1 Day Flatwater Category

Custom Ross Island Tour

Custom Ross Island Tour!

Alder Creek runs a full schedule of classes and tours year round but is always available for group trips, team building, and custom programs of all kinds.  Last Friday, top notch Alder Creek guides Malcolm Kelly, Steve Pilch, Linda Neel and I led one such trip for Rothermel Financial Services.  We were quite a site as all 37 brightly colored boats made their way across the Willamette River and down to Ross Island.  Just as we approached Willamette Park from the South, two bald eagles appeared overhead as if to show us the way.  We all picked ripe blackberries and waded in the cool, refreshing waters of the Willamette before heading back to Oaks Park for a lovely lunch.  It was another great time on the water with fun people!  It’s always rewarding to get back onto the water and out into my preferred “office”.  A big thanks to Damien and Sarah from the Rothermel Group for taking such great care of their customers and for bringing them out for a custom Ross Island tour with us. 


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Ross Island Tour

Ross Island Tour

Ross Island Tour

Ross Island Tour

Ross Island Tour

Ross Island Tour

Ross Island Tour

Ross Island Tour

Ross Island Tour

Ross Island Tour

Ross Island Tour

Ross Island Tour

Ross Island Tour

Ross Island Tour

Ross Island Tour

Ross Island Tour

Ross Island Tour

Ross Island Tour

A Paddle; A Proposal

 “The story leading up to our engagement actually began on our 3rd date ever, when my now-fiance, Angie, suggested that we spend our next date kayaking. I put my foot down and refused. I had only been kayaking once, turned over 3 times, and ended up with seaweed all over my face. I had vowed then never to kayak again, and I wasn’t going to let some pretty girl change my mind. Angie was persistent, and I finally told her “if we make it to date #78, I’ll go kayaking with you.”
   Well, “date #78” came 2 years later at Alder Creek Kayak, with an engagement ring triple-knotted and fastened to me to surprise Angie. Things started out rocky, paddling in circles, hitting other kayakers, not being able to stop…but we swapped first-date and adventure stories with one of our guides the whole way, and took in the beautiful Willamette River. After making it to the dock without flipping over, I told Angie we should ask someone to take our picture. As he lined up the picture for us, I got down on one knee and asked Angie to marry me. She said yes! I have to admit, I may be a kayaking convert.
   Thank you for making our engagement day so special! Everyone was so kind and encouraging – we hope to come back soon!”
-Brianna P.
Check out a Ross Island Tour of your own!

Waldo Lake trip report from June 2014

Below are two recounts of a canoe camping trip at Waldo Lake at the end of June.  Chris and Kristin (below) are friends of employees Andrew and Steve, and this was a personal trip, not a commercially guided one.  Boats and gear were rented from Alder Creek.


Waldo Lake

Waldo Lake, looking to the north.

Attention adventurous but low-level-outdoorsy-experienced humans: canoe camping is a must!

Recently, the fiance Chris and I decided to put our lives in the hands of what we must assume are two of Alder Creek’s finest guides and had a freaking blast. There were definitely challenges, but the gentle learning curve (and the knowledge that we came away with at least some canoeing foundations), the awesome other humans and totally gorgeous scenery lead to one seriously remarkable outdoor excursion.

Honesty time: learning the beginning steps of proper canoeing technique (that is to say, the knowledge required to prevent you from just going in circles) took some grunt work. Over an image of a nearly pristine lake surrounded by trees and not-surrounded by humans, please add rain, wind, kinda creepy fog, a record low personal cold intolerance and no sense of where you are headed. Guess what though guys: as the old trope goes, what doesn’t kill you makes you.. feel a little bit like a badass.

After loading us up with some Personal Flotation Devices (pronounced pffffffd) and helping us lower all of our fave camping gear into the center of a rather swanky looking agua-vehicle (a Wenonah Itasca), guru Andrew gave me a few tips about being the “rudder” of our boat. The person in the back, it turns out, has the most control over the steering (person in the front impacts direction but seems to mostly function as a momentum-generator). Our two-person canoe was stuffed because canoes are patient, gentle creatures that will schlep about as many things as you can fit into your four-door without all of the grumbly loud gas-guzzling nonsense. With ourselves and three other boats, we left our car and the launching dock behind.

The majority of the learning curve is difficult to put into words (particularly when you lack any technique-related vocabulary). There were about 15 minutes of what-the-crap-is-happening when I seemed to be working really hard to turn left but we did nothing but make a lot of progress in a quirky zig-zag pattern. Fortunately, trial and error, friendly pointers shouted over the water by guru Andrew, and the insulated, waterproof gloves guru Steve leant me meant we totally survived the first hour and half long trip across Waldo Lake.

It’s a little unclear if the guides were humoring us, but Andrew and Steve seemed to think our first ride over in the windy rain was a tad difficult. Luckily by the time we made it to the campsite that evening the rain had all but stopped and we set up our tent. With tired hands, arms, and upper body muscles I hadn’t even known about, we basically flopped onto our sleeping pads.

