Increased flow rate on the Willamette River

Increased flow rate indicates heavy rains, the potential for sewage overflow, and a fun one way journey.

According to the USGS website, the river has upped its flow rate to 3+ ft/sec. Today is the type of day where a second vehicle parked downstream is the way to go, or else you take a look at still water for your SUP addiction. I suppose it’s also a good day to work on upstream travel using eddies and keen river knowledge if one should be so bold. Alas, I am not =)



Winter on the Willamette means a few things. First, if you’re paddling the river then you had better plan a pick up from a friend, or leave a second vehicle at your destination. Second, get ready to deal with eddies, cross-currents, and the occasional mystery rapid. They’re out there throughout the journey right now and they can be scary but a lot of fun too! Third, the water temp has plummeted to sub-Pacific Ocean temps (today it heated up to a tepid 49.2 fahrenheit!). I wear a 2 mil farmer john with a full neoprene jacket, 6mm booties, and on windier days I’ll sport my ProMotion Exoskin outer layer for additional comfort. Admittedly, I’m know to overheat on occasion. Still it’s better to have layer to pull off than risk hypothermia on a one way journey.

The latest strip of river fun and a fantastic workout has been Clackamette Park in Oregon City to Sellwood Park. According to, it’s approximately 8.63 miles start to finish but with the river flowing it doesn’t really feel like more than a 4 mile run. But look at those times! We were paddling a sub-8 minute mile and had to put out very little effort to reach that speed!

mapmyfitness results

This has been a super fun one-way journey on the Willamette River!

One other really fun bonus to the Willamette River in Winter is the Sternwheeler river boat that gets rerouted from the Columbia River in the wintertime. On an upstream journey you can tuck right behind it and ride swells produced by the wheel, although admittedly it takes some skill and your options for practicing are limited to the boat schedule on Saturday and maybe Sunday. Still, it’s been fun giving it a go and certainly one of the most unique surfing experiences in the world. I can tell there’s going to be a group of die hards out there this winter chasing that boat down at every scheduled departure!

Watch the currents before you put in on the river this winter as the outflow is approaching speeds guaranteed to send you on a one way journey no matter how hard you paddle. My favorite site, and it’s always available in the menu bar on this site, is the USGS Current Conditions website with up-to-date flow rates, temperatures, bacteria readings, etc. I check it every morning before I decide my destination is a lake or a river.