Lower Columbia River Estuary Partnership
811 SW Naito Parkway, Suite 120
A journey along the Lower Columbia River Water Trail is a rich mélange of gorgeous landscapes, historical and cultural sites, working ports of call, modern day cities and amenities, and remote areas with vistas that Lewis and Clark would recognize. Sites include the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area, the bustling cities of Portland and Vancouver, three National Wildlife Refuges and many more natural areas, the Fort Vancouver National Historic Site, Lewis and Clark National Historical Park, floating restaurants, riverfront hotels, and working riverfront towns such as Rainier, Cathlamet, Skamokawa, and Astoria.
The river’s size and the trail’s length and diversity provide an unlimited range of paddling trips and experiences.
The Lower Columbia River Estuary Partnership coordinates the Lower Columbia River Water Trail. The Estuary Partnership's Water Trail Committee provides input and guidance into the trail's development and management and believes the Water Trail provides a great opportunity for citizens of all ages to enjoy the river, learn about it through direct experience, and value its importance to quality of life in the Northwest. One of the first tasks the Water Trail Committee undertook was developing a common vision and goals for the Lower Columbia River Water Trail. With unanimous support, the following vision and goals were developed and agreed to by the Water Trail Committee.
A water trail on the free-flowing Lower Columbia River from Bonneville Dam to the Pacific Ocean that people in non-motorized boats can safely travel on for day or overnight explorations.
- To physically, intellectually, and spiritually connect people with the Lower Columbia River.
- To promote the water trail as a valuable resource for recreation, education, and stewardship.
- To increase and improve public access and environmentally sensitive launch, landing, and camp sites for non-motorized boats along the water trail.
- To acknowledge both historic and modern-day water trail stories by promoting places of historical, cultural, and recreational interest along the river.
- To encourage communities, counties, businesses, and individuals to support, promote, and connect to the water trail
146 miles in Oregon and Washington, from Bonneville Dam to the Pacific Ocean
Paddling level required:
Beginner to Expert. The lower Columbia River’s size provides an abundance of paddling opportunities for all levels. Protected bays, sloughs and channels as well as tributary streams provide sheltered, backwater places for new paddlers; while open water and often challenging wind, wave, and tidal conditions – particularly in the scenic Columbia River Gorge and near the river’s mouth, provide a stern test for the most advanced paddlers.
Put in locations:
Put in and take-out sites exist in Oregon and Washington throughout the lower Columbia River. The Lower Columbia River Estuary Partnership has identified approximately 100 sites to access the river, ranging from primitive sandy beaches with no facilities, to public parks, older single lane gravel boat ramps and modern five lane boat ramps.
Suggested maps and where available:
The Lower Columbia River Estuary Partnership maintains the Lower Columbia River Water Trail web site at www.columbiawatertrail.org
. The web site utilizes an interactive Google based mapping system that allows users to search for and find detailed information on launch and landing sites, camp sites, restaurants, groceries, lodging and sites of interest.
Best time to paddle:
Summer in the Pacific Northwest – July through September – is generally consistently dry and often sunny and warm. Afternoon headwinds on the river, however, are not uncommon and recreational river traffic is heavier during these months. Campsite availability is rarely a problem, particularly if users are comfortable with primitive camping on Columbia River islands, most of which are extremely large and capable of accommodating large numbers of campers. Many boat ramps receive heavy use during certain fishing seasons as well, although the lower Columbia’s size provides plenty of room for all users on the water. Winter, although frequently damp, often provides an empty river, less wind, and abundant wildlife. The Columbia River is a major stop on the Pacific Flyway. Over 175 species of birds use the food and habitat of the lower Columbia River and wintering waterfowl populations can exceed 200,000.
Types/quantities/facilities available: A suite of numerous, different camping options await water trail paddlers, ranging from primitive camping in near wilderness settings, to camping at local, county or state parks with a wide range of facilities. Facilities may include restrooms, toilets, drinking water, showers, cabins, yurts, tennis courts, and other facilities. Other overnight options include a variety of paddler friendly riverside hotels and Bed and Breakfasts. Group size or number of campers accommodated if different groups: Many primitive sizes could easily accommodate dozens of campers, as could a couple of large parks. While other sites are smaller, most users will work to accommodate more people as necessary.
: Most camp sites do not require either permits or reservations, although reservations are possible at a couple of larger, more popular parks.
A variety of day and overnight trip recommendations for different experience levels can be found on the Lower Columbia River Water Trail web site at www.columbiawatertrail.org
. Recommendations include put in and take out sites, approximate time and distance, level of experience suggested, and sites of interest along the way.
Portland is the largest city in the lower Columbia River region, home to Portland International Airport, and fairly central – the trail begins about an hour’s drive to the east near Bonneville Dam, and ends about two hours drive west of Portland at the Pacific Ocean. More than a dozen other cities along the river’s shore provide essential services, facilitating access to the trail throughout its length.
How can one get involved with using, maintaining or supporting the trail?
In addition to providing specific site information, the Lower Columbia River Water Trail web site (www.columbiawatertrail.org
) provides safety information, trip recommendations, and updates on all sorts of trail activities, including clinics, paddles, and stewardship projects – each year the Lower Columbia River Estuary Partnership coordinates a number of water trail clean up projects. Paddlers interested in getting involved can also call the Lower Columbia River Estuary Partnership directly at 503.226.1565 x228.
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