The next morning Chris and I quietly mumbled to ourselves that after the difficult experience the night before, we would probably just explore the forest and rocky edges of land on foot all day. (Truthfully I said something to the effect of “Do not make me get into that boat please”). Fortunately for my naive self, a few hours later that Saturday afternoon I ate my words: when faced with spectacular water and sunshine, despite our sore bodies we could not resist the temptation to play.

Back in the boat for round two, we learned a few things:

1) The second time you get into a canoe, paddling motions make way more sense and even start to feel a bit intuitive.
2) If you are working really hard in a canoe while the water is calm, you’re definitely doing it wrong so ask for help.
3) It may be chilly on the water but for the love of what is holy, do not forget to put sunscreen on your face.
4) Staying closer by the shore gives you a much greater appreciation for how much ground you’re covering/how fast you’re traveling. This is a great idea if your patience for arriving somewhere starts to dwindle.

In fact, you will recognize the basics of canoeing proficiency when you travel where you intend to travel while feeling totally relaxed! The arms have to continue paddling, but there was so much coasting (probably in part due to our lovely boat) and so little involuntary water contact that we could have gone out comfortably in our pajamas.

What we thought would be a short water outing that day turned into several beautiful hours hanging out with mother nature. Dudes: lovely things happen when you leave your cellphone an hour and a half paddle away from your sleeping bag.

The next morning we enjoyed wizardry at breakfast (blueberry muffins made over a campfire!) and more solid canoeing tips from our guides as we packed up our stuff-and-things. Our final canoe expedition was leisurely and punctuated by a greater appreciation for how the wind affects your flight path (guru Andrew directed us straight at a distant mountain, which eventually cleverly angled us far to the left of the mountain towards the dock).

Between our Alder Creek guides, the stylish canoes, and gorgeous and instructive mother nature, we had an ideal trip. Next time (there will definitely be a next time!) I am determined to learn what the heck a “J-stroke” is and how we can use it to be even more efficient with the paddles.

Waldo Lake

Waldo Lake trip group photo.

Gigantic digital bear-hugs of gratitude to the crew that made this possible! Thank you thank you thank you!!

-Kristin Franco


I’m a complete novice at boats: this was my second time in a human powered boat of any kind and my very first time in a canoe. My first surprise: the canoe is a very forgiving craft – it resisted all my efforts to tip it over as we loaded up our camping gear and I hopped in. Good start. My second surprise: the canoe held a TON of gear – our guides Andrew and Steve brought some sweet amenities that would’ve been burdensome for even car camping with a routine 50 yard walk to the campsite (battery powered turntable? Yes please!). Our group of eight got launched pretty quickly and proceeded to learn the basics of paddling, turning, steering, and our personal floatation devices (which thankfully were not called upon to do any saving during our adventure).

My fiance Kristin and I were placed in a boat together, just the two of us…team-building time! As we set out after our safety lesson, the wind picked up and the water got choppy. Even the biggest waves didn’t make us feel unstable, but a trickle of adrenaline got us moving quicker and more deliberately.

Once we had the rhythm of paddling and steering, there was time to look around and really appreciate where we were. Waldo lake is majestic even on a slightly stormy, overcast day; fog clung to the trees along the shore and gave a sense of mystery to the unfolding scenery as we made our way towards the campsite. A light rain combined with the wind made us glad we layered up and had waterproof jackets and gloves – especially the gloves! I am a man’s man but I also have the hands of a princess and even those with tougher mitts will want some insulating protection in the wet. By the halfway point my better half had a pretty strong grasp of the rudder and our efforts were noticeably more effective at moving us in a straight line. A simple thing, but it gave us pride.

Waldo Lake

Waldo Lake, Chris and Kristin exploring the area.

We kept at it and ended up working ourselves pretty hard to keep up with the group, but our guides stayed in sight the whole time and called out their encouragement as we pulled ahead for the home stretch into the campsite. Getting ashore was a team effort and we were glad to only have to haul our gear a very short way to our tent spot. Our dry bags were doing their job quite well and despite the rain all of our things stayed dry – comfort bonus! We packed a full size, crazy-heavy and luxurious 4-man tent for the two of us and after our exertions we slept like we’d earned it.

The next morning gave us a truly gorgeous view of all that had been half-shrouded by fog the evening before – mountains in the distance, lush forest all along the shore, and the clearest sapphire blue water that I would not have believed to exist in North America. After a good stretch and some breakfast, we were happy to be in decent condition and ready to get out and explore the woods. We came back to camp for lunch and all hung around relaxing and taking in the big views in every direction.

Kristin and I were glad to find our arms and backs feeling up to some more paddling that afternoon so we took a canoe out by ourselves to do some exploring, soon to be followed by another couple in our group. I got to be in the rear seat this time so it was time to learn how to be an effective rudder – easier said than done but thankfully Kristin has developed a superhuman level of patience as a result of our relationship so the process was overall pretty playful.

