Distance: Depends on how long you play. We went approximately 7.5 miles but some of that was in circles.
Suggest Skill Level: Any
Workout Level: Medium
Sense of Reward: Varies from delightful outing to damn-that-was-a-great-paddle
Beverly and I discovered this park thanks to the Stand Up Portland/Gorge Performance crew hosting a get together at the park. We missed the gathering but still paddled out a few days later after seeing some of their pictures from event. Willamette Park (there’s two, one in Portland and this one in West Linn) is a very nice, small park with a couple of parking lots (one is grass and feels great on bare feet!), a picnic lawn area, a public boat ramp and pier, as well as a more “natural” short path to a small beach to put in. On a summer afternoon the boat traffic was busy with skiers, fishermen, jet skis, kayakers, the whole shebang. We put in mid-morning though when traffic on the river was a tad lighter.
You can head north towards Willamette Falls which is not too far downriver, or else head south to an open stretch of wider river. We headed south. After 1.25 miles the river splits into three separate possibilities. There is a small river on the right, the main flow in the center, and a little further on the left is a calm, glassy inlet as well. We chose the river on the right as there didn’t seem to be boating traffic and it was wonderful! Low hanging trees over the rivers edge, large rocks jutting up the sides, crags and inlets to explore, and definitely the quietest portion of the river so far! It was serene. It didn’t last long but when we reached the other end of the little river detour, we shot across the main flow, now with more traffic, and into the glassy waters on the far side. More rewards to be had there!
The inlet became a narrow entry into a calm maze of shallow pools and streams. Our boards had no problems fitting through the narrower parts of the stream, although I can imagine it gets tougher as summer progresses and the river level drops. After spending at least 15 minutes exploring this rocky maze we found the exit on the south end which happened to be maybe 2 feet wider than our boards. It was a lot of kid-like fun while we took our time, paddling slowly, or else stopped and sat around on our boards admiring the quiet beauty of the river. We headed south once again and decided for an energetic sprint for another mile or so before deciding the river was made for recreational boaters that day, not us as much. If you’d like to try your hand at riding boat wakes though this a great place to try as they are everywhere!
We headed north and back again through the little river split where we stopped for a soak as the temperature had crept into the 90’s. One last sprint to the beach and we were more than satisfied with our adventure.
This stretch of river is a top 3 for us because it was so much fun to workout and explore like two little kids through more casual yet technical areas. For me the only cons to this stretch of river is the boat traffic, which was very heavy as the day progressed but not unmanageable by any stretch of the imagination.
Getting there: From 205, take the 10th St. Exit in West Linn. Go right on Willamette Falls Drive and then take a left on 12th St. When it ends take a right and park.