Oregon is a fantastic state for water sports. It has an abundance of coastline, rivers, and lakes. The scenery is breathtaking, with spectacular mountains and forests. Because the trees can block your views of the sky and beyond, sometimes the best way to observe the plethora of wildlife is from the water. So, where are the best places to kayak in Oregon?
Kayaking is popular throughout Oregon. The Rogue River, Sparks Lake, Columbia River, and Deschutes River cater for all paddling skill levels. Before launching your kayak, find out from the local authorities what the rules and regulations are for the region and make sure that you comply.
Depending on what you are looking for in a kayaking day out, Oregon has it all! It is difficult to find a waterway in Oregon that is bad for kayaking. Do you want a calm, lazy day on the water? Or are you hoping for lots of white water that will test your skill? Whichever it is, we’ve got you covered with our 15 suggestions.
15 Places To Kayak In Oregon
Oregon has many beaches, bays, lakes, and rivers that make excellent kayaking. Our suggestions below are based on typical conditions.
Some of these spots require permits, so it is always best to chat to someone local to find out what is required by law. Always familiarize yourself with the route before you begin and research any obstacles you may encounter along the route.
For example, a normally lazy stretch of river can turn into white water if the water level has drastically changed because of the rain. Logging or a mudslide can also create new obstacles in a stretch of river that is usually fine for beginners.
The beach next to the one we recommended might look similar but could be plagued with undertows and riptides. So have fun, but also be safe.
Alton Baker Canal
Alton Baker Canal is a popular kayaking spot with residents in Springfield and Eugene. This is a great spot for those wanting to try out rapids for the first time, as the few you’ll encounter are incredibly mild. Even experienced kayakers enjoy it as an easy and relaxing day out on the water.
Coquille River isn’t recommended for kayaking until you reach the southern end. At that point, kayaking is a wonderful way to explore the prized estuary and wildlife refuge.
The tide and wind dramatically impact this part of the river, so plan a trip in the early mornings when the wind is low and the tide is right. If you are lucky, a seal might join you on your paddle.
Chetco River is 55.5 miles (89.3 km) of Southwest Oregon beauty, where it meets the sea near Brookings, right by the California border.
The upper sections are at least Class III and during certain seasons can reach Class IV. The lower sections do have some gentler paddling areas for those that desire a calmer day out.
Columbia River is enormous, snaking through seven states and part of Canada. There are, however, some great places to kayak through Oregon, from lazy areas to the more exciting.
Be warned that the easier sections are also used by cargo and speed boats, but seeing Portland from the water makes the annoyance of the bigger boats worth it.
Deschutes River is an unforgettable experience with its wide range of wildlife and beautiful scenery. The rapids on this river range in difficulty from Class 1 to Class IV and are only recommended for kayakers that can handle it all.
There are some great rafting trips for those that still want to enjoy this fantastic river despite not having Class IV kayaking skills.
Nehalem Bay is in the Tillamook Coast and is a nice area to paddle around if you are looking for beginner or intermediate kayaking fun. A perfect spot to view cormorants or gaze at harbor seals. Keep track of the tides and wind conditions, however, as the conditions can change quickly!
Rogue River has something for everyone, from lazy sections to areas more suited to expert kayakers. There is an excellent reason the Rogue River has been used for Hollywood films; the scenery is breathtaking!
For those that want to do the entire 43-mile (69 km) stretch, you will encounter over 100 rapids. It’s exhilarating, but there are also areas of calm to enjoy your surroundings.
Those happy to do smaller stretches will find sections that will reflect their skill set.
If you are worried about your kayaking skills but want to see the river’s amazing wildlife and scenery, jet boat rides and rafting tours are also available.
This river is an unforgettable blast, no matter how you choose to enjoy it.
Siuslaw River offers easy kayaking to explore its estuary. However, like the Coquille, it is only easy if you correctly time the tides and wind. Kayaking really is an exciting way to explore such a unique ecosystem full of wildlife, including sea otters, ospreys, and blue herons.
Silcoos River has otters. For some, that’s all they need to know! The three-mile (4.82 km) paddle is easy and a great way to get some unbelievable photographs. The area also has rentals for those that don’t own their own boat yet.
Sparks Lake is only 25-miles (40 km) from Bend. Formed by volcanoes, this tranquil and beautiful lake is the perfect spot to enjoy the scenery and practice your kayaking moves, thanks to a ban on motorboats.
The area is ideal for beginners, as long as you stay out of the tall grass where concealed obstacles could tip you over.
The park area is beautiful with lots of bird and sea life around. This is considered a beginner kayaking spot, but only when the weather and tide conditions are right.
Timothy Lake is the biggest of all the Mount Hood National Forest lakes. Here you can typically rent a kayak if you require. These lakes are easy paddling for when you want to relax and enjoy the stunning views.
Other popular lakes in this area are Trillium Lake, Lost Lake, and Clear Lake. You might need your own boat for the other lakes.
Tualatin River is Southwest of Portland, and the lower 40 miles (64 km) of it is perfect for kayakers. It is a great kayaking spot for families to paddle together and spot plenty of wildlife. This area hosts over 200 bird species, after all.
Umpqua River has some fantastic white water and some amazing wildlife. Popular kayaking spots are up in the North Umpqua, such as the common Boulder Flat Campground to Gravel Bin run.
The Umpqua is not for beginners. Those with little experience should instead take a rafting tour to enjoy this unique and special area.
Keep in mind that during the fly-fishing season, there are certain times you can’t be in the river. Water levels can turn some of these Class III rapids into a whole lot more, so be prepared.
Willamette River has 187-miles (300 km) of water trails to explore. You can do a small section in a spare afternoon or take some serious vacation time and do the entire thing.
The Willamette River is fairly easy to paddle, offering Class I rapids throughout the route. The lower section, however, is influenced by the tide.
While this river offers “easy paddling,” this isn’t a lake, so don’t plan an upstream paddling adventure.
Kayaking in Oregon is a wonderful experience and a brilliant way to enjoy the scenery and wildlife. Be realistic about your skill level and check local conditions and permit rules before taking a paddle. But most of all, have fun.