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Places to paddle around Portland

Whether you prefer a kayak, canoe, or SUP, there are many rivers and lake around Portland where you can go for a float.

A ramp leads down to a river dock with skyscrapers on the other side of the water

See downtown from a different perspective. | Photo via @jose.morales.photography

Table of Contents

Kayaking, canoeing, and paddleboarding are great ways to explore the Portland area. These water sports also offer both physical and mental health benefits that extend far beyond a day on the water.

A blue kayak floats on a glassy river

In Southwest Washington, the Lewis River is a good introduction for beginners. | Photo via PDXtoday

Photo by Cambrie Juarez, PDXtoday

Know the flow

Before we dive in, let’s get a lay of the land (er, water). Check out these unique facts about our region’s main rivers:

  • The Columbia River is the largest river by flow in North America that empties into the Pacific Ocean — 265,000 cubic ft per second on average at its mouth. It also produces the most hydroelectric power on the continent, representing a third of this type of energy source in the US.
  • 11,487 sq miles drain into the Willamette River watershed, or nearly 12% of Oregon. Its source in the Cascade Range, Waldo Lake, is considered one of the purest lakes in the world.
A person sits in the bow of a canoe with a bridge looming large in front of them

Let’s see your best Lewis + Clark impersonations. | Photo via @toriatheexplorer

Photo via @toriatheexplorer

Where the map turns blue

Here are a few local options for getting your feet wet:

Cathedral Park, 6635 N. Baltimore Ave.
Gaze up at the vaulted underbelly of the St. Johns Bridge, Portland’s tallest.

Willamette Falls, 120 McLoughlin Blvd., Oregon City
From the boat launch at Jon Storm Park, paddle 1.5 miles upriver to feel the mist on your face from the second largest waterfall by volume in the country.

Rooster Rock State Park, Interstate 84, Corbett
You can either keep close to the shoreline to watch Columbia River windsurfers, or venture to the calm lagoon beneath the basalt cliffs where the Vista House is perched.

Hagg Lake, Gaston
Half of this large Washington County lake is a wake-free zone, and you can actually rent a kayak for the day through the parks department. Life jackets are also available to loan.

Trillium Lake, NF-2612, Government Camp
Watching the sunrise over Mount Hood while floating these tranquil waters is a bucket list experience.

Silverton Reservoir, 4381 Silver Falls Drive NE, Silverton
No gas motors are allowed on this small lake which also sports floating swimming platforms. Parking is limited and costs $5.

Sellwood Riverfront Park, 1221 SE Oaks Park Way
Set a course for the south end of the city to do a little people and dog watching along the shoreline and maybe even house hunt for a floating home.

Use our map below to explore even more destinations and contribute your own favorites.

Before you float

Last but not least, we should talk about paddling safety so you don’t capsize:

  • Always wear a PFD (personal flotation device).
  • If you’re going paddling earlier in the season, make sure to dress for the water temperature.
  • Start small. Water, especially flowing water, can be intimidating. First-timers should opt for a small lake, pond, or city canal. You don’t want to get in over your head.
  • Consider a guided adventure from Portland Kayak Company before heading out on your own.
  • For a fully detailed list of do’s and dont’s, check out this paddling safety guide.
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