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Kayaking, canoeing, and paddleboarding destinations near Portland, OR

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

Kayaking, canoeing + 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.

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

  • 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 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 blue kayak floats on a glassy river

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

Next, we should talk about paddling safety, so you don’t capsize:

  • Always wear a PFD or personal flotation device.
  • 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 + dont’s, check out this paddling safety guide.
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

And finally, here are a few local options for getting your feet wet:

  • Cathedral Park, 6635 N. Baltimore Ave. | 20-minute drive | Gaze up at the vaulted underbelly of the St. Johns Bridge, Portland’s tallest.
  • Willamette Falls, 120 McLoughlin Blvd., Oregon City | 25-minute drive | 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 | 40-minute drive | 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.
  • Trillium Lake, NF-2612, Government Camp | 1.5-hour drive | Watching the sunrise over Mount Hood while floating these tranquil waters is a bucket list experience.

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

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