The Willamette River Water Trail

The Willamette River is the heartbeat of Oregon, flowing 187 miles from the slopes of the central Cascades to Portland with many bends, riffles and calm pools along the way. In Oregon City, the river plummets over iconic Willamette Falls, known as tumwata to Oregon’s first peoples. The second biggest waterfall in North America, Willamette Falls is at the center of the story of Oregon City.

But the Willamette River is more than a scenic backdrop or piece of history. It’s every twist and turn provide ample recreation opportunities from quick stand-up paddleboard (SUP) outings to multiday canoe or kayak camping trips. The Willamette Water Trail links these recreation experiences together into a series of itineraries that span the length of the river. In addition to detailed itineraries and maps, the Willamette Water Trail website also offers safety tips, permitting information and outfitter listings, so you can be sure you have everything you need to explore the river.

After launching from Clackamette or Jon Storm Park, or grabbing a kayak rental from eNRG Kayking you can explore the Willamette River all the way from the Falls, downriver to the community of Milwaukie.

Before you can hit the water, you’ll need to make sure you have all of the required gear and safety equipment. Check out the Willamette Water Trail gear checklist to make sure you have everything you need. First and foremost, all water recreators in Oregon are required to have a personal flotation device (PFD), and most watercrafts must have a Water Access Permit. For detailed information on watercraft and safety requirements, visit the Oregon Marine Board’s page for non-motorized paddlers. If you’re planning to venture onto the banks of the river, Oregon State Parks Greenway lands offer public spaces to explore.

Don’t forget to exercise good stewardship as you share the river with others. Keep an ear out for motorboats, which need deeper water to safely operate and pass. When you hear an approaching motorboat, paddle closer together in groups. Practice social distancing and observe Leave No Trace principles. For more information on recreating responsibly in Oregon, learn about the Take Care Out There initiative.