Kayaking the Columbia River from Bonneville Dam to the Ocean

It is possible to kayak down the Columbia River from Bonneville Dam to the mouth of the Columbia River.  The distance for the journey is  146 miles, and there are numerous camping sites along the way.  If you use the end points from each GPS track below, you will find a great camp site in each location.

GPS Track Day 1
GPS Track Day 2
GPS Track Day 3
GPS Track Day 4
GPS Track Day 5
GPS Track Day 6
GPS Track Day 7
GPS Track Day 8
GPS Track Day 9
GPS Track Day 10
GPS Track Day 11
GPS Track Day 12

Of course, you may want to plan your own journey and not be restricted to specific distances each day.  Therefore, I have created an online resource that includes waypoints for each type of facility that one would want on a kayak tour: Camping, Launch Sites, Scenic Attractions, Kayak shops, and Dining locations.  On the website, you can also download a GPX file with the waypoints for each of these important resources. The nature of this trip lends itself to one way (down river).  Even though the lower 3/4 of the river is mostly influenced by tidal forces (i.e. the river runs backwards two times a day), you will find that overall, it is easier to go down the river instead of up.  If you try to go upriver in the several miles below the Bonneville dam, you will find that you cannot make forward progress.  We started our trip by going downriver at 8 miles per hour!  As you get farther down the river, the tide becomes increasingly important.  One strategy is to look at the tide tables and determine when you will have an ebb tide during the middle of the day.  This will ensure that you always have water behind you while you are traveling (unless you prefer to paddle by night, in which case you’d seek the opposite).  There is more than one way to do this trip, but we pre-arranged a shuttle with Alder Creek Kayaks.  We left our car at Bonneville Dam (actually parked in a neighborhood and asked permission from one of the land owners to watch our cars).  Then we paddled down river, and called Alder Creek when we reached Cape Disappointment State Park.  From here, the friendly folks at Alder Creek came and picked us up in a van and drove us (and our boats) back to our cars.  One thing worth noting if you plan to camp at Cape Disappointment: The campground is very close to the Ocean Side of the park.  Of course, to get there with your boat, you’d need to paddle out around the jetty and the point… This could be harrowing.  So, the best option is to land at the Fort Canby Boat Ramp and then walk your boat to the campground (you’re bringing roller wheels, right?)  We didn’t bring rollers, and we were obliged to ask help from the park staff.  They were very kind and helpful, but I don’t suggest this as an option to be regularly employed because they might tire of doing this, or may not have the necessary flat bed truck that happened to be available when we arrived.  A very useful guide was the Lewis and Clark Columbia River Water Trail Book.

At the Put in below Bonneville Dam.  It is called Hamilton Island Boat Ramp

At the Put in below Bonneville Dam. It is called Hamilton Island Boat Ramp


Campsite at Reed Island

Campsite at Reed Island

Columbia River near intersection with Willamette River

Sometimes, there will be large boats in the Columbia River that you need to avoid

IMG_6109 IMG_6110

Camping at Government Island

Camping at Sand Island


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