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Best Places to Kayak

Published: July 07, 2022

 

The Eugene, Cascades & Coast region offers many lakes and rivers, even the Pacific Ocean. Explore these beautiful waterways by paddling your kayak around these top spots. Before heading out, make sure you have the right permits, check the water levels and confirm that the marina or boat ramp is operational.

Fern Ridge Reservoir

Located along Hwy 126 near Veneta, Fern Ridge Reservoir offers calm waters and scenic views along an incredible wildlife area. This popular birding spot has almost 250 recorded bird species. Paddle from the day-use Perkins Peninsula Park or launch your craft onto the still waters along the Coyote Creek Nature Trail if the water levels are high enough. Fern Ridge Reservoir is open to motorized boats as well as sailboats, and it can be crowded on hot summer days.

Kayaking Coyote Creek at Fern Ridge

Photo: Eugene, Cascades & Coast

Siltcoos River Trail

The Siltcoos River Trail leads from Siltcoos Lake to the Pacific Ocean. This six-mile round-trip paddle allows you to travel down to the Pacific Ocean and back to Siltcoos Lake. Check the tide-tables first — if you time it properly, you can go downstream with the falling tide and then come back upstream on the rising tide — making for an easy paddle. It will be more difficult paddling against the tides. The water trail passes through sand dunes and forested areas. There’s a lot of wildlife viewing along this trip – you may even see river otters!

Please note that during the late spring/early summer Snowy Plover nesting season, sections of the beach at the river's mouth may be restricted and you are encouraged to stay in your kayak. Rule of thumb — wet sand and near the ocean's edge is okay to walk on, but dry sand and higher up the beach should be avoided because that's where Snowy Plovers build their nests. 

Silcoos Lake is located just six miles south of Florence.

Siltcoos River

Photo: Melanie Griffin

Dexter Reservoir

Dexter Reservoir is located in the Jasper/Lowell area. There are two access points of the lake – at the Lowell State Recreation Site on the north side and at the Dexter State Recreation Site on the southwest side. Dexter Reservoir offers crystal clear (but very cold!) water. The perfect kayaking spot for a relaxing and scenic paddle. Motorized boats are permitted.

Waldo Lake

Waldo Lake is located just past Oakridge in the Cascade Mountains. It’s one of the largest natural lakes in Oregon and one of the purest in the world. Its crystal-clear waters provide an amazing paddling experience. Only electric boats traveling under 10 mph are allowed here, so it’s very peaceful. Also, there are three designated campgrounds surrounding Waldo Lake – be sure to make reservations in advance.

Paddling Waldo Lake in Summer

Photo: Melanie Griffin

Scott Lake

Scott Lake offers stunning views of the Three Sisters Mountains. This lake is located along the McKenzie Highway (Hwy 242). Start out on the first lake and then paddle your way through a small channel into an even larger second lake and then across and through to a smaller third lake.

Kayaking Scott Lake

Photo: Wyatt Pace

Willamette River

Flowing through the heart of Eugene, the Willamette River Water Trail is one of the most extensive water trails in the state. This broad river affords paddlers with many options, including multiple launch sites along more than 187 miles (300 km) of river. View a mile-by-mile map of the water trail.

A kayaker on the Willamette River in summer time

Willamette River Trail

Photo: Melanie Griffin

McKenzie River

The McKenzie River travels from Clear Lake in the Cascade Mountains all the way to the confluence of the McKenzie and Willamette Rivers just north of Eugene in Coburg (almost 90 miles). There are many access points and boat ramps, but a good section is to put in at Hayden Bridge Boat Ramp in Springfield and take out at Armitage Park.

Rivers levels can change throughout the seasons, and due to weather conditions. The McKenzie River can be swiftly flowing with minor rapids, even in these lower sections. Check river conditions before kayaking and be sure to follow these kayaking safety guidelines. The upper portions of the McKenzie River are only appropriate for experienced paddlers with prior whitewater skills.

McKenzie River near Eagle Rock Lodge

Photo: Jumping Rocks Photography

Siuslaw Estuary Water Trail

This water trail has over 30 miles of paddling opportunities from Mapleton to the Pacific Ocean. The Siuslaw Estuary Water Trail system is excellent for wildlife watching and birding. Set your adventure dial to match your mood, from the 17.4 mile North Bank trail to the 3.06 Old Town Sunset Loop, there's a trail for everyone. Check the tide tables so that you plan to paddle with the tides, making for a more enjoyable paddling experience. This river can have heavy boat traffic, including fishing boats, and it can be congested near the port in Historic Old Town Florence.

Kayaking the Willamette River by Melanie Griffin
Take a tour of the region's lakes or rivers with a guide service by kayak, paddle board, raft or drift boat… More Info

Need to purchase or rent a kayak, canoe or stand up paddle board? Check out Oregon Paddle Sports in Eugene for all the gear you need. You'll also need to get a Waterway Access permit, so plan ahead!

What is Algae Bloom?

When water levels are low and weather is warm, some still lakes, ponds and waterways can develop toxic algae. This green or colorful scum is harmful to pets and people — please don't swim, fish or recreate in water impacted with bloom.

While this condition can impact any body of water, our most vulnerable and popular water destinations to watch include Fern Ridge Reservoir, Dexter Reservoir, Dorena Reservoir, Fall Creek Reservoir, Hills Creek Reservoir, Cougar Reservoir, Cottage Cover Reservoir, Siltcoos Lake, Golden Garden Ponds, Walterville Pond and Odell Lake. Check with the Oregon Health Authority for current advisories. 

Author: Hayley Radich

Hayley Radich was the Director of Partner & Community Engagement for Travel Lane County until 2022. She has her degree in Marketing & Advertising from Grand Canyon University. Born and raised in Springfield, she loves the easy accessibility of the Oregon Coast and Cascade Mountains. Hayley is an avid kayaker and enjoys whitewater rafting and spending summer days on the McKenzie River.