Our Backyard River

I officially joined the Outdoor Pursuits team in the middle of this past winter: a complete change from the turquoise waters of Baja Sur in Mexico, where I had spent the first half of the season, it seemed that snowy peaks of the Oregon Cascades would signal the end of my boating season. Fortunately for me, and other kayakers and rafters, that’s not the case living in western Oregon with its maritime climate.

The Wilson , Jordan Creek, Devil’s Lake Fork, Clackamas, Sandy, Brietenbush, Washougal, Salmonberry, Nestucca, and Nehalem are just a few of the runnable rivers within a couple hours or less of Pacific University. And unlike so many other places in the world, there are rivers flowing somewhere nearby,nearly all-year-long. This makes the Portland area a true boating mecca (not to mention the endless boating options in the ocean!)

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A kayaker out exploring the Wilson River. (Sam Morrison) 

Our backyard river, the Wilson, winds its way west out of the Coastal Range where it spills down over 1500 vertical feet to Tillamook Bay. The turquoise water, lined by volcanic basalt, offers boaters from small riffles up to Class V whitewater in its upper portions. No matter which section you set out to do, the scene is truly magical. Somber, smooth rocks covered in vibrant, lime-green mosses and lichens line hundreds of cascading waterfalls tumbling to join the river, and they’re all only visible from the water. Conifers and Alders weave a thick wall separating you from Highway 6. Eagles and Osprey patrol the pools and eddies for Steelhead and Chinook, creating a world completely unknown to the passing vehicle.

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More kayakers weaving their way through Wilson rapids. (Sam Morrison) 

The Devil’s Lake Fork (of the Wilson River) lives up to it’s namesake with complex and exciting stretches of Class IV/V whitewater, just 30 minutes from the steps of Marsh Hall. As the Devil’s Lake Fork meets the South Fork, the Wilson gains ample volume. As you continue downstream the next stretch provides training grounds for up and coming Class IV kayakers to test their skills. Still further downstream, over 20 miles of enjoyable whitewater invites Class III kayakers and rafters alike. The Narrows section is a true NW classic with a few rapids that will get adrenaline pumping and convince you that you don’t want to be swimming! Still further down one can find solitude on Class II sections while sharing the crystal clear waters with local fisherman and drift boaters.

Take an Intro to Kayaking class or Series through Outdoor Pursuits to help you get started taking advantage of this beautiful place we call home. Your only excuse to not become a boater in the Pacific Northwest is if you aren’t a fan of getting wet…and out here that’s just not a very good excuse at all.

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Autsen Taylor-Kohn ’16 pulls his boat from the water after a great day on the water. (Sam Morrison) 

Sam Morrison is the new Assistant Director here in Outdoor Pursuits. He joined the team in January 2016, and we can’t express enough how stoked we are to have this water-loving boater in our office. When Sam isn’t out cruising rapids or in the office cruising through his work, rumor has it he spends his time salsa dancing and just enjoying life in the Grove. 

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