Willamette River Trip Journal

Trip Notes from the Willamette River Water Trail

RM 200 - Elijah Bristow State Recreation Area

RM 192 - Jasper State Recreation Area

RM 185 - Lunch at Mill Race Park

RM 184 - I-5 bridge at Springfield

RM 183 - Eugene Autzen Bridge

RM 172 - Near Beacon Landing

RM 161 - Harrisburg Park

RM 153 - Harkens Lake Landing

RM 149 - Norwood Island backchannel is BLOCKED

RM 148 - Near Norwood Island

RM 147 - Smokestack

RM 143 - Snag Boat Bend

RM 136 - Kiger Island

RM 134 - Lunch outside of Corvallis

RM 131 - Michael's Landing

RM 125 - Campsite on Island, August 15, 2011

RM 122 - Hyak Park

RM 119 - Takena Landing

RM 113 - Near Black Dog Landing

RM 108 - Luckiamute Landing

RM 106 - Buena Vista Ferry and Buena Vista Park

RM 104 - American Bottom

RM 102 - Sidney Access

RM 99 - Judson Rocks to Independence Bar Landing

RM 96 - Independence Riverview Park

RM 91 - Feral Llamas

RM 89 - Motorboats begin to appear

RM 86 - Major Motorboat Landing

RM 84 - Salem Riverfront Park

RM 81 - Sunset Park

RM 80 - Palma Ciea Park

RM 79 - Keizer Rapids Park, Nuttbrock Landing and Darrow Rocks Landing

RM 72 - Wheatland Ferry

RM 63 - Jackson Bend Landing

RM 62 - Five Island

RM 59 - Candiani Bar

RM 50 - Rodgers Landing

RM 45 - Champoeg Park

RM 36 - Molalla River

RM 30 - Willamette Narrows

RM 28 - Take-out at Bernert Landing

Here is a complete slide show of all the pictures we took

Trip Notes from the Willamette River Water Trail

Mark Niemann-Ross • July 2010 and August 2011 • contact me here

(If you're looking for the Luckiamute Ghost Story, look here)

Every year, Janell and I take a trip together. In 2010, we were scaling back from international travel, and wanted to do a wilderness trip - backpacking or canoeing or some outdoor activity. We had about a week, and hadn't done any canoeing for a while, so this was a priority. Plus, I was a canoe guide at Widjiwagan in Northern Minnesota, so my canoe chops are pretty advanced.

I looked at taking the Powell Forest Canoe Route in Vancouver, BC, but realized that my passport was due for renewal and I probably would not make it over the border intact. I started to look around for local trips, and found the Willamette River Water Trail map put out by the Willamette Riverkeepers.

At first, travelling down the Willamette river didn't have much appeal. I live in Portland, and although the river is a delightful feature of the city, it is often occupied with motorboats, barges, and jet skis. I wouldn't swim in the river, much less drink it or want to paddle in it for an extended period of time. Portland is working on solving the sewage overflow issue, and water quality is on the mend, but ...

So I did some research. Turns out that the Willamette river has some excellent paddling areas that are free of any traffic. In fact, we found the upper stretches approached a true wilderness trip. It's convenient, so the cost (and carbon footprint) is low, and it provides a multitude of put-in and take-out points, so you can tailor your trip to the amount of time available. We could paddle for a week on a river - without the heavy logistics of transporting or renting boats over long distances.

We returned in 2011, starting further up the river. This journal is a combination of our trip notes from those two years. As much as necessary, I've noted the change from year to year.

Why I may be different than you

Janell and Mark
Please be aware that I paddle a canoe, not a kayak. Whitewater enthusiasts call this "OC2" which means Open Canoe, two paddlers. I've paddled sixty days in the Artic circle, have shot Class III rapids with a fully-loaded (600 pounds) seventeen foot boat, and can flip and carry a canoe for a quarter-mile. I'm not telling you this to brag - I'm letting you know that my experience and confidence may be different than yours.

I'm also letting you know that a canoe is not limited to the same cargo restraints as a kayak. As you'll note from the picture, I can bring big, klunky camping equipment such as coolers and duluth packs. In fact, I revel in the absurd, as you will see in later pictures. If you are in a kayak, you'll want to evaluate my equipment and menu with this in mind.

