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Guide To Kayaking In Oregon (Some Fishing Too!)

Mark Armstrong
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With a brilliantly diverse landscape, the Northwestern state of Oregon is a fantastic place for outdoor pursuits. The Beaver State has plenty of water, including the USA’s deepest lake, so finding a great spot to paddle shouldn’t be too difficult.

But to help guide you to some of the best spots for kayaking in Oregon, we’ve put together some useful information that you might find handy when planning your next trip.

Guide To Kayaking In Oregon - Pinterest ImagePin

Why Oregon?

Oregon is known for its wide range of landscapes, which includes a North Pacific coastline, forests, mountains and deserts. The state has borders with Washington in the north, Idaho to the east and California and Nevada to the south.

As well as this, there’s an abundance of lakes and rivers, so it can be a great place to get out and enjoy the wilderness in your kayak, whether you’re looking for relaxation or adventure.

As well as this, there’s an abundance of lakes and rivers, so it can be a great place to get out and enjoy the wilderness in your kayak, whether you’re looking for relaxation or adventure.

Best Time Of The Year To Go?

While many of the lakes and rivers can be paddled all year round, you may find it more comfortable during the warmer summer seasons. From spring through summer and fall can often be the most busy time of the year for watersports due to the warmer weather and summer vacations.

The colder weather in the winter may mean that you might need to wear a wetsuit or take additional precautions in the event that you get wet.

You could potentially fish all year round in Oregon, but if you have your eye on a particular species of fish, it might be a good idea to check with local experts before you head out.

Top Spots To Go Paddling In The State Of Oregon

Deschutes River

Deschutes River Kayaking - near Bend OregonPin
Courtesy: Josh Steinitz on Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

Just a short distance east of the Portland area you’ll find the Deschutes River. The river flows north through central Oregon, with the lower section being designated a Wild and Scenic River.

As well as being scenic, the river is also steeped in history, with links to Native Americans and 19th century pioneers. The river is also a popular place for fishing, with trout and salmon being frequent catches.

The Deschutes can be run at any time of year because of the consistent water flow and there are a mixture of Class I to Class VI rapids. There are various sections that can become busy during the peak summer season with kayakers, anglers, and paddle boarders. There are also several kayaking and whitewater rafting companies in the area because of the whitewater runs.

Video: Half Day Kayak Canoe and SUP Deschutes River Tour

There are plenty of access points along the Deschutes, with services and recreational facilities in the towns of Bend and Maupin. You will also find campsites around Maupin and towards the mouth of the river as it meets the Columbia River.

Video: Deschutes River – Whitewater Kayaking

Devil’s Lake

Not far from the center of Lincoln City, on the Pacific coast, just west of Salem, is Devil’s Lake. There are places to camp in Devil’s Lake State Park, where you will also find access to the lake.

The lake also has a very small river that leads to the Pacific Ocean, although it’s too small to be paddled. The lake itself can be a good place for beginners because of its calm waters.

Devil’s Lake can be a great place to spot wildlife, as there is a wide range of bird species, as well as deer and elk in the area.

Tualatin River

Kayaking and canoeing trips Tualatin River OregonPin
Courtesy: SoulRider.222 on Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

Just southwest of Portland is the Tualatin River, which has a 40 mile long Water Trail that can be easily paddled by families and beginners, as well as anyone with an interest in wildlife.

The Tualatin River flows through several small towns and private property but also runs through the Tualatin River National Wildlife Refuge. The wildlife refuge is home to many species of birds, mammals, fish and plants, so can be a great place to paddle through if you like to take photographs.

The river is slow moving and can even be paddled upstream. However, during the winter the higher water levels and log jams may make the route a little more hazardous.

There are several access points along the river, some with restrooms and facilities and others a little less equipped. The Tualatin River runs into the Willamette River, which can also be paddled but you should be aware that many motorized vessels will likely be sharing the water with you.

The Tualatin River is also a good choice if you’re looking to fish, as it’s popular for trout and bass fishing.

Video: Bass Fishing Tualatin River

Is Kayak Fishing Popular In Oregon?

With Oregon having lots of rivers and lakes, not to mention the Pacific Ocean, it’s no surprise that there are also plenty of places to fish. One thing that you will need before you head out, however, is an Oregon Angling License to allow you to attempt to catch fish.

If you’re looking to take your kayak out in the ocean for some fishing, Sunset Bay State Park can be a good spot. It has sandy beaches and a calm bay, for easy launching. Sunset Bay is located on the coast, around a two and half hour drive southwest of Eugene.

There are plenty of spots to go fishing near Portland, with one being Scappoose Bay; around 30 minutes north of the city. The marina at Scappoose Bay has boating access and kayak rentals. The bay has access to the Multnomah Channel and the Columbia River and you can catch a variety of fish, from largemouth bass and bluegill to crappie and bullhead.

No matter where in Oregon you plan to fish you need to make sure you stick to the rules for fishing limits.

Are There Kayak Laws For Oregon?

US Coast GuardPin
  • PFDs – You must have a wearable US Coast Guard approved life jacket on board for each person. The PFD must be of a suitable size for the wearer and be easily accessible. 
  • Children under 13 must wear a US Coast Guard approved PFD while on board any kayak.
  • Visual Distress Signals are required to be carried while kayaking on coastal waters after sunset and before sunrise.
  • Sound Producing Device – you are required to carry a whistle while kayaking on Oregon waters.
  • Waterway Access Permit – all non-motorized boats 10 feet or longer are required to have a Waterway Access Permit. This is required for both coastal and inland waters. There is a fine of $115 if you fail to carry this.
  •  Pull The Plug – all vessels are required to be drained on leaving any body of water. You could be fined $30 if you don’t drain your kayak.

More on Oregon boating laws here.

Oregon Kayak Rentals & Tours


As you will likely discover, there are so many opportunities to get out in your yak and explore the waterways in Oregon. Whether you’re looking for adventurous whitewater, a slow-moving river for nature watching or some coastal exploration, you should be able to find it in Oregon.

If you have a favorite paddling spot in the Beaver State, let us know in the comments. And if you want to encourage your friends and family to get out there, share this article on your social media sites.

If you want to learn more about Oregon kayak and boating laws, read this: https://kayakguru.com/oregon-kayak-laws-regulations/

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