By Brett Gallagher
With Oregon summer in full bloom, there’s no better time than now to paddle down one of Oregon’s amazing rivers. Oregon has over 35,000 miles of named rivers and Oregonians have a long history as boaters. If you’re new to the state, or just looking to dust off that river gear and get back out there, Oregon has several Wild and Scenic rivers and ample opportunities for fun in the sun this summer.
There are many ways to get out and enjoy our local rivers, personally I’m a huge fan of paddling a raft or a kayak. Contrary to popular belief, you don’t need to be an expert paddler to get out and enjoy yourself. Access to popular rivers is amazingly easy here in Oregon, with options of amazing whitewater, calm lagoons and peaceful river floats. Not sure which adventure is right for you? Jump on a tour with a professional guide service. I am usually a huge advocate of Do-it-Yourself and jumping in with both feet (literally), however, watersports can be extremely dangerous and rivers in Oregon take several lives each year. So if you are a true beginner, I advocate taking a tour with a reputable guide service to learn some basic skills and water safety principles before going it alone.
Another benefit to using a guide service: They will have all the gear and equipment you need to try your hand at paddling without draining your bank account. I too have been convinced by mass marketing and the salesman at the REI that I needed to max out my credit card to prepare for an adventure, but taking a step back and trying a few different styles, models, makes, sizes will help you make the best long-term decision. Additionally, us professional guide types tend to geek out on gear and are more than happy to share our opinions, our accumulated experience (and sometimes wisdom) with anyone interested enough to ask
What should I paddle?
Kayaks and Rafts and SUPs, Oh My!
With so many options available these days, it might be hard to know what type of boat suits you best. From classic crafts like canoes and kayaks, to rafts, to fancy new carbon-fiber Stand-Up Paddleboards, the options can be overwhelming. Being able to try before you buy is imperative, as all these boats have different uses.
Kayaking as a sport is continuing to grow in popularity. The kayak has a long history as a vehicle for fishing and hunting. Eskimos originally built kayaks out of wooded frames, covered with seal-skins, with air-filled bladders inside them. Kayak technology has come a long-way, and now there are several types of kayak on the market. From play-boats, to touring kayaks, to whitewater creek boats, kayaks have many different uses. Kayaks are a great option for the independent paddler, someone looking for solitude or a personal challenge. Learning to kayak can be quite easy in a sit-on-top kayak, and Oregon has some of the best flat-water thru paddles in the country. We love kayaking the Willamette and are pretty sure you will too! For daily tours in the Corvallis area, Cascadia Expeditions offers both half-day and full-day kayaking adventures. If you’re looking to go on your own, there is an excellent map of the Willamette water trail, you can find a copy on their website at www.willamettewatertrail.org.
Rafting is one of my very favorite activities. Big, inflatable and able to carry tons of gear, the raft is definitely my boat of choice for most trips. I love the social aspect of being able to grab a group of friends and head off the grid to some of Oregon’s most beautiful areas.Rafts are essentially gear barges, super forgivingon mellow whitewater and provide a stable platform to kick back and relax. Our favorite rivers are the Grande Ronde and John Day (April – June) and the Deschutes, McKenzie and North Santiam rivers during the heat of the summer. Day trips are great for the thrill-seeker, family or team-building adventure, whereas an overnight trip really allows you to get off the grid and relax. Check boating regulations before you go, and know there is a HUGE difference between a $200 plastic raft you buy at the local sporting goods store and a reputable whitewaterraftthat can cost thousands of dollars. We’vehad to rescue more than one group who didn’t appreciate the difference. Give us a call if you have any questions!
Stand Up Paddleboard
The Stand-Up-Paddleboard (SUP) craze is in full swing here in Oregon, as more and more people take the rivers and lakes to try out this fun and challenging exercise. SUPping is a great way to get a core workout and challenge yourself to try a new activity. Several types of boards are on the market, however the price tags can be astronomical, so we advocate hopping on a tour or renting to try out a few different types of board before you buy. From touring boards to whitewater SUPs, there’s really something for everyone and they’re a lot of fun. Just be prepared for a great workout!
With river season in full-swing, I hope you get outside and take advantage of all the amazing paddling Oregon has to offer. Be sure to wear your life-jacket, know the area before you go and give me a call if you have any questions! We’re always happy to usher new paddlers into this fulfilling sport.