Canoeing on The Willamette

Canoeing the Willamette River

Late afternoon on a warm August day, my son and I drove from our SW Portland neighborhood to Willamette Park, along the Willamette River in the SW Waterfront. We found the group of people we were meeting near the boat launch. Some were already wearing flotation vests, oars in hand. Others were checking in and picking out their vests.

Canoeing the Willamette River

Canoeing the Willamette River

Patrick and I had been on group canoe paddling outings before, through Metro at Smith and Bybee Wetlands Natural Area in North Portland, the Columbia Slough Watershed Council at Whitaker Ponds Nature Park in NE Portland and elsewhere along the slough, and the Lower Columbia Estuary Partnership, who for the second time now for us was hosting a family paddle on the Willamette, through the Ross Island Natural Area and Holgate Slough. Generally these are programs that we have registered and paid for. The cost is always very small in proportion to what you get out of it, sometime only for a recommended donation.

Canoeing the Willamette River

Once everyone, kids and adults alike, were fitted into vests, the paddle instructors reviewed canoeing techniques and safety. The group split into two, and each headed down a dock at the launch to one of two handsome, long voyager canoes.

Canoeing the Willamette River

Canoeing the Willamette River

Canoeing the Willamette River

Patrick and I sat together on one bench, each with an oar and eager to push off.

Canoeing the Willamette River

Making sure all the participants are suitably placed to balance the boat, we pushed off and started paddling across the river toward the east side of Ross Island.

Canoeing the Willamette River

Canoeing the Willamette River

Canoeing the Willamette River

Canoeing the Willamette River

Canoeing the Willamette River

The instructors discussed general natural history of the river, informing us of what animals we might see.

Canoeing the Willamette River

Paddling north up the east side of Ross Island (Holgate Slough), we saw plenty of Great Blue Herons, ducks of which species I could not tell, and Double-crested Cormorants. We hoped to see River Otters or Beaver, but unfortunately saw none.

Canoeing the Willamette River

Canoeing the Willamette River

Canoeing the Willamette River

Our canoe only went as fast as the group of amateur paddlers could allow it. I could tell that participants enjoyed slacking a little to take in the scenery and calming feel of being on the water. Occasionally, however, as the outing was on a time frame, the instructors would call on us to get our oars moving. Patrick, at age 6, could only focus on paddling for so long before being distracted by something in the water, in the air, or on Ross Island.

Canoeing the Willamette River

Canoeing the Willamette River

Canoeing the Willamette River

Unless I was taking a photo, my arms kept moving, so I think I picked up my son’s slack. Plenty of other people were on the river, in boats, in kayaks, and standing while paddling on long boards. Even a group of young kids were seen wading in the water off of Ross Island.

Canoeing the Willamette River

Canoeing the Willamette River

Once we reached Ross Island Lagoon, we entered it, and were informed by the instructor about the environmental concerns of the lagoon because of the work of the Ross Island Sand and Gravel Company, which owns most of the island (they have donated some acres to the City of Portland, and the Port of Portland owns some as well).

Canoeing the Willamette River

Canoeing the Willamette River

Canoeing the Willamette River

Canoeing the Willamette River

Canoeing the Willamette River

Canoeing the Willamette River

We crossed the lagoon, and come upon a protected area, marked with buoys you cannot cross, that is common for nesting bald eagles. And we were excited to see one perched on a high branch!

Canoeing the Willamette River

Canoeing the Willamette River

Canoeing the Willamette River

We also saw an Osprey land on a tree as we exited the lagoon and turned south back down the side of Ross Island.

Canoeing the Willamette River

Canoeing the Willamette River

Self-portrait by Patrick:

Canoeing the Willamette River

We also got to see some Purple Martins flittering in and out of bulbous manmade nests at a few riverside house boats.

Canoeing the Willamette River

Canoeing the Willamette River

Canoeing the Willamette River

Canoeing the Willamette River

Canoeing the Willamette River

Then it was time to paddle back across the river toward the boat launch.

Canoeing the Willamette River

Canoeing the Willamette River

Canoeing the Willamette River

So often the river is present in our daily lives because we see it as we drive along I5 or across one of our many bridges on the Willamette. Maybe you walk your dog at Willamette Park, or explore at Elk Rock Island in Milwaukie or Mary S. Young Park in West Linn. But the experience of the river is wholly different if you get out into it. We do not own a boat, and I did not grow up having ever really known what it is like to be on a boat.

Canoeing the Willamette River

I am pleased that the Lower Columbia Estuary Partnership and other agencies offer such opportunities to easily get out on the water and explore local nature from a different perspective.

Canoeing the Willamette River

I originally wrote this as an Adventure for The Intertwine, here.

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This entry was posted in "smith and bybee wetlands", canoe, columbia slough water council, holgate slough, lower columbia river estuary partnership, metro, ross island natural area, whitaker ponds nature park, willamette park, willamette river. Bookmark the permalink.

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