Our first inclination was to take it slow and look all around us, including straight down to the bottom of the lake since the water was so clear. After a bit of that we felt adventurous and took our friends up on the suggestion to check out a cove further down the shoreline. We were shocked to find vivid red pebbles ground almost as fine as sand all along the cove, such a contrast with the deep blue water around it. We landed our boat and tied it off to take a brief walk around before the desire to be on the water overtook us again and we set off.

By the time we arrived back at camp it was almost evening – few experiences in my life have gone by so quickly. We had an amazing chili stew for dinner as a couple of us contributed some music and we talked over what we had seen that day. Andrew and Steve gave some intermediate level pointers for us to try out the next day on the paddle back to the dock – we all felt like we’d made some progress and could try a few fancy moves on our way back. It’s a good feeling when you try something a bit out of your skill-set and actually pull it off so I was looking forward to a little more learning to round out our adventure.

The next morning we reluctantly packed up our gear and loaded up the boats. The bittersweet feeling of leaving a beautiful campsite was softened by getting to do another medium-big paddle on another day of fine weather. I was feeling really into the rhythm of it and Kristin was getting more efficient too. We were starting to see where some of the real skill had room to develop which felt like yet another reason to get back at it and spend some more time on the water. We took our time getting back and went a different route to get a look at the opposite shore before we made it to the dock and unloaded. Talking about it on the drive home, she and I agreed that our Alder Creek guides took great care of us the whole way through and gave us the right mix of challenge and achievement. This was definitely a thing to be repeated and shared – I think we’ll try it as a ruggedly romantic vacation after a little more guided practice.

-Chris Browne

Waldo Lake

Waldo Lake, Chris and Kristin gaze south while their moment is unknowingly captured on camera.

Kayaking and Snorkeling Belize

Check out Rod’s photos from the trip HERE!

Photo by Rod Richards

I recently spent 9 days on a real-life Gilligan’s Island! I discovered Half-Moon Caye, a tiny coconut palm forested island on Lighthouse Reef, a coral atoll 50 miles off the Coast of Belize. Nearby is the famous blue hole. A week on Half-Moon Caye guarantees a return to natural rhythms – awakening to the sunrise, sounds of gentle surf and rustling palm fronds, paddling sapphire clear waters, snorkeling amidst nature’s underwater splendor, and no hashtags. Plus, the 80+ degree water doesn’t hurt, either!

After a 10 hour flight, a few hours spent waiting for the rest of my 9-person group to arrive, and a three-hour boat shuttle, Half-Moon Caye came into view. The mile-long island is a World Heritage Site, protected by the Audubon Society due to its colony of Red-Footed Boobies. The island and several square miles of reef are 100% off limits to fishermen. My tour operator, Island Expeditions, was the sole operator permitted to lodge tourists.

Lodging is a misleading term, because we “lodged” in platform tents – each with beds. No super resorts here: exactly what I wanted. There were 12 tents lined up along the shore. Island Expeditions runs a sustainable operation – with water from rain collectors, a well, and composting toilets. Electricity was on four hours per day, just enough to charge your camera batteries. So, we were far from luxury yet far from roughing it. The kitchen served up three sumptuous meals daily. Dishes included Creole fair (lots of bbq), plus conch soup, coconut pie, pineapple and mango, and when we caught fish, catch of the day.

Photo by Rod Richards

Paddling Lighthouse Reef is definitely living a fantasy. The water is utterly sapphire clear and it’s warm. Inside the reef’s 22-mile long ring, the lagoon is only 8-10 feet deep. The protected waters are packed with an array of life. Our guides were of African, Mayan and Mestizo ethnicity – and they’d switch between English, Creole and Spanish at will. Kayaks included Necky single or tandem polyethylene kayaks, Seaward tandem fiberglass kayaks and a few Boreal Design polyethylene single kayaks – and SUPs. The tandem kayaks were set up for sailing. They also had a selection of Kokatat and Astral PFDs. A good portfolio of boats for a tour operator, I thought.

Our agenda shifted each day depending on weather conditions. Sunrise was followed by 6:30 a.m. yoga with Tisha, from Vancouver BC. After breakfast, we would launch kayaks and paddle out to the reef, where we would snorkel. Day one was mandatory snorkeling and kayaking introduction including wet exits and rescues. As for snorkeling, there is much to see inside the shallow lagoon or where it meets the ocean. There is an easy ‘octopus garden’ 50 yards off our beach with plenty of sea life like parrotfish, squid, turtles, rays, and lobsters. There is the famous World Heritage Site – The 400-ft deep Blue Hole, made famous by Jacques Cousteau. There is a “wall” off the ocean side of the reef where it drops to 12,000 feet. Out there, snorkeling, one can witness ocean going giants like whale sharks or even great hammerhead sharks. Or we could try our luck kayak fishing! Let’s not forget kayak sailing.

