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