A launch from Cottonwood Beach in Captain William Clark Park sets a paddler up for a variety of routes. The beach itself is part of a gentle grade leading into the Columbia River, making a paddle along the shore a safe choice for entry-level kayakers, canoeists, or stand-up paddlers.
Moving beyond the beach, it is only a short paddle southeast to reach the tip of Reed Island, a roughly 500-acre, 2.5-mile long island in the Columbia River. The island is an incredible spot to observe the Columbia River traffic, be it boats, airplanes flying into PDX, or the abundant bird life that call the island and the nearby Steigerwald National Wildlife Refuge home. The island is particularly notable for its high concentration of great blue herons. Look for the camping area just inland from the tip of the island.
A paddle upstream in the channel that runs between Reed Island and Steigerwald Lake Refuge is a great intermediate option that provides plenty of wildlife viewing opportunities, not to mention the tremendous Northwest perspective. Paddling on the mightiest river in the region, you may hear great blue herons uttering throaty croaks from the shores of Reed Island; purple plovers may dart in and out of their hive-like nests on the banks of the Steigerwald Lake Refuge; high and lilting whistles may draw your attention up to a circling osprey; and Mount Hood will loom behind the entire scene with its unmistakable prominence.
For those with more ambition, all of the above can be part of a larger paddle all the way around Reed Island, a roughly 6.5-mile route that also gives the paddler a little perspective on the currents and traffic in the main channel. Remember yourself: don’t lose track of tides, wind, and your own abilities.
When you return, enjoy the (day use only) amenities at Captain William Clark Park that include bathrooms, showers, and plenty of lawn, beach, or picnic table space for a quick dinner before commuting home.