Photo by Rod Richards

My favorite place was the Blue Hole. It’s a 1000-ft diameter shallow coral reef ring surrounding a 400ft deep hole. The reef is super pristine! If you are a diver, you can go down and explore this sunken cave with stalactites etc. As a snorkeler, I could weave in and out of coral and glimpse myriads of schools of fish such as blue tang swimming like synchronized swimmers. There were barracuda, stoplight parrotfish, midnight parrotfish, blue striped grunts, and angelfish. I learned a little about how to free dive – something you’ve got to do in order to get good pictures. There are all kinds of corals – brain coral, stag horn coral, plus sea fans, and barrel sponges.

Closer to Half-Moon Caye, I could just go out at lunch and see tons of underwater life! Just 50 yards off shore, I ran into a shark, and a ray. But I also saw grouper, grunts, trunk fish, butterfly fish, queen trigger fish, turtles and squid.

I tried fishing. Incredibly in only two hours we caught 25 fish on hand lines. We could keep 19 of the fish. We caught red snapper, queen triggerfish, porgeys, and lots of grunts. Back at camp we cleaned the fish, which we shared with local nurse sharks that seem to know when dinner time is! They made a meal for two evenings.

Night life at camp ranged from quiet discussions of the day’s discoveries to African drumming dance, to sing-alongs with Jess Karper, a guide who brought a small National Geographic group through. We had a lot of fun! Jess knows plenty of Bob Marley and Bob Dillon.

Photo by Rod Richards

One afternoon we tried kayak sailing. We used ruddered tandem kayaks, and the sails were mounted in between the cockpits. I have to say it was fortunate I have a lot of sailing experience, because the guides pretty much said, “Here you go. Sail down to a big stick down the reef and then come back.” I steered and held the sail and my “crew” was Tisha. Remember that sailboats have keels or centerboards, which are like a fin in the middle of the boat. Kayaks don’t have them. So sailing a kayak is more an exercise in getting there without paddling, but not efficiently or in any way IMHO satisfyingly. We all arrived at the stick within one minute of each other…but that was the more downwind leg. On the way back, it was what we sailors would call a close reach – meaning we were more or less with the wind coming from the side. The return leg really “separated the men from the boys,” and I had to use every trick in my sailing skills base to get that kayak going straight instead of sideways, and to land on the island and not miss it entirely and wind up in the ocean. When we turned around at the stick, Half Moon Caye was almost invisible. I had to hold the sail as low and stiff as possible, using my outstretched arm, to spill air, whilst pushing the rudder with my feet so we had the correct angle. Lucky for me I was wearing my Astral Brewer shoes. Others got blisters! We learned to lean into the wind to keep the boat tilted right. Anyway we were so focused we simply doubled down on getting back to the island, and never looked back. When we landed, we were amazed that the others were dots on the horizon! We KILLED IT! We had 30 minutes of swim time before anyone else landed. After the experience, though, I say sailing is for sailboats!

Well, that is how each day unfolded. A snorkel? Maybe SUP? Kayak? Watch the birds? Or, nothing…lie in your hammock and let the noise of the surf wash your troubles away…and as quick as that…it was over. Back to the USA!

Rod Richards

Steve was in New Zealand; Part 2

About a week after my first river adventure down the Rangitikei River in New Zealand, my family ended up on the South Island. Given that February is the peak of summer there, paddling around one of New Zealand’s most gorgeous coastal national parks was a good idea. After some searching, we found a beachfront rental shop on the northwest edge of the park near the town of Pohara. With the scorching sun and warm winds, everyone opted for either a sit-on-top kayak or stand up paddle board.

After about 20 minutes of paddling down the jagged shoreline, we had lost sight of the town. We navigated the headwind to explore some compact inlets and caves of Ngawhiti and Motu Islands. Around every outcropping there was a new archway to paddle under or submerged rock to eye through the clear water. We found a protected beach to park for lunch and play. Everybody tried the SUP boards, and despite some apprehension, all had success and fun.  On the return trip we looped to the far side Ngawhiti Island to check the looming overhangs and birds perched above.

For being such a pristine place, I couldn’t think of a better way to see this National Park. The fact that the family was with made it that much more memorable. It also gave me a relatively tolerant group to irritate with my incessant pranks.

Steve Pilch

Steve is from Alaska: Part 1

May 9th, 2013

Hey all,

Just thought I’d drop you guys a line and let you know what’s going on here.

It’s daylight here until after 10 pm and gets light before 6am so long days are easy to crank out.

Photo: Steve Pilch

Had some awesome weather in Kodiak last week. Any day it’s not raining sideways is a miracle. Got out on the water for an evening in a friends Walmart special rec boat. Attempted to surf it and chased a bunch of seals around.

Photo: Steve Pilch

We’re back in the Matanuska valley for the next couple of weeks to catch up on some other projects. The snow gets rotten pretty quick with all the sun so it sucks walking around in the woods sinking up over your knees every step. Rivers are opening up so might even get some boating in if I can swing it.

