Paddling the mightiest river of the West
Naturalist Andrew Emlen paddled a few strokes in his 17-foot kayak, grabbed the binoculars hanging from his neck and looked at a line of fishermen in the distance.
Then he looked behind him at a barge moving up the shipping channel.
"Yeah, we may need to stay on this side for a little bit, huh?" he said to his kayak companions, Kyleen Austin and Chris Hathaway. "Because the worst offense a kayaker can make is run into a hog line of fishermen."
The group was navigating the Lower Columbia River. With a flow greater than any other in the West, the Columbia River is the river everyone seems to know about but doesn't really "know." The Lower Columbia Estuary Partnership would like to change that — with a water trail you can paddle.
It's called the Lower Columbia River Water Trail, and it follows the free-flowing, tidally influenced waters of the Columbia River for 146 miles, from the Bonneville Dam to the Pacific Ocean. It's an intimate way to experience a river that holds the region's history in its mighty path.
Chris Hathaway, of the Lower Columbia Estuary Partnership, started coordinating the trail back in 2001 to promote stewardship of the river he has spent his career working to protect. "The more people are out here experiencing the river, the more people are going to care about the river, want to restore and protect it," Hathaway explained.
The trail moves paddlers from the heart of the Columbia River Gorge and into the soul of urban Portland and Vancouver, past wildlife refuges, river towns and islands, before ending with the pulsing waves and surging tides of Astoria. It's a "choose-your-own-adventure" trail.
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