I’ve seen a couple questions posted on Stand Up Portland recently about safe places to put in around Portland when the current is picking up. Here are a few suggestions for safer paddling destinations all near Portland, or not too far away. (Click on the name of the lake for an active Google Map so you can get directions from your location)
When the wind is not howling down the Columbia River, this is a big playground for stand up paddle boarding. Plenty of open space, limited motorized access, and room to practice or exercise. When the wind is up though, watch out! It can still be a good place to practice even in the wind but Vancouver Lake can provide choppy swells with all that surface area getting blasted by winter wind, so be prepared for treadmill-style exercise on windier days. The main parking lot is located on the southwest corner of the lake and is open all day, every day. It has very nice facilities and a grass beach area for an easy put in. There’s also large pilings several yards from the main beach that are perfect to practice pivot turns.
There is a small man-made inlet where the Clackamas River converges with the Willamette River. It has a narrow opening to the Clackamas River so doesn’t have a lot of threatening currents to send you on a one way journey downstream. For interval workouts, practicing pivot turns, and generally playing around, this is a safer and far more convenient spot for many Portlanders. Park on the side of the Clackamette Dr. just behind the shopping center and follow the paved trail towards the inlet.
While it’s a bigger drive for most of us, Henry Hagg Lake (or Hagg Lake) does not have strong currents in the wintertime and is relatively quiet aside from a few boats of fishermen if there’s an open season on species in the lake. The lake is always split between a motorized side (the south end) and the non-motorized side so a paddle boarder is guaranteed several quiet miles of open lake to play and explore even with a boating population sharing the lake. The main parking area is on the southwest side of the lake but you can pull over pretty much anywhere within sight of the water and find a place to launch from shore.
Just up the I-5 corridor 30 minutes from Portland is Horseshoe Lake. It’s a small lake but due to it’s longish shape can be a nice area for practicing and getting a good workout in when the rivers are looking sketchy. Public parking is located on the north tip of the lake and can be seen from I-5.
I have personally never been here but have it from a reliable source Estacada Lake is a safe and fun area to paddle even in the winter months. I will also state that it doesn’t look at all like a lake from the satellite picture but more of an actual river. In its defense, Horseshoe Lake doesn’t really look like a lake at all either.
A single put-in on the northeast corner of the lake (N State St) is the only public access this largely private lake offers. There is also no shoreline to speak of so it’s almost illegal to fall off your board at all, so paddle carefully! =) Also, if you know someone, or are someone, who has a house on the edge of the lake, please let me know so that we can become very good friends and I can use your house to access the lake. The lake has fairly good protection from wind and is fairly long so a good workout is definitely achievable while roaming the surface. Parking is available at the publicly accessible George Rogers Park, which also has a small beach on the Willamette River. Playing just off the shore on a SUP in the wintertime is probably OK but the current around the bend at that point in the river can be very strong and dangerous in winter months.