Gently Down the Stream: 5 Canoe Adventures for Beginners

A canoe or kayaking adventure might sound like an adventure too big, but with all the waterways around us, it’s easier than you think. Blow little minds with undulating water fun at these five Portland spots. They offer a variety of options, from rentals, lessons, events and even multi-day canoe trips. Go forth and find the perfect stream for an unforgettable day.

Tandem Canoe Portland

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photo: Dark Dwarf via Flickr

Alder Creek Kayak and Canoe
Alder Creek, located along the Port of Portland harbor at the east tip of Tomahawk Island, offers a variety of options at its Hayden Island location, from two-hour to weekly rentals to private lessons to youth programs for kids 10-14 years old. While you’re there you can row out along the challenging Columbia River, or opt for the more placid waters of the Tualatin River at Alder Creek’s boathouse at Brown’s Ferry Park in Tualatin. Alder Creek also rents canoes at its Southeast Portland boathouse, on SE Water Street, near OMSI and just steps from the Willamette River.

Optimal times for canoeing this summer are in the mornings when the weather is cool and there’s not a lot of canoe and kayak “traffic.” Before heading there, pack a lunch, a camera and a hat. What’s good about canoes — especially for parents — is you can toss your camping gear, two kids and dog inside and not be cramped like you would be in a kayak.  A two-hour canoe rental costs $30 or an all-day rental $60. Call to reserve a canoe before you get there, especially on hot, sunny days.

If you’d rather discover canoeing with an experienced guide, the Learn to Canoe classes are a 2-for-1 value at $59: You can explore Tomahawk Island (at the tip of Hayden Island) and pick up basic canoe rowing skills. Alder Creek also donates and loans canoes/kayaks for special events for the Tualatin Riverkeepers and Portland Audubon Society.

200 NE Tomahawk Island Dr.

Canoe Portland 1

photo: Kathy and Sam via Flickr

Portland Kayak Company
Don’t be fooled by their company name. Portland Kayak Co. is about canoes, too! The Willamette River access is just behind its shop on Macadam Avenue, but you’ll need a roof rack to transport your family canoe. Here you can find classes and multi-day kids and teen camps on the Willamette River for kids as young as 10. They also offer private lessons with canoes as well as rentals and tours. Rentals are $20 per hour for two; all-day rental is $85 if you want to load up the canoe and take the family to Bybee Lake, Vancouver Lake or a lake on Mt. Hood.
The store offers guided trips to Ross Island.

6600 SW Macadam Ave.

Tualatin Riverkeepers

photo: Tualatin Riverkeepers

Tualatin Riverkeepers
Families floating down the Tualatin River — one of the most family friendly waters in the state — can spot osprey, hawks and herons. Tualatin Riverkeepers offers canoe classes, tours, rentals and adventures at the Cook Park boat launch on the Tualatin River in Tigard.  From July 3 through September, canoes and kayaks are available for four-hour rentals for $30. To make it more affordable for repeat customers, the Riverkeepers have offered a membership deal. TRK members receive one free rental and $10 off each additional rental. Memberships start at $35.

Tualatin Riverkeepers hosts a Family Day Paddle on Aug. 16 at 1 p.m. Check out their website for Autumn River Paddle Trip and free rental River Cleanup Days too. The group also offers private Spanish-speaking guided canoe trips.

11675 SW Hazelbrook Rd.

Canoe Xing Portland

photo: Jason McHuff via Flickr

Willamette Riverkeeper
Connecting families to the true Willamette River is the goal of Portland-based Willamette Riverkeeper’s River Discovery Program. The nonprofit group has its own fleet of canoes and offers camps where families can learn about the river habitats and water environment. From May to October, WRK hosts monthly River Discovery paddling adventures up and down the mainstem Willamette River, its tributaries and sloughs. The trips are offered free of charge but donations are gratefully accepted.

WRK’s signature trip, Paddle Oregon celebrates its 15th year with an Aug. 17-21 trip. Cost of the journey is $749 for adults; $699 for youth 17 or younger. Registration includes food, baggage shuttle, safety paddlers, camping accommodations, showers, T-shirts and more. In the fall, keep an eye out for Willamette Riverkeeper’s Our Great Willamette Cleanup on Sun., Oct. 4.

1515 SE Water St. # 102

Columbia Slough Canoe 1

photo: Columbia Slough by Katrinket via flickr

Columbia Slough Watershed Council
7040 NE 47th Ave.

While they don’t offer regular canoe rentals, the Columbia Slough Watershed Council does host an annual group paddle Regatta, this year on Aug. 2nd from 9 a.m. – 1 p.m. at the Multnomah County Drainage District at 1880 NE Elrod Drive. The suggested donation is $8 and boats are provided, although participants can bring their own. No one will be turned away.

The CSWC also hosts regular, nature-based events at local parks and provides local schools with free field programs and classes.

Where do you take your kids when you want to float under the clouds in a canoe? Tell us in the Comments!

—Ty Adams


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