Float On

Where to dip your oars.

9 Hikes Around Hood | Swimming Holes and Hot Springs | Camping Without Reservations 

Paddling and Canoeing | Rock Climbing | Steeper, Harder, and Faster  

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Sup, Scappoose? Standup paddleboarding isn't just for yoga instructors.


The stigma is sad, because the standup paddleboard is incredibly versatile. You can surf on it, use it as a floating swim platform without flipping it over like a kayak or get a great core workout while exploring some of the harder-to-access river ecosystems that the Portland metro area has to offer.

Scappoose Bay is one of the best places to reconnoiter watery wilderness without battling three-foot-high wakes from party boats, and you can easily rent a paddleboard from Scappoose Bay Kayaking. Turning left out of the marina brings you to the swimming beach at Warrior Rock Lighthouse. But turning right past the houseboats leads you into a maze of inlets, islands, sloughs, little ponds and channels that lace and dot the protected 85,000-acre tidal estuary.

The gigantic floodplain is fed by Scappoose Creek and ebbs and flows with the Columbia River tide. In addition to being a seasonal stopping point for coho, chinook and steelhead, the bay is also home to migratory birds such as bald eagles, egrets and herons; amphibians such as red-legged frogs and salamanders; and beavers, turtles and other wildlife. 

Scappoose Bay Kayaking offers guided tours of the bay, as well as of Sauvie Island and Warrior Rock Lighthouse. They also offer a guided evening paddle, which is one of the best times of day to see the bay's residents scurrying, swimming or flying to and fro. If you opt out of a guided tour, ask at the rental center for one of the waterproof maps that has a few marked loops. If you choose not to follow one of the designated routes, you can have just as much fun paddling around on your own, navigating the small creeks, looking for tiny private beaches or puzzling over animal tracks in the sand.

Because the bay's water levels are tidally influenced, it's important to check the tide tables or ask at the front desk before embarking, lest you be stranded high and dry on some muddy bank. Bring a carabiner or a strap to clip a water bottle to your board on a hot day. And if you've forgotten to bring a snack, stop by Kruger's on Sauvie Island on your way back into town and grab a beer at the Captured by Porches beer bus. ADRIENNE SO.

GO: Scappoose Bay Kayaking 57420 Old Portland Road, Warren, 397-2161, scappoosebaykayaking.com.

Willamette Narrows

Ask Portland paddlers to pick a favorite stretch of the Willamette and they'll point you to West Linn, where the confluence of the Tualatin and Willamette rivers occurs near a pretty little park. The river is wide and slow here. Paddle upstream for about 40 minutes, past riverside mansions that look like they were built for Blazers players, and you'll get to the first of a half-dozen small islands. You can paddle between them or pop out onto unspoiled shores for a quick stroll on bits of land few other boots have touched. The water runs faster through the narrow channels, so paddle on the wide river then shoot back down. MARTIN CIZMAR.

20 minutes from Portland: Launch at Willamette Park in West Linn. Take Interstate 205 to Exit 6 at 10th Street. Head south on 10th Street. Turn right on Willamette Falls Drive. Turn left onto 12th Street, then right onto Tualatin Avenue and left onto Volpp Street.

Willamette Falls

Most locals never notice, but there's a spectacular waterfall just upriver from Portland. Willamette Falls is a 1,500-foot-wide horseshoe that drops 40 feet. Before they built a paper mill next to it, it was truly a mini-Niagara. Now the paper mill is out of business and the area is smelling fresh and ready for redevelopment. And you can rent a kayak or SUP at eNRG Kayaking in Oregon City. MARTIN CIZMAR.

eNRG Kayaking, 1701 Clackamette Drive, Oregon City, 772-1122, enrgkayaking.com.

Tubing the Clackamas River (Barton to Carver)

When tubing conditions are at their peak, the Clackamas can resemble Lake Havasu circa MTV Spring Break, often swarming with massive inflatable brotillas blaring LMFAO (still), chugging handles of vodka and stopping to dive off the surrounding cliffs—you might even hear "show your whatever" chants on occasion. This is the party float, so proceed with caution. The rapids aren't particularly intense, but they are sudden. An experienced friend told me my first time down that if I got caught in a particular current without my tube, I would drown—which, considering who's nearby at the time, might not be the worst fate. MATTHEW SINGER.

40 minutes from Portland: Take Interstate 84 east to I-205 south. Take Exit 12A to Oregon 225 east. Turn right on Southeast Bakers Ferry Road and continue onto Southeast Barton Park Road.

Tubing the Sandy River (Dabney to Lewis and Clark)

Compared to the Clackamas frat party, floating the Sandy is usually as serene as...well, floating slowly down a river with a beer in your hand should be. It's a slow-rolling, generally relaxing two to three hours, with little in the way of topographical challenges. There's even a bank where, if you're lucky, you'll be greeted by the house dog belonging to one of the riverfront homes. Conditions do pick up toward the end, where the current propels you around an obstacle course of rocks, but there are lifeguards posted up around that stretch. The endpoint at Lewis and Clark State Park can be a bit of a shitshow, but if you don't mind waiting, Tad's Chicken 'n Dumplins is right up the road. MATTHEW SINGER.

27 minutes from Portland: Take I-84 east to I-205 south. Follow signs to Glisan Street. Head east on Southeast Stark Street and turn right on Historic Columbia River Highway.

Trillium Lake

There are pretty natural lakes scattered around the Mount Hood National Forest, and most are friendly to kayaks. If you're looking for a place to drop into the scene, head out to Trillium Lake, which is just off U.S. 26, a little east of Government Camp. This manmade, motor-free lake is at the headwaters of Mud Creek, but you'd never guess it after gazing on the mirrorlike reflection of the snow-capped peak in Trillium's crystalline waters. There's a campground, but spots quickly fill up. In the winter, this is a popular spot for snowshoeing and cross-country skiing. MARTIN CIZMAR.

1 hour from Portland: Take U.S. 26 east past Government Camp and follow signs for Trillium Lake.

Lost Lake

Around the lightly trekked face of Hood, there's an idyllic little lake that's almost but not quite lost to the world. Probably most famous for its quaint little lodge and a bevy of first-come campsites that grant non-planners access to the Hoodland even at the height of summer, this lake also offers a stunning view of Hood's peak and hiking trails that wind along a raised path through tree trunks as wide as your car. They rent canoes, kayaks, rowboats and standup paddleboards ($12 an hour), and the lake itself is so clear you can see the rocks on the bottom 25 feet from shore. MARTIN CIZMAR.

2 hours from Portland: Take I-84 east to exit 62. Turn right at Cascade Avenue, then right onto Country Club, then left onto Barrett. After 1.2 miles, go right onto Tucker, then go two miles and right onto Dee Highway for 6.3 miles. Take a right onto Lost Lake Road and follow twists and turns until you see signs for the resort.

9 Hikes Around Hood | Swimming Holes and Hot Springs | Camping Without Reservations 

Paddling and Canoeing | Rock Climbing | Steeper, Harder, and Faster  

Portland Outdoor Shops | Mt. Hood Pit Stops | Photo Contest