By Neil Schulman www.neilschulman.com
Paddle on the Columbia
Sea Kayak Day Trips Near Portland, Oregon
1. Smith and Bybee Lakes, Portland
Why go? The nation’s largest urban freshwater wetland that doesn’t feel like it’s in a city. Lots of wildlife. Great birding, especially in winter and spring, and a lot of exploration of twisted jungly channels that change with the water level. Likely Conditions: Protected water. In winter, Smith lake can get a little windy. Notes: Sunrise and sunset paddles are great for wildlife–but be sure not to get locked in after legal sunset. And since there’s so much vegetation, remember how to get back to the put-in. Put-in/Take Out: Smith and Bybee Lakes Natural Area, N. Marine Drive. The put-in is 1/4 mile past the restrooms.
2. Miller Island, Columbia River
Why go? To soak up desert sun, paddle around a desert island, and maybe stop for some hiking to check out wildflowers, cliffs, or pictographs. And if it’s windy, to surf some wind waves. Likely Conditions: Can be calm, extremely windy, or anywhere in between. Notes: Miller Island is now closed to camping to protect Native American sites. There’s camping at both Deschutes River and Maryhill State Parks Put-in/Take Out: Deschutes River State Park. If it’s windy, take out at Maryhill State Park. Distance: 10 statute miles Chart: Columbia River Cruising Atlas, C25-26 3.Dalton Point to Chinook Landing Why go? To paddle under the cliff and waterfalls of Cape Horn, and ride the Columbia’s current and east wind. Likely Conditions: Depends on wind and current: can be flat or fairly rough. A strong east wind, most common in winter will create waves in the western Gorge. Keep an eye out for barge traffic. Notes: Best in the winter, when there’s lots of water in the waterfalls, strong westbound current, a (moderate) east wind, and often bald eagles at the mouth of the Sandy River. Distance: 14 SM Chart: Columbia River Cruising Atlas C16-15
4.The Columbia Gorge
Why go? To surf wind waves, paddle along cliffs and, in summer, wear shorts. Likely Conditions: Anywhere from calm to nuclear. Know how to calibrate your skills to conditions, and manage your boat in strong wind. Rock formations provide some rest areas and protection. Notes: Summer west winds create big waves the further east in the Gorge you go; Winter east winds create waves in the Western Gorge. Windsurfing web sites have good forecasts. In summer, enjoy the rare combination of surfing and wearing shorts. Walking Man Brewing in Stevenson opens at 3 PM. Put-in/Take out: Pick your run based on the wind strength you want. Shuttle required.
5.The Santiam and Willamette Rivers: Jefferson to Independence
Why go? The Willamette above the Newberg Pool provides clean water, a feeling of seclusion from nearby roads, and lots of current to zip you along. Likely Conditions: Expect moving water but no rapids; be able to ferry across current and avoid hazards like downed trees. Notes: Speed will change drastically based on river flow. Put-in/Take Out: Put in on the n Santiam River near Jefferson I-5 bridge, above confluence with Willamette at Mile 108; Take out at Independence, mile 95.5 Distance: 21 SM Chart: Willamette River Water Trail Guide, overlaps “Mainstem Willamette River RM 106-187” and “Buena Vista Ferry to the Columbia River”
6. Lewis & Clark Wildlife Refuge
Why go? To paddle among mazes of islands, soak up the wide expanse of the lower Columbia River, watch lots of birds, or cover long miles on extended trips. Likely Conditions: Highly variable based on tidal currents, river current, and wind. Expect afternoon winds on sunny days. Wind can be significant when during crossings. Notes: Lots of duck hunters during waterfowl season. Island channels appear and disappear at at different tide heights. Put-in/Take Out: Aldrich Point and return, or shuttle run to Astoria, Knappa, or Skamokawa Distance: Whatever your heart desires Chart: Columbia River Cruising Atlas C6, others depending on route.
7.Coastal Bays (Nehalem, Nestucca, Tillamook, Yaquina, Alsea, etc.)
Why go? To get your boat salty, explore the estuary, paddle with seals s, and maybe poke your nose out into the Pacific. Or ride the tide upstream until high tide, and then ride the ebb back. Likely Conditions: Variable with wind and tidal current. Expect northwest winds in the afternoons on sunny days. Notes: The mouth of the bays act like nozzles. Stay away from bay mouths during the ebb. Avoid spooking seals into the water. And expect large sections of the shallow bays to become dry at low tide: use the charts to find deep water.
Why go? In summer, for a pretty paddle in a natural area close to Portland. In winter, for a play session with strong eddy lines, currents, and boils without the 7-hour drive to Deception Pass. Likely Conditions: When the water is above 58 feet on the Oregon City Upper gauge, expect strong current play conditions and bring a helmet. When it gets to 63 feet, stay away. Notes: Steer clear of wood hazards in current. Put-in/Take Out: For low-flow summer runs, Willamette Park in West Linn. When the current is strong, put in at Hebb Park and take out at Willamette Park. Distance: 6 miles Chart: Willamette River Cruising Atlas, W11-10
9. The Pacific Ocean
Why go? Some of the best paddling on earth: with sea caves, arches, rock gardens, cliffs, and secret coves you can’t get to with any other craft. Surf play. Likely Conditions: Entirely exposed. World-class paddlers and massive container ships have both gotten in trouble. Benign conditions, a trusted group and excellent skills and judgement conditions are all essential. Most days the ocean is closed. But when it’s good, it’s astounding. Notes: This is the pinnacle of sea kayaking. Expect to invest in a long-term process of building skills and judgement and finding paddlers you trust: it will be worth it.. Come to Lumpy Waters Symposium, October 18-20, 2013 to start the learning. (www.lumpywaters.com)