The Nuclear Flume, WA


-March 28, 2011

The Nuclear Flume spitting out surges of water every 10 seconds

-May 28, 2010

I received a text around 10am with a picture attached to it.. The message, from Luke Spencer read, “Good level 4 the pool?”

At 11:43am I received a text that read, “Success 1 down!”
Luke Spencer, Chuck Taylor, and Willy Illingworth all ran it with various results.

-March, 2009

The Nuclear Flume was a unique find to say the least. Just north of Pasco, Washington on the west side of the Columbia River, opposite side of the river from the Hanford Nuclear Facility. It turns out the this Flume is the outlet to the Potholes Canal which is part of the larger Grand Coule Dam and Irrigation to Eastern Washington. At first glance the exit looked good, it passed under the road about twenty feet upstream of the lip of the falls with no obstruction. It was narrow, boxed in and the top was lined with barbwire as far as you could see up the hill, making a seal-launch into the flume impossible. So Paul and I took off up the hill. At the top, It was the same as far as you could see up the hill. At the top of that hill we could see a small structure of some kind beside the canal. At this structure the canal was wider and held flat water which poured out the end rolling downhill out of the end of the flume. We were now standing nearly 1,600 feet from the end and 160 feet higher than where this water lands.. It took more consideration and after a warm up on Baillie Creek the next day i dropped in and had a successful line down the flume.

Complete Footage of the descent can be seen in HAYMAKER by HH Films
Paul Gamache scouting the N.F. during the Columbia Experience Paddle

5 thoughts on “The Nuclear Flume, WA”

  1. The Nuclear Flume (north of pasco on the east sdie of the Columbia, across from Hanford) was a favorite “skiing” site for those of us who lived in the area in the 1960s.

    We would descend into the flume at the bridge that went over it just above where it emptied into a lagoon on the Columbia River and hike up to where it leveled off (at least half a mile) so we could “ski” down it.

    Because the bottom was covered with a layer of moss, we would wear socks to get traction to walk up. At the top when we were ready to descend, we would put them on our hands (barefeet would glide over the moss and socks on the hands could be used for control or stopping if one sat down).

    The only problem for us was not to “ski” off on the right side because of a sandbar that was only about four feet under the surface of the water in the lagoon where the fule emptied.

    One time, in late July or so of ’63, a Kennwick High School classmate of mine, Terry Herron, and I were on our way to buck bales for this guy who had a farm north of the flume and Terry had never gone off the flume.

    I told Terry how cool it would be to ski off the flume, so we stopped as I tried to convince him to ski off it with me. . He was, however, understandably, skeptical, and wanted to see me do it before he tried it. So, I walked up to the top in my socks, took them off (and put them on my hands) and did a lot of ‘cool ski moves’ on the way down as Terry watched off the bridge.

    However, when I hit the backwash at the lip I had not counted on the sand buildup during the night (We were there about 6.00 AM) and when I hit it, I went right down, stopped dead cold. From the neck up I was over the lip, staring 30 feet straight down to the lagoon unable to move. When the next small ‘wave’ came through about 20 seconds later, it swept me over. It was not the cool leap I envisioned showing off to Terry.

    When I climbed out of the water, Terry was already back in the car ready to go buck bales. He never said a word and neither did I as we drove on. We did not stop at the flume the next three days when we went out to finish our haying work and to my knowledge, Terry never went off the flume

  2. The “Nuclear Flume” as it’s called in this story – is the small irrigation flume. Had you guys gone farther upriver, you would have seen the one referenced by the one article where we used socks to walk up, and slid back down. favorite pastime during the ’60s, and would go over just about every day after school in the Spring and Fall. This big flume was probably 20′ wide, and was much safer than that skinny one with huge rocks at the bottem. You say 3 guys went down with varying results – but you don’t say if anyone was hurt. One guy went down that skinny flume and broke his back – so I wouldn’t suggest doing it in the future – unless the water is high enough to provide a good pool to drop into..

  3. Bob and Johnny Moore and i used to slide down this flume barefoot during the hot summer moths when the bottom was covered with a slick coating of algae. Never forget what a blast that was.

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