Monday, September 17, 2007

Columbia River Water Trail - Resources

This is a multi-part posting related to the paddle we just did down the Columbia River Water Trail. The parts are:

Part 1 - Basics of the trip
Part 2 - the Trip
Part 3 - Animals seen
Part 4 - Resources for others interested in this trip
Part 5 - Some pics of me that Brian took


Part 4 - Resources:
This trip was quite fun, and recommended. It has many things going for it that would allow someone with a little kayak camping experience to complete it. Added to this is some useful information out there which would help you along the way.

One book that was quite informative for us was the book The Lewis and Clark Columbia River Water Trail: A Guide for Paddlers, Hikers, and Other Explorers (click link to see this book and its reviews at Amazon). This book provides information on launch sites, camp sites, etc., and was useful enough day to day that Brian and Janet brought it with them on the trip.

The other product that we found helpful is the Fish-N-Map Company's Columbia River, Lower (Bonneville Dam to the Pacific Ocean) map. This fold out map is printed on waterproof paper, so I was able to keep it on my deck most of the time. It provided details that the book didn't, such as what areas would be above water at low tide. Not as detailed as the official charts, but this trip would require some $1000 in charts, where this map was under $10.

And of course, the Internet has some resources. Specifically, the web site has a lot of useful information. One of our paddle partners found this to be a bit too static, with information that seemed out of date in places, so he put together a Wiki for this watertrail at, which lets people add or change the content. To start with, the places we stopped at are posted in it.

All of these above don't provide a detailed enough picture needed, so local knowledge is needed. The local kayak shops and kayakers provided a lot of helpful information. Some shout outs:

The first source was Steve ("Flatpick" on, who lives in the area and used to be an owner of Alder Creek Kayaks. He humored me and continued to provide responses to my dozens of emails.

Sandy ("PaddlePirate" on - It was good meeting you at Government Island, and thanks for the info you had.

Alder Creek Kayak and Canoe - great retail store right on the water in Portland. We were able to hire them to do the shuttle for us to get us back from Cape Disappointment to Bonneville (a 3 hour drive). They also provided a lot of useful information for us.

Scappoose Bay Kayaks - the owner went way out of his way, even giving us his cell phone number and offering to get us anything or come out in his boat to pick us up in an emergency. And while we waited there for the tide to turn, he let us use their showers. This shop does have an option if you don't want to do the trip on your own or have less time - a guided/supported 2 to 4 day trips of the lower half of our trip.

Skamokawa Kayaks - these folks let us hang out and wait for the tide to turn, along with provide a lot of info on options for camping and where to go for the last leg of the trip.

Brian has made a Columbia River Water Trail Wiki, so people can add and update information for future paddlers.

Some thoughts to keep in mind if you do this trip:

  • The current above Portland is almost all related to flow coming from the dam. They vary based on rain and how much power they need to generate. Perhaps this can be used to find a time with more favorable currents.
  • Go downstream. The flow from the dam is enough that you would be greatly challenged to make it upstream from Portland.
  • The time for tides change by 50 minutes (later) every day. The time for tides also get earlier as you get closer to the ocean. Turns out that if you travel about 20 miles downstream, these two factors offset each other. So if you time your trip so that high tide is mid-morning, you will get an ebb tide for every day (not some important above Portland, but very important after Longview).

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