All Things Kayaking

Kayaking the Lower Columbia River near Skamokawa, Washington

In late July we flew from DE to the west coast to the small town of Skamokawa, Washington (pronounced Ska-mock-ah-way) for three days of kayaking and a day of Lewis and Clark history. We were participating in the Road Scholar Program, Kayaking the Lower Columbia River. Coordinators of this program are Columbia River Kayaking. Lodging is provided at Skamokawa Resort, who’s back dock provides a nice view of the Columbia River.

View from the Skamokawa Resort at low tide on the Columbia River.

The boathouse for CRK is a ten minute walk down the road in a beautiful old building once housing a Ladies Clothing Emporium, when the steamships plied the river and represented the economic lifeblood of all river communities.

Our first kayaking day was a gentle paddle down Steamboat Slough to the river town of Cathlamet.

Large ships frequently pass on the Columbia River shipping channel.
Guide Andrew Emlen leads us down Steamboat Slough
Lunch stop on the Columbia River.
Paddling through the Julia Butler Hansen National Wildlife Refuge.
Passing by the log grabbing claw near the town of Cathlamet, Washington.

In the afternoon two guides treated us to a roll and rescue demonstration featuring techniques for righting kayaks and kayakers.

We gather on the dock to watch the Roll and Rescue demonstration
Getting ready to roll.

Our second day of kayaking found us crossing the river into Oregon and paddling the Red Slough between Welch Island and Tenasillahe Island. Osprey, bald eagles, and a large flock of white pelicans flew over us, or perched on shore.

Heading out to the first channel marker.
Baby osprey nesting on a channel marker.
Crossing the shipping channel to Welch Island
Immature eagles along the shore of Welch Island
Bald eagles watching their young.
White pelicans soar overhead.
Calm waters on the Red Slough.

We stopped for lunch at a beach on Tenasillahe Island. One of the highlights of this stop, watching a dragonfly emerging from it’s larval shell and getting ready for first flight.

An adult dragonfly begins to emerge from his larval shell.
Two seconds before flying away
Osprey were in abundance.

On the third day we left paddling behind and took a journey through history to learn about the Lewis and Clark expedition. Traveling from Skamokawa to the Pacific Coast we visited several historical sites. At the Dismal Nitch, our guides entertained us with a reading of Lewis and Clark journal entries accompanied by whimsical special effects.

History at the Dismal Nitch.
Dramatic reenactment of the Lewis and Clark Journal.
Dugout canoes at the Middle Village.
Cape Disappointment State Park.
Lighthouse at Cape Disappointment

On our fourth, and final, kayaking day we used the tides to slingshot us around Fitzpatrick Island where double-crested cormorants nest in high metal towers. Paddling along the basalt cliffs we learned about their volcanic origins.

Missile defense ship passes on the river as we prepare to launch.
Guide Levi providing instructions on safely crossing the shipping channel.
Passing the cormorant condos on Fitzpatrick Island
Bald eagles waiting for baby cormorants to fall out of the nests
Coming ashore for our geology lecture
Paddling close to the basalt columns to avoid the opposing river current
Old wooden pilings line the river and represent the location of old canneries or river towns
Lunch stop at an old cannery town site
Returning to the Skamokawa Resort
Historic Skamokawa where houses face the creek.

Our trip was a delightful journey into a history and river culture that was new to us. Our guides were terrific and the scenery beautiful. This is a Road Scholar trip that we highly recommend.

For further information:

Road Scholar: Kayaking the Lower Columbia River:

Columbia River Kayaking:

Skamokawa Resort:

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