Photo: Steve Pilch


Solo SUP Circumnavigation of Hayden Island

Date: Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Distance: 11.44 miles

Time: 3hrs 15mins

Who: Jeffrey Briley

Board: BIC Ace-Tec Wing

Paddle: Werner Spanker (2-piece adjustable)

So to get the season kicked off right, and to make use of a window of good weather, I decided to take on the island that Alder Creek has called home for the past 20+ years.  Hayden Island lies in the middle of the Columbia River bordering Portland, Oregon and Vancouver, Washington.  Spring tends to be a bit more challenging to make the almost 12 mile paddle due to the excess snow melt flowing into the river and additional currents it creates.

Leaving from the back dock of Alder Creek’s Jantzen Beach shop I paddled upstream to the east end of the island past the waking floating homes and moored vessels. Once I rounded the bend, I took relief in going with the flow of the mighty river and made better time on this more exposed ~6 mile section.  This south facing side of Hayden Island opens you up to the main shipping channel of the Columbia where barges, boaters, and any number of avian wildlife roam as they have for many year.

I continued to crank along, breaking every 30-40 minutes or so for water. The wild thing about Hayden Island is the contrast of activity you get between the east end and the more pristine west end. At my first rest stop, I decided to let the river carry me below to I-5 “Columbia Crossing” bridge. I tend to enjoy the more natural environs but going with the flow on a SUP below 6 lanes of highway is quite the experience.  Paddling on with the gentle current you come to the train bridge that connects North Portland with the industrial section of Vancouver, WA.

On to the best part of the paddle, the 800+ acres of wild land we call West Hayden Island.  You quickly arrive here once you pass the train bridge and just as quickly the sounds of nature take over again. With a smooth cadence, I drifted into a world, as I said before, of great contrast to that of our east end shop.  One that we should all hope stays this natural for years to come.

After about 7 miles of paddling, most of which was with the river, I prepare for the next ~6 miles of upstream SUPin’.  I did, however, have the perfect board for the job. The BIC Ace-Tec Wing is designed with a displacement touring bottom that did a good job with both tracking and speed as I took on the 2-3 knot current.  I spooked many birds in this quiet section of river as I paddled along and was happy that this chunk of island had not befallen the industrial fate it’s cross river bank had at the port.

Then it was crunch time. As the river bent back more toward true east the current picked up again…right about when the mobile homes, trains, highways and floating homes revived themselves upstream. Oh how I missed West Hayden Island about then.

After 2.5 hours of fairly easy paddling, it was time to get back to business and crank away.  I knew I had about 1.5 miles to go yet and the wind kicked up to add a little fun, so I tucked my head and finished up my trek aiming for the path of least resistance in amongst the floating homes and docks.  I arrived at the Alder Creek JB dock spent but smiling in the beautiful sunshine after a nice paddle.

Thanks for Reading

-Jeffrey Briley

Sea Kayak Day Trips Near Portland

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.

8.Willamette Narrows
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)

Paddlers Guide – Columbia Slough


The Columbia Slough has an abundance of wildlife including 170 species of birds, Turtles, mammals and 26 species of fish. This 19 mile long urban wilderness is a water-trail of green beauty sliding through one of Portland’s most industrial areas.

This is a PDF version of the Paddler’s Access Guide: Columbia Slough



ACA Instructor Development Workshop for River Kayaking

Feb 28-Mar 4, 2013

Alder Creek hosted this ACA IDW for River Kayaking; Photo: Andrew Romanelli

Recently, Malcolm Kelly, Steve Pilch, and myself participated in an American Canoe Association IDW to certify as whitewater instructors. There were seven candidates in all, and the course was lead by Instructor Trainer Ben Morton while assisted by Paul Kuthe and Heather Herbeck. Thanks to our excellent instructors, I learned far more than I had anticipated, bettering myself as a paddler and instructor. Ben, Paul, and Heather ran a focused yet fun course!

Instructor Trainer Ben Morton; Photo: John Whittenberger

If you find an opportunity to receive any instruction from Ben, Paul, or Heather, you shouldn’t pass it up. Ben Morton is enthusiastic, friendly, and has excellent group skills, teaching to everyone’s individual needs. I think each candidate received not only the instruction they needed but also a clear progression to continue learning and elevate our performance. Though I work with Paul Kuthe at Alder Creek, our schedules don’t allow much opportunity to receive instruction from him. It was great to experience Paul’s teaching from the position of a student! If you live in the Portland area, I strongly encourage you to pursue coaching from Paul. Check out some programs through Alder Creek and local paddling clubs! This weekend was also my first time meeting Heather Herbeck. Full of smiles and encouragement, I found Heather’s teaching style to be very informative and supportive. Based out of the Columbia Gorge, keep your ears peeled for instructional opportunities from Heather “All Smiles” Herbeck!

Instructors Heather Herbeck and Paul Kuthe; Photo: John Whittenberger

I cannot express just how much value I got out of this course, and I highly recommend this course for anyone looking to improve their river skills, especially if you aspire to lead or instruct friends, clubs, or clients!  This four and a half day course was spent mostly on the water.  Day 1 was spent covering Level 1 flatwater skills, followed by an evening pool session.  Day 2 introduced class I/II moving water on the Clackamas River.  Day 3 was spent on a class II/III stretch of the Washougal River, and the final day wrapped up Level 4 curriculum on Bull Run.  I was exhausted by the final day!  Between four, full days of paddling and working in the evenings, I had to turn lunchtime into some naptime!  Thankfully, the weather was incredible through the entire course.

