More than 50 launching points are dotted along the 146-mile-long Lower Columbia River Water Trail (www.columbiawatertrail.org), a series of seven stretches that can be explored by motorless crafts. But Scappoose Bay’s intricate network of sheltered creeks, tributaries and channels—together with its easy access to boat rentals, tasty grub and the swifter waters of the Columbia’s main stem—make it a perfect destination for both kayaking neophytes and seasoned paddlers. As you meander through a maze of wetlands and lakes, you’ll be treated to a scene you won’t get going 60 mph over the St Helens Bridge: Farmhouses sprinkled along the shoreline, cattle grazing in picturesque pastures and expanses of arrow-leafed native wapato plants poking out of the placid water.
ROUTE: Start at the Scappoose Bay Marine Park and rent a kayak from Scappoose Bay Kayaking ($27 for two hours; 503-397-2161; www.scappoosebaykayaking.com). Take a right out of the marina—heading south—and paddle to the end of the bay, exploring
creeks and side channels. For a longer paddle, head down Multnomah Channel toward St Helens.
DIRECTIONS: Scappoose Bay Marine Park is located about 25 miles northwest of Portland off U.S. 30 between Scappoose and St Helens. From Portland, follow U.S. 30 to the town of Warren. About a half-mile past Milepost 25, turn right (east) on Bennett Rd. Cross the railroad tracks and take an immediate left onto Old Portland Rd. The marine park is a half mile up the road on the right.