From long epic miles to gentle bays for birdwatching, there is an adventure for anyone on the Lower Columbia River Water Trail. All you need is a kayak, canoe or stand up paddleboard to launch. The Water Trail stretches 146 river miles from Bonneville Dam to the Pacific Ocean, and that is hundreds of miles of shoreline you can explore. Paddling is our #11 reason to Love the Lower Columbia.
If you're not sure where to start, here are four ideas, starting near the estuary. Our thanks to Neil Schulman for writing most of our featured trip reports!
- Youngs Bay
Youngs Bay sits between Warrenton and Astoria and is fed by the Youngs, Lewis and Clark and Skipanon rivers. Paddling Youngs Bay gives you a unique view of the Astoria Port and waterfront, views of the Coast Range and Saddle Mountain, and slow-moving tidal rivers that pass through a mix of rural residential and forest lands.
Launch and Landing: Netul landing, ¼ mile south of Fort Clatsop. Other launch options are Youngs Bay Marine Park for exploring the Youngs River and the Warrenton Marina for access to the Skipanon.
Distance: 2 miles to Youngs Bay from Netul Landing, another 2 to Smith Point
Chart: NOAA Chart 18521, Columbia River, Pacific Ocean to Harrington Point
Skill level: Beginner to Intermediate, depending on conditions
Tide Tables: Astoria (Youngs Bay)
- Skamokawa to Brookfield Point
Skamokawa is a little town along the Columbia that is home to our friends at Columbia River Kayaking, who are a great resource if you need to rent a kayak, take a class, or get a guided paddling tour. Six miles downriver is Brookfield Point, a rocky, cliffy point that makes a fine destination. To lessen the work of paddling back upriver, time this trip to head downriver on a slack tide, and back upriver on an incoming tide if you can.
Launch and Land: Skamokawa Vista Park
Distance: 12 miles round-trip
Chart: NOAA Chart 18523, Crims Island to Harrington Point
Skill level: Intermediate to Advanced, depending on conditions
Tide Tables: Skamokawa, WA
- Scappoose Bay
One of our favorite places to paddle with youth, Scappoose Bay provides lots of opportunities to explore and spot birds and other wildlife. It is an intricate web of wetlands and mostly unnamed creeks, tributaries and channels that meander and curve and switchback and slice through islands and veer into lakes and flow into each other. Be sure to check out Next Adventure's Scappoose Bay Paddling Center right next to the Bay if you need a rental or new gear.
Launch/Landing: Scappoose Bay Marine Park
Distance: 2-5 miles round trip
Skill Level: Beginner
Charts: NOAA 18524, Columbia River: Crims Island to St. Helens
Tide Tables: Multnomah Channel - Scappoose Bay
- Cape Horn
A different way to see the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area! Dalton Point is gateway to geologic beauties like Phoca Rock and Cape Horn, as well as fine sandy beaches of Sand Island and Rooster Rock State Park. This area can be as calm as glass, or hazardous with winds and rough water, or both in a matter of minutes!
Launch/Landing: Dalton Point, Oregon
Distance: 1-6 miles round trip
Skill Level: Intermediate to Advanced
Chart: NOAA 18531, Columbia River: Vancouver to Bonneville
Tide Tables: Ellsworth, WA (estimate)
And that's just on the main stem of the Columbia! There's also the Lewis River-Vancouver Lake Water Trail. The Willamette Water Trail. The Sandy River Water Trail. The Tualatin River Water Trail. And many more tributaries that are navigable by rafts and kayaks.