As a coastal state, Oregon provides plenty of opportunities for kayaking. From its pristine beaches to its gorgeous lakes, many places are worth checking out. Whether you are just starting to learn how to kayak or already an expert, it has a diverse landscape, which means that there is something for everyone!
The best thing is that you can go kayaking in Oregon throughout the year. Even during the winter season, you can enjoy paddling, just make sure to be ready with your winter kayak gear for a safe and comfortable experience.
1. Willamette River
If you are looking for the best places to go kayaking near Portland, the Willamette River is one that should not be missed. It is a great choice for novices who are preparing to face the open water. The main channel is wide and calm while offering majestic city views. It also provides opportunities to see wildlife, including eagles, heron, and osprey.
The Willamette River is a part of the 20 National Water Trails of the United States. It has a total of 187 miles and includes access to campsites for those who would like to go on a kayaking trip for more than a day.
With the contrast of the urban and rural landscape that you can enjoy while at the Willamette River, it is an ideal place to bring your tandem kayak. The views are best enjoyed when you are paddling with someone!
2. Columbia River
This is another must-see for those who would like to go kayaking near Portland since it is located just at the city’s northern end. It serves as the border between Oregon and Washington. One of the important things to note is that it is a large body of water, so kayaking here can be exhausting depending on how far and long you would like to go.
While the place is easily accessible, this is not the best place to go if you are looking for relaxation. You will be sharing the river with speedboats and even cargo boats, so it can be pretty crowded and noisy.
Just nearby Columbia River, there are other kayaking destinations that you might find interesting, such as Hood River and White Salmon. Also, parallel to the river is the Columbia Slough Watershed.
3. Deschutes River
Located in Bend, Oregon, this is a scenic and historic river, making it another favorite place for paddlers. Salmon and trout are also common in the river, which makes it the perfect choice for those who would like to have a fresh catch during their kayaking trip. Make sure to complete your accessories before you go, such as kayak fishing nets and kayak fishing rods.
If you are planning to go, take note that it is slightly challenging, so be sure to have a top-notch whitewater kayak that could take the environmental conditions. You can experience Class I to Class VI rapids when kayaking here, making it important to be armed with the knowledge and skills that will ensure a safe paddling experience.
For the less experienced paddlers, it is best to go to Upper Deschutes River, a part of the river that is known to be calmer and more forgiving.
4. Alton Baker Canal
With a length of just two miles, this kayaking route starts at Springfield. The water flows through Alton Baker Park and the endpoint will be at Willamette River. This is one of the best places where you can brush up on your kayaking skills as it is gifted with calm and flat water. Best of all, it is in a central location, so you do not have to go far to practice proper kayak paddling techniques.
The depth of the water is not more than four feet and its width is no more than 30 yards. With such shallow conditions, there is no wonder why it is a favorite of many novice paddlers who would like to go kayaking near Portland.
5. Siuslaw River
If you are looking for a long kayaking experience, this is one of the best places worth checking out. The Siuslaw Estuary Water Trail spans 30 miles, which will take you along Mapleton and Central Oregon Coast. For a day trip, you can explore the part that runs between Florence to Mapleton.
Many sections of the river can be difficult to navigate. Plus, it is not exclusive to paddlers as it is often crowded with motorized boats, including fishing vessels. This makes it important to be a trained kayaker before you head to Siuslaw River. From the fundamentals of kayak strokes to the basics of kayak self-rescue, be armed with the right knowledge before you head out.
This is a tidal river, which means that you can also enjoy gorgeous views of the surrounding wildlife. It is not surprising to spot blue herons, ospreys, and sea otters during your paddling adventure in the Siuslaw River.
6. Rogue River
For the advanced paddlers in search of the best destinations for kayaking in Oregon, the Rogue River is not to be missed. It has a total length of 43 miles, which flows through the Cascade Mountains. The journey will start in a calm and flat section of the river, providing you with the time to get acquainted with what lies ahead. After this, you will be facing small rapids and more challenging parts.
It is designated as one of the Wild and Scenic Rivers, making it a bucket list for many paddlers. It is also an ideal choice if you are planning for a multi-day kayaking trip. To enjoy the river and stay safe during your adventure, be sure that you know the basics of rough water kayaking to be prepared for the conditions that can confront you.
More than the rapids, it is an ideal whitewater kayaking destination because of the gorgeous views that will unfold before your eyes as you paddle. From diverse wildlife to the towering trees, it is sure to be a visual feast while you embark on a thrilling adventure.
7. Chetco River
If you want to experience a rustic kayaking trip, this is one of the places where you should go when you are in Oregon. It is a remote river, so you can expect that it won’t be as crowded as most of the destinations that are included in this list. To be able to reach the river, you need to go on a hike. It has a tough but scenic trail. It can be physically exhausting for beginners. There are kayaking expeditions in the area that can last for up to ten days, which is inclusive of a hike for 10 miles.
The Chetco River has Class III and IV rapids, so it is best to head here only if you are an experienced kayaker. While you might think inflatable kayaks or folding kayaks are best to bring because they are lightweight, we suggest that you use only hard-shell kayaks to withstand the rocks and rapids. We suggest that you bring a lightweight but tough kayak.
8. Sparks Lake
Thinking of the best place where you can bring your river / fly fishing kayak? For sure, you will never go wrong when you choose Sparks Lake. It is a gorgeous and secluded destination that does not allow motorized boats, making it possible for you to enjoy the beauty and tranquility of the place. It has unique lava formations and scenic mountain ranges that will be a feast for the eyes.
If you want to do nature photography while on a kayaking trip, you have a good reason to check out this must-see destination for kayaking in Oregon. You will get an awesome view of the 10,000-foot South Sister, which will serve as your backdrop as you paddle.
9. Hosmer Lake
This is a kayaking destination that forms part of the Cascade Lakes, which is located in Central Oregon. It has flat and sheltered water, which will make it the perfect choice for beginners. The lake is also popular for offering dramatic views of Mount Bachelor, Broken Top, and South Sister. The water is also so clear that you can easily see the fish underneath.
If you decide to explore Hosmer Lake on a kayak or canoe, you should know that it is divided into three areas. You start at the southern end, which is an exposed part, so you can expect strong winds. The next is the central channel, which is known for its clear water and diverse wildlife, including red-winged blackbirds. The third part is the northern end, which will lead you to a shallow lake.
10. Tillamook Coast
The last on our list is not a single location but a collection of different places where you can go kayaking in Oregon. If you are new to kayaking, Lake Lytle and Cape Meares are two of the places that are worth your time. Nehalem River, which converges with Nehalem Bay, is another great place to get started.
For gorgeous views, while paddling, Garibaldi and Rockaway Beach hold a lot of promise, especially if you are a beginner. Specifically, at The Three Graces, you will see huge stone outcroppings.
For those who are more experienced, on the other hand, the Jones Creek Forest Camp will be an excellent pick. You will be navigating a total of 16.6 miles, which is one of the best places to bring your whitewater kayak.
Several guided tours are offered in the area. You can even rent your own boat, so you don’t have to think about how to strap a kayak to a roof rack. If you want to go on your own, be sure to download the maps provided by Tillamook Estuaries Partnership for a hassle-free way of exploring the area.
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Whether it is on a calm creek, oceans with challenging waves, or rivers with roaring rapids, there is a place where you can go kayaking in Oregon. Be sure to check out the places that we have recommended above for the best experience in this coastal state! So, get your kayak ready and it is now time to explore Oregon!
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