches downstream of the Monument in the Tri-Cities area that can be used to access the Monument via the river.

Summary: 

  • Vernita Bridge – Primitive 4WD
  • White Bluffs – Paved Single Lane
  • Parking Area 7 – Primitive 4WD
  • Ringold Fish Hatchery – Primitive 4WD

River Miles: 

  • Priest Rapids Dam to Vernita Bridge – 8 miles
  • Vernita Bridge to White Bluffs Boat Ramp – 18 miles
  • White Bluffs Boat Ramp to Parking Area 7 – 8 miles
  • Parking Area 7 to Ringold Fish Hatchery – 8 miles
Page Photo Credits — Girls In Kayak
Last Updated: Aug 27, 2013
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