The end of June brought on a record-breaking heatwave that won’t soon be forgotten. If it has inspired you to find new ways to cool off, then you might want to consider taking up kayaking with kids. How does an afternoon paddling across a local lake with your family sound? If you’ve never seen the inside of a kayak, don’t worry we’ve put together the essentials for you. Here’s how to get started kayaking with your family in and around Portland.

Kids kayaking
via Portland Kayak

The Basics

The beautiful thing about living in Portland (one of them, at least) is that you don’t need to buy a lot of gear to try out kayaking. There are plenty of outfitters in and around town who rent out kayaks, paddles and any additional gear you might need for your day of exploration.

Kayaks can be rented for a per hour or per-day rate. If you are just starting out, this is most affordable rout to go. Depending on on the size and type of kayak, hourly rates range from $30/hr to $80/hr. Daily rates range from $60 and up.

If you choose to buy, youth ride-on-top kayaks and inflatable kayaks can be found for $100 and up, and adult and 2-seat kayaks cost $600 or more. For a few quick paddles on your favorite lake, an inflatable kayak might work for a much lower price point. Ask the experts at your outdoor store for tips on what works for you and your family. If you spend time on the water, doesn’t hurt to buy your own flotation devices. Make sure they’re Coast Guard certified and appropriate for your planned activity.

You can rend or buy new and used kayaks at the following locations.

Next Adventure
426 SE. Grand Ave. Portland

Portland Kayak Company
6600 SW Macadam Ave. Portland

Your Little Duffers

Junior can come along on kayaking trip as a paddler or a “duffer.” Duffers are just along for the ride in the center compartment and don’t help propel the boat. This is a role most children play until age eight. Experienced paddlers can start using their own single kayaks around age ten or so.

Christian Bowen via Unsplashed

Where You Can Play & Learn

You’ll want to get started on your kayaking adventure in calm, protected waters first — that means lakes and protected bays without much current or wind. Lakes without motorized boat traffic make for easier paddles, as you won’t need to avoid wakes.

Scappoose Bay is a gentle start for beginners, with the friendly outfitters Next Adventure’s Scappoose Bay Paddling Center providing rentals and lessons or tours. You might even spy some river otters playing.

Trillium Lake has no motorized boat traffic as well as camping and beautiful views near Government Camp on Mt. Hood.

Alder Creek’s classes allow kids 10 and up to attend their Learn to Kayak tours with parents. Check to see which class would be best for your family. (Note: rentals are currently offered, however tours and classes are on hold due to COVID restrictions.

Portland Kayak’s classes are suspended for 2021 due to COVID, however your family can schedule small group private instruction. What a great way to bond! . (Currently open by appointment only.)

The Lower Columbia Slough in North Portland can be a lovely place to set in, but you’ll want to check the tide schedule to keep your trip focused on bald eagles and herons, not hard paddling against the current.

What You Need to Know

Of course, safety is the first priority when it comes to water sports. That means you too, parents! Modeling safety goes a long way. Those personal flotation devices should fit and be properly secured. Wear closed-toe sandals or water shoes, plus plenty of sun block (Bring extra on the kayak with you. You’ll probably be out long enough to need to re-apply.) Don’t take your kids paddling unless you have a lot of experience with advanced moves under your belt—like rolling your kayak, for starters—or you have a very experienced person in your party. Plan snack times and bathroom breaks ahead of time and be sure to bring lots of water for everyone. Then have fun!

—Annette Benedetti


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