Tillamook Estuaries Partnership
PO Box 493, Garibaldi, OR 97118
A water trail is simply defined as a path on a waterway connected through signs, maps and access points providing a
scenic and educational experience for recreational, non-motorized users. Since the winter of 2004 a group of local citizens, the Tillamook County Water Trail Committee, has met around a shared vision of developing a recreational water trail system throughout Tillamook County, encompassing the area's abundant rivers, sloughs, and bays. The idea of the water trail is that if the people are coming to the area to paddle, then let's provide them with information so their experience, and ours, is a good one.
The Nehalem River is the first of five Tillamook County Water Trails to be developed, and the Nehalem is a natural to be first in line. There are excellent recreational paddling opportunities for every skill level from novice to advanced whitewater. The Nehalem River traverses through thick green forests, rock lined gorges, and continues out to grassy meadows and green estuaries. The wildlife is as diverse as the terrain. Eagles, elk, salmon, songbirds and seabirds are regulars along the lower 30-mile stretch of the Nehalem.
The water trail guidebook of the Nehalem will highlight these points. The guidebook consists of color photographs and maps. Content focuses on public access, navigation, safety, local weather and tide conditions, encouragement of resource stewardship, as well as wildlife awareness, and historical interpretation. It covers paddling experiences and information from the Nehalem Bay up the river to Henry Rierson Spruce Run County Park. The guidebook is available online; there is also a 24-page version of the guidebook printed on waterproof paper, contact the Tillamook Estuaries Project (TEP) for a copy.
Overview of paddling level required:
Beginner to advanced whitewater
Put in locations
: Public access varies and is demarcated on the maps.
Suggested maps and where available
: Maps are posted on the website and available throughout Tillamook County at various lodgings, retail outlets and Chambers or contact Tillamook Estuaries Project (TEP) at 503-322-2222.
Best time to paddle for specific weather conditions?
The lower 10 miles of the Nehalem is tidal, which can influence paddling conditions daily. The Nehalem basin is entirely rain fed and winter months tend to bring high river flows. The Nehalem bay area, although relatively protected, can experience strong marine winds in the spring, summer and fall during midday. As in most paddling climates, conditions vary a lot; it is best to research your route before taking off.
Best time to paddle for availability of campsites?
Campsites are limited along the Nehalem. Most sites are up river where the paddling is for the whitewater experienced only. The good news is that Foss Road runs parallel to the Nehalem River and most campgrounds are accessible for paddlers or drive up visitors. Because of the close proximity to the beach, these sites are usually available (as people tend to want to camp at the beach instead of on the river in this area, except July/August) year round, when the parks are open.
Types (primitive, outhouse, running water, etc)
: The 3 campgrounds on the upper Nehalem River range from primitive w/outhouse to small pull-in sites with pit toilets.
Other info available
: See details in the Nehalem Water Trail Guidebook
, including trip suggestions and paddling level required for each.
Closest city to fly into or drive from
: Fly into Portland, Oregon and drive US Hwy 26 west to Lower Nehalem Road. This is the top of the Nehalem Water Trail beginning at Henry Rierson Spruce Run County Park (whitewater boating). For flat-water trips suitable for beginners, continue on Hwy 26 to Hwy 101. Head south on Hwy 101 to public accesses in Nehalem Bay State Park, the City of Nehalem, or the City of Wheeler. There are kayak rentals in Wheeler, Oregon.
How can one get involved with using, maintaining or supporting the trail?
Volunteers are always welcome to attend meetings or work the Tillamook County Water Trail Booth at various fairs and markets. Or if you would like to be on the Tillamook County Water Trail email list contact: Tillamook Estuaries Partnership: 503-322-2222