Hood River’s Rocky Shoreline, the epicenter of the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area, has long been the domain of adrenaline-fueled windsurfers, kite-surfers, and white-water kayakers. But when the wind is down and the river is glassy, paddlers in the know head a half-mile downriver to Wells Island, whose secluded beaches are accessible only by boat.
ROUTE: Launch at the Port of Hood River beach, known as “The Hook,” just west of Hood River, or at the brand-new, family-friendly Hood River Waterfront Park. Tackle the paddle on a calm day, when you’re less likely to have to share the shoreline with wind- and kite-surfers. At the western end of the island, a large cove with a sandy beach and shallow water is a favorite wading area for kids, and since the water is too shallow for motorboats, a human-powered flotilla is all you’ll find here. Or land your vessel at one of the half-dozen tiny north-facing beaches: Most are just big enough to land a canoe or a pair of kayaks on, making them perfect for sharing a romantic picnic and lingering until the sun dips below Washington’s Underwood Mountain. Maps: www.fs.fed.us/r6/columbia/index.shtml.
DIRECTIONS: From I-84 east take Exit 62 at Hood River and follow signs to the Port of Hood River.