Soakin up the sun! Photo: John Whittenberger

As a paddler, this course greatly improved my self awareness, cleaning up my lazy strokes and self-taught bad habits. Video assessment is not only humbling, it helped me make a connection between what I perceive myself as doing and what I’m actually doing!

Rescue practice on the Washougal River; Photo: Andrew Romanelli

As an instructor and guide, this course involved a great deal of discussion about learning styles and teaching methods. These discussions helped me assess my own learning style and understand other learning styles. Group management and rescues were other invaluable modules during the training and certification course.

Day 1; Photo: John Whittenberger

Day 2; Photo: John Whittenberger

Day 3; Photo: John Whittenberger

Day 4; Photo: John Whittenberger

This course was highly beneficial as a skill assessment and training program, and it leaves you with a clear progression for skill refinement and advancement!  Working from Level 1 to Level 4, you get a clear understanding of a paddler’s foundations on flatwater that encourage success in more dynamic environments.  Rather than having to certify in each level individually, as with the BCU, the ACA allows you to certify along the leveled progression where your abilities stand.  Afterwards, Instructor Candidates get to discuss what comes next as both an instructor and a paddler.

Beautiful weather and scenery! Photo: Andrew Romanelli

I whole-heartedly encourage paddlers so seek instruction from Ben Morton, Paul Kuthe, and Heather Herbeck, and keep your ears open for assessment and training courses from the ACA!

A huge thanks to my bosses and coworkers for helping make this opportunity possible for me!  See you on the water.

-Andrew Romanelli

ACA IDW Instructors and Candidates; Photo: Andrew Romanelli

Indian Beach, OR: June 2012

The surf report was calling for a NW swell at 4ft/9sec, 60F and on-shore winds peaking at 12mph. The coast was calling! So we met at the shop, loaded sea kayaks and surf kayaks, got our coffee and pushed west.

The drive to the coast is always a gorgeous one, but I never know what the weather will be like until I make it over the Coastal Range. Sometimes weather in the valley matches that on the coast, but it is often different. This particular Monday, the carload drove quietly up and over the summit, commenting on the light rain and cloud cover, speculating on what we might find. To our delight, we descended upon the coast with partial cloud cover, air temp in the 60’s and no rain! Now, rain certainly doesn’t bother us (especially in drysuits), but I’m a big fan of the sun.

When we arrived at the beach, the surf was still setting up, so Malcolm and I set out in the long boats. I’ve always wondered what was around the northern point of Indian Beach. Turns out there is a cool arch, some good pour-overs, and a bunch of seals!

By the time we got back to the beach, the surf had set up! Malcolm grabbed a surf kayak right away, but I played around a bit in the long boat before laying on the beach.

We closed the day with a burger and beer, arriving back in Portland tired and content.

-Andrew Romanelli

This was my first trip to the beach with Team Alder Creek.

What a day! Sun splitting the sky, surf rising: Andrew and I started with the sea kayaks. As we headed out past the surf break we were joined by many large seals. After a short paddle, we headed back through the rock crops. It was rather fun as I was thrown about near the rocks in the big swells.

Then we switched out the sea kayaks for the surf boats! This was the first time I have used a surf kayak; what a blast! I have always surfed in long boats or whitewater boats with good rails, but the fins in the surf kayaks give you so much control! This makes surfing so easy. Or so I thought until I was hit by a few large waves as I tried to get back out through the impact zone. Still had a blast!

-Malcolm Kelly

Willamette River launch Points

Willamette River Launch Sites
click on launch site or boat ramp to get more information.


Kelly Point Park Boat Ramp, on the Columbia Slough

Kelly Point Park Boat Ramp is about 100 yards inside of Kelly Point Park on the northeast side of The Columbia Slough.  This is a rough and relatively undeveloped boat ramp with a dirt and gravel parking lot. The Kelly Point Park boat ramp also provide access to paddling on the Columbia Slough and access through the slough to Smith and Bybee Lakes, as well as to The Willamette.Kelly Point Park
N Lombard St & N Marine Dr
Portland, OR 97203

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Cathedral Park Boat Ramp, below the St. Johns Bridge

Located in the shadow of the St Johns Bridge is one of Portland’s larger boat ramps, the Cathedral Park boat ramp. This is excellent take-out for those wishing to tour through Portland’s working inner harbor.Cathedral Park
N Edison & N Pittsburg
Portland, OR 97203

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Swan Island Boat Ramp

Located in the NE corner of The Swan Island Lagoon is one of Portland’s hidden away boat ramps, The Port of Portland’s Swan Island Boat Ramp.Swan Island Boat Ramp
N Emerson & N Basin
Portland, OR 97212

