My Columbia River - Ken Karch

We pulled into the Knappton boat launch area looking for a possible camp site, and found it essentially flooded. We were now on that stretch of the Washington shore where the highway runs along the shore, which is rip-rapped, and there is little in the way of camp sites available. We had realized that we were committed to go all the way to Chinook if we proceeded beyond Portuguese/Grays Point, but felt we could do it with the good tidal current and a little help from only modestly opposing winds.

We rounded Knappton Point, passed by Cliff Point and the highway rest stop, and shot past Point Ellice at 8-10 miles per hour amid 4-6 foot standing and confused waves and swells. Point Ellice held Lewis and Clark for five days in their passage here (and it is no wonder, given the open log canoes they had). We were tossed around like leaves, and many times submerged the noses of our kayaks before they muscled their way to the surface. We slowed down about a half-mile further as we came up on the McGowan church and Lewis and Clark’s Station Camp. While we would have liked to stop here, the shore is rip-rapped and dangerous to try to land, and time was drawing near for the final dash to a safe harbor before night.

We paddled past Station Camp and around Chinook Point, where we found several beautiful little rock coves with sand beaches, but weren’t ready to stop for the night (nor were we sure it would be legal to do so). At this point we saw the way ahead was covered with thousands of decaying wood pilings as far as the eye could see, the water levels had receded substantially and we were almost continuously hitting the sand bottom with our paddles. Bernie had kayaked this stretch once before and knew the serpentine way to the Port of Chinook navigation channel, so we followed his instincts, being now in a race between the falling water level; high, cold winds; a setting sun; and a dense fog bank coming on the western horizon which threatened to obscure the sun within an hour, and before it actually set. With 90 minutes of continuous, hard paddling, we finally reached the navigation channel and proceeded into the Port of Chinook marina, where we pulled our boats out, donned some dry clothes, checked out the overnight accommodations, and decided to call it a trip. Local queries indicated that weather was expected to be foggy and cold with high winds and seas the following day, and we were encouraged to stay off the water. We took the advice.

Ken Karch and Bernie Gerkens paddled most of the Lower Columbia River Water Trail one year in late August. View Karch’s Full Trip Report, which includes passages from the Lewis and Clark journals, and his overall impressions of the trip.