The Northwest’s Best-Kept Kayaking Spots

Water Sports Tuesday, August 5, 2014 Written by

One of the many benefits of living in a place where you’re surrounded by lakes, rivers and oceans is that you have many opportunities to spend a few hours (or a few days) on the water. Even if you’re a beginning kayaker, there are plenty of safe, fun spots for you to learn the sport.

To get you started, we’ve rounded up some of our favorite places—some well-known, some not—to go kayaking in the Northwest.


Seattleites looking to stay close to home can head to Lake Union or Lake Washington. Rent single, double or even triple kayaks from the Northwest Outdoor Center or Agua Verde Paddle Club and venture out from there. The route options are endless—paddle past the many houseboats on Lake Union, check out the Lake Washington Arboretum or head over to Gas Works Park.

Alki Kayak in Alki Beach (in West Seattle) also leads saltwater kayaking tours through Elliott Bay and the Duwamish River. Want to bring the kids? Check out these ideas for family boating in Seattle!

Beyond the city, your best bet is to kayak in the San Juan Islands—where it’s not uncommon to see orca whales (May to September), sea lions, otters or other sea creatures while you paddle. You can also pilot your way around beautiful Whidbey Island, where you might encounter bald eagles, great blue heron and harbor seals.


If you’re in Portland, you can take a beginner-friendly trip down the Willamette River. In about three hours the Portland Kayak Company will lead you around Ross Island. Or head just 25 minutes north of the city and take a nice, gentle wildlife tour of Scappoose Bay.

Beyond Portland, cruise down to the Clackamas River, a whitewater river that flows through the Mt. Hood National Forest. It’s ranked Class III/IV+, so it’s perfect whether you’re looking for an easy, scenic paddle or a serious challenge. eNRG Kayaking leads tours down the Clackamas as well as the Santiam River and Willamette Falls.

For a longer, potentially more aggressive adventure, tackle either the Rogue or the Deschutes rivers. Outfitters offer group trips for all levels, as well as gear rentals for those who want to go at it alone.

KAYAK with the Seattle Storm

Paddle with pro athletes! On Tuesday, August 12th, the Seattle Storm and LifeWise Health Plan of Washington have teamed up to offer you a kayak adventure as part of the Take Your Health by Storm Challenge. Meet at the Moss Bay Row, Kayak, Sail and Paddle Board Center in Seattle (1001 Fairview Avenue North) at 5:15 p.m. The cost is $40 per person and includes an orientation and a 2.5 kayak tour on Lake Union. Space is limited—register online today.

See you on the water!