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River Place Marina

SW Portland’s River Place Marina allows paddlers to carry down boats and launch from one of their docks. Call The Portland River Company at 503.229.0551 with questions about launching at River Place. Free parking is not available at River Place and you will likely have to carry your boat a long way from whatever parking you do find.River Place Marina
0315 SW Montgomery
Portland, OR 97201

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Portland Boathouse Dock

Why not come and launch your paddle craft at Alder Creek’s Portland Boat House location? There is abundant free parking and a large dock to launch from.  Call Alder Creek at 503.285.1819  for more information about  launching at The Portland Boat House.Alder Creek in the Portland Boat House
49 SE Clay St.
Portland, OR 97214

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Willamette Park

SW Portland’s boat ramp is Willamette Park.  Willamette Park has nice facilities and charges a usage feepart of the year.Willamette Park
SW Macadam & Nebraska
Portland, OR  97219

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Sellwood Riverfront Park

Just north of the Sellwood Bridge is another put-in option on the Willamette River, at Sellwood Riverfront Park.  Putting in here requires that you carry your boat a minimum of 50 yards to the water.Sellwood Riverfront Park
SE Spokane & Oaks Parkway
Portland, OR  97202

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Jefferson Street Boat Ramp

Need a place to put-in from Milwaukie? The Jefferson Street Boat Ramp is the boat ramp of choice. Eventually this boat ramp is going to be part of a larger waterfront part in Milwaukie. Finding parking here during the summer can be an issue.Jefferson Street Boat Ramp
Se Mcloughlin Blvd & Se Jefferson St
Milwaukie, OR 97222

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George Rodgers Park

Near the outlet of Lake Oswego into the Willamette is another potential put-in or take out for paddling, George Rodgers Park. Putting-in at George Rodgers Park will require you to carry your boat about a hundred yards to the water.George Rodgers Park
611 N State St.
Lake Oswego, OR 97034

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Cedar Oak Boat Ramp

West Linn’s favorite boat ramp is the Cedar Oak Boat Ramp located in close proximity to Cedar Island Park.Cedar Oak Boat Ramp
Nixon Ave & Elmran Dr
West Linn, OR 97068

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Clackamette Park

Clackamette Park is the last put-in option before reaching Willamette Falls in Oregon City. This park is located at the confluence of the Clackamas and Willamette Rivers hence the name, Clackamette.Clackamette Park
Clackamette Dr & Main St
Oregon City, OR 97054

Columbia River Launch Points

Lower Columbia River Launch Sites
click on launch site or boat ramp to get more information.


Caterpillar Island Boat Ramp

Located a few miles further North on Lower River Rd. past Frenchman’s Bar Regional Park is Caterpillar Island Boat.  Caterpillar Island Boat is the last boat ramp on the Washington side of The Columbia until you reach Ridgefield, WA.Caterpillar Island Boat Ramp
NW Lower River Road (Between mile posts 8 and 9)
Vancouver, WA

Directions: Exit I-5,  West onto Mill Plain or Fourth Plain. Beyond Fruit Valley Rd. Mill Plain and Fourth Plain Merge into Lower River Road, continue driving West past Vancouver Lake and Frenchman’s Bar Park until you reach the boat ramp beyond the marina.

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Blueroc Landing, Vancouver Lake Outlet

Just west of Vancouver Lake is Bluroc Landing, Vancouver Lake’s outlet into the Columbia. This spot is a convenient take-out a few miles past The Port of Vancouver.  You will have to carry your boat about 75 yards to and from the water here.Bluroc Landing, Vancouver Lake Outlet
NW Lower River Road (1/3 West of Vancouver Lake)
Vancouver, WA

Directions: Exit I-5, West onto Mill Plain or Fourth Plain. Beyond Fruit Valley Rd. Mill Plain and Fourth Plain Merge into Lower River Road, continue driving West past Vancouver Lake.  Turn into the pull-out at the first 90 degree corner 1/3 of mile past Vancouver Lake.


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Vancouver Lake Park

If the conditions on the Columbia are not to your liking Vancouver Lake often offers more sheltered conditions.  This park charges an access fee during summer months.Vancouver Lake Park
6801 NW Lower River Road
Vancouver, WA 98660

Directions: Exit I-5 west onto Mill Plain or Fourth Plain. Beyond Fruit Valley Rd. Mill Plain and Fourth Plain Merge into Lower River Road, continue driving West , follow the signs to Vancouver Lake.

