The Clackamas River corridor is one of Portland’s most accessible outdoor areas, providing plenty of hiking, boating, and camping opportunities within a relatively short drive from the metro area. The North Fork Reservoir perfectly rounds out the Clackamas portfolio, providing a still water option for those who are looking for lake-style paddling or fishing in a beautiful setting (North Fork Reservoir is regularly stocked with rainbow trout). At just under an hour from Portland, North Fork Reservoir is an excellent option for casual, last minute summer paddles and workouts.
The 350-acre reservoir and many of its access points are managed by PG&E, which harvests power from the Clackamas before the river flows on toward Estacada. Two ramps provide access for larger watercrafts: the first is closer to the northern end of the lake and has few amenities outside of a fishing dock, a small beach, and the boat ramp; the second is part of the Promontory Park development and is close to several amenities including a convenience store, plumbed bathrooms, day use areas, and potable water. The Promontory Park Campground also has a fishing dock that is available for overnight guests.
Alternately, if you are working with a smaller watercraft such as a canoe, kayak, or stand-up paddleboard, there is great access just south of the northern boat ramp on the opposite side of Highway 224. Here you will find a smaller parking lot on the edge of a small inlet. The area is informally known as “The Culvert,” named for the gigantic culvert that provides a tunnel under the road for everything from the smallest personal watercrafts to the largest motorized boats. The very discreet pedestrian tunnel just north of the waterway gets people from the parking lot to the main reservoir shores without having to cross the busy road.
Once you are out on the reservoir, there are few speed restrictions outside of the ingress and egress zones. Most of the faster traffic sticks to the center of the reservoir, however, so you should have little trouble with wakes if you remain near the shore. The paddle from this small watercraft area down to the campground fishing dock is a nice 3-mile there-and-back, but of course the reservoir is far larger and can accommodate a full day of exploration. Move upstream, toward the Clackamas, for a more scenic tour.