The Willamette River is home to small islands, bald eagles, salmon, colorful houseboats, and calm waters. With easily accessible parking and docks on both east and west banks, you could probably fit in a paddle on your lunch break. Glide around the Ross Island’s north side watching for blue herons and ospreys during the day, or book a moonlit night tour with a local kayak company for a whole new view of the city.
PUT IN: Willamette Park (SW Macadam Ave & Nebraska St)
Nearby kayak rental: Portland Kayak Company, 6600 SW Macadam Ave
Henry Hagg Lake
Pack a lunch and head 25 miles west of Portland to crystalline Hagg Lake. The park features picnic areas, 13 miles of hiking trails, and two boat launches. The lake is stocked for fishing and has a designated “no wake zone.” Duck into a shady inlet and watch for salamanders or beavers. It can get crowded on summer weekends, but with 1,113 acres to paddle, there’s room for everyone.
PUT IN: 50250 SW Scoggins Valley Road, Gaston
Nearby kayak rental: A lakeside kayak rental company is coming soon. Until then, you’ll have to rent one in town and tie it to your car.
Smith and Bybee Wetlands
Tucked amid North Portland’s warehouses and commercial districts sit 2,000 acres of natural wetlands. As the nation’s largest protected urban wetlands, Smith and Bybee offers novices the perfect chance for a leisurely paddle intermingled with wildlife- watching opportunities. Osprey, beavers, river otters, and bald eagles frequent the area.
PUT IN: 5300 N Marine Dr
Nearby kayak rental: Alder Creek Kayak & Canoe, 200 NE Tomahawk Island Dr