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Kelly Point Park

Kelly Point Park Boat Ramp is about 100 yards inside of Kelly Point Park on the Northeast side of The Columbia Slough.  This is a rough and relatively undeveloped boat ramp with a dirt and gravel parking lot. The Kelly Point Park boat ramp also provide access to paddling on the Columbia Slough and access through the slough to Smith and Bybee Lakes, as well as to The Willamette. Kelly Point Park
N Lombard St & N Marine Dr
Portland, OR 97203

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Vancouver Landing

A couple of hundred yards west of the I-5 bridge just behind The Red Lion’s Inn at The Quay is Vancouver Landing a public dock and temporary moorage area. Vancouver Landing is a nice takeout usually with plenty of parking.Vancouver Landing
100 Columbia (just behind The Inn at The Quay)
Vancouver, WA 98600

Directions: Exit I-5 West onto Mill Plain or Fourth Plain. Drive West a few lights and then turn left and head South on Columbia.  Continue on Columbia past Esther Short Park (with fountains and clock tower) until you pass under a mural covered railroad bridge. Turn left just past the railroad bridge and cruise to the back of the parking lots to access Vancouver Landing.

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Waterfront Park

A quarter mile East of the I-5 Bridge is another take-out option, Vancouver’s popular Waterfront Park.  The park offers close access to the water but no boat ramp. Finding parking here can often be a problem.Waterfront Park
115 Columbia Way
Vancouver, WA 98661

Directions: Exit I-5 West onto Mill Plain or Fourth Plain. Drive West a few lights and then turn left and head South on Columbia.  Continue on Columbia past Esther Short Park (with fountains and clock tower) and under the I-5 bridge.  Just past the waterfront restaurants are the two parking lots for Riverfront park, .25 miles East of the I-5 Bridge.

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Marine Park

Vancouver’s largest boat ramp is Marine Park just East of the old Kaiser Ship Yards where Victory Ship were built during WWII.  Marine Park has a large multi lane boat ramp and a wide beach both of which function well as put-in or take-out for a paddling adventure. $4 fee per car is charged here during the summer.Marine Park
SE Marine Park Way & Columbia Way
Vancouver, WA 98661

Directions:  Take Exit 1 on Washington State Route 14 and head south toward the river.  Turn left onto Columbia Way and follow the signs to Marine Park.

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Wintler Park

Conveniently located about half way between the I-5 and I-205 bridges, Wintler Park is the last  put-in or take-out heading East on the Washington Side of the river before you reach Washougal.Winter Park
6400 Beach Drive

Vancouver, WA 98661

Directions:  From Washington State Route 14 eastbound take Exit 3. Turn right, then take an immediate left onto Beach Drive and proceed downhill to the park.

From Washington State Route 14 westbound take Exit 3. Drive until you can make the first left onto Columbia and drive down hill.  Once you have crossed SR 14 on an overpass take the next right onto Beach Drive and proceed downhill to the park.

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North Portland Alder Creek

The North Portland Alder Creek provides river access through McCuddy’s Marina during daylight hours.  This put-in and take-out is a great one to use especially if you are renting boats from Alder Creek and also has a great post paddling stop available at The Island Cafe.North Portland Alder Creek Kayak and Canoe
250 NE Tomahawk Island Dr.
Portland, OR 97217

Click here for detailed directions

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Gleason Boat Ramp & Broughton Beach

Located adjacent to western edge of the Portland Airport on Marine Drive are Broughton Beach and the Gleason Boat Ramp.  These are both popular sites during the summer, parking can be an issue on weekends. $4 per car is charged at the Gleason Boat Ramp.  Broughton Beach is free but you will have to carry your boat a little further.Gleason Boat Ramp & Broughton Beach
NE 43 Ave & Marine Drive

Portland, OR

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I-205 Take-out

300 yards West of I-205 on Marine Drive is an undeveloped take out with abundant parking.I-205 Take-out
300 yards West of I-205 and N Marine Dr

Portland, OR

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Chinook Landing

Chinook Landing Marine Park, a 67-acre marine park with six launching lanes on the Columbia River, is the largest public boating facility in Oregon. The park offers picnic and viewing areas, wetland and wildlife habitat, restrooms and a seasonal river patrol station. Chinook Landing is adjacent to Blue Lake Park and a year round $5 user fee is charged.Chinook Landing is located between Marine Drive and Sandy Boulevard off Northeast 223rd Avenue. From Interstate 84, take the Fairview exit (14) and go north on 207th Avenue to Sandy Boulevard. Turn right onto Sandy and travel east to 223rd and turn left. Proceed north to Blue Lake Road and the park.

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3rd Street Boat Ramp

Located in the heart of a commercial marina, Washougal’s 3rd Street boat ramp is only occasionally used by paddlers.3rd Street Boat Ramp
3rd Street & SR 14
Washougal, WA

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Steamboat Landing Park

Located at the 15th St. light on SR 14 in Washougal, WA.  Steamboat landing is the most popular boat ramp with paddlers paddling downstream out of the gorge or looking to start a long day tour ending in Portland or Vancouver.Steamboat Landing Park
15th St. & SR 14
Washougal, WA

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Cottonwood Beach

Undeveloped sand beach located on Columbia River in vicinity of Reed Island. Popular 75-acre site during summer for swimming, paddling, and picnicking.  Adjacent to the boat access only Reed Island Park.Cottonwood Beach
34th St & Index St
Washougal, WA

Directions:  From Washington State Route 14 in Washougal exit on 34th St and head South toward the river.  When 34th St. ends, parking is available on the left.