Boaters cautioned of low waters on Willamette River

If you’re thinking about pushing off from the Willamette or Cedaroak boat ramps any time soon, the Oregon State Marine Board is recommending extra caution due to “historically low” water levels across the state.

The low water levels, which are the result of less snow pack and lower rainfall amounts this winter, will expose previously unseen hazards to boaters this summer, according to the marine board. Stumps, rocks, logs and other obstructions could be just below the surface, resulting in hull or prop damage in areas that are normally navigable.

These obstructions also impact the water dynamics and the currents in rivers, which can increase the difficulty to navigate safely, especially for paddlecraft. The Marine Board recommended that boaters plan ahead and take the time to scout area waterways before launching.

“No matter where you boat, most of our rivers and lakes will have obstructions that may not have been a problem earlier in the summer,” said Ashley Massey, Public Information Officer at the Oregon State Marine Board. “Water levels are changing quickly, so boaters need to assess the waterway each time they go boating.”

West Linn Parks and Recreation Director Ken Worcester said that water levels are indeed low on the Willamette River, though he has yet to hear of any incidents resulting in boat damage.

“The Willamette is low, and is also affected by the tide,” Worcester said. “Low tide and low water could mean problems for boaters below the falls and specifically at Cedaroak Boat Ramp and Portland’s Willamette Park for sure.”

Trees, root wads and other natural debris are a common part of Oregon’s rivers and streams, and can be dangerous to boaters. Deadheads (old pilings or logged tree stumps) may lie just below the surface, so keep a close watch for subtle changes in the water’s surface. Strainers (trees hanging out from the bank) can trap a boat and the current could force it underwater. Keep watch downstream and use a quick-release anchor system for emergencies.

The marine board said motorized boaters should operate carefully and pay particular attention to the surface dynamics ahead of where they’re headed, especially while on-plane.

Not sure where to put in or take out? Visit the Marine Board’s Boating Access Map to help plan your trip at

For reported navigation obstructions, visit

By Patrick Malee
503-636-1281 ex
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