Things you'll need

I bought a copy of both the upper and lower trail maps from River Keepers - but no longer recommend this guide. They are general maps - the river shifts, campgrounds get overgrown, and the riverbank shifts dramatically from year to year or season to season. For the most part, you can float willy-nilly down the river, picking out major landmarks - but if you're looking for anything specific, then you'll want to get a better set of topo maps.

Bless our public works department - they produce a handy little map of navigation hazards and historical points - free. Get a copy of the Willamette River Recreation Guide right here. Print it out, and there's a wealth of information in your hand. (But don't use it as a navigational map)

Be sure to check out the Willamette Kayak and Canoe Club. Among other helpful pages, they include a list of flow levels and whitewater ratings. Likewise, read up on any navigation hazards at the Oregon State Marine Board website.

I also bought a copy of The Willamette River Field Guide - an excellent historical resource for the river. If you really want to understand the route, the field guide is informative and provides a mile-by-mile narrative.

You'll also need an Aquatic Invasive Species Permit. They are seven dollars (or $12 for a two year permit) and can be transferred from one non-motorized boat to another. You'll need one permit per boat. And yes - you will be checked at some point, especially if you paddle through any part of the river that has a boat launch. The fine is $142.

Lifejackets are required, but you already have one for every paddler - right?

Janell carries five gallons of water
Plan on carrying five gallons of water for every three people. We also carried a filtration pump, but I preferred not to use it. You'll need to be aware of where water can be obtained and fill-up when you get the chance. Potable water is not as accessible as you might think.

You'll also want to plan on sleeping on gravel bars. The shore is mostly overgrown with trees and grasses, with gravel bars appearing at river junctions and islands. Being prepped for sleeping on this kind of ground will give you a lot more camping options - these were our most delightful campsites, as they usually appeared next to the prime swimming holes.

We also brought air mattresses. Not your old-style air mattresses, but these nifty Exped SynMat mattresses. They have a built-in pump, roll up smaller than a standard foam pad, and once inflated provide you with the ability to cope with just about any ground irregularity you might find. Head's up - there is a failure rate for these air mattresses - we've returned a couple. Buy it from somewhere (REI) that takes returns.

Those gravel campsites also limit your ability to drive stakes in the ground. Self-supporting tents will make your life easier - just don't let them blow away.

About this journal

I've included places for you to leave comments - assuming you have a facebook account. Please feel free to add your wisdom. If you'd like to make comments, but don't have facebook, feel free to contact me here.

Elijah Bristow State Recreation Area

River Mile 200

We launched here on September 2, 2011, but I'm not sure I'd recommend doing this again. We originally planned to launch from Dexter State Recreation Area - but it is marked as Day Use Only. Turns out that most of the parks in this area are Day use - and from local informants, this is because there is a high rate of vandalism coming out of the mobile home parks in Dexter. I don't have any personal experience, but parking in this area is NOT ADVISED. In our case, we had a friend located nearby that we pressed into shuttle duty, and who allowed us to park in their driveway. Otherwise, we would have been making major trip adjustments.

Note that Google Maps indicates that this park is upstream from where it actually is.

This stretch (Dexter to Jasper Recreation area) of the river is marked by a series of class II rapids. I'm told that the water level wasn't all that different, although WKCC indicates it was pretty high. It is truely class II - anyone with experience would be able to scout and shoot from the river - you may scrape bottom, and if you're not paying attention, you may get hung up. In our case, it was a mistake to put in here with two boys that had minimal kayak experience. We made it through ok - but I would have preferred to have spent a day paddling in some easier current to get our skills up to snuff.

Jasper State Recreation Area

River Mile 192

We pulled out when the sun made it too difficult to scout the river - and found this beautiful campsite, just upriver from Jasper State Recreation area. At the time, we didn't realize how close we were. Our campsite was quiet - there were trains that came by a couple of times - sometimes in the middle of the night. But for the most part, all we heard was the river.

By the way - Jasper Recreation Area is day use only - but it does have water. I suspect that on holidays, this place is HOPPING. There are several shelters that can be reserved, and include some pretty serious cooking facilities.

Lunch at Mill Race Park

River Mile 185

This stretch is also a collection of class II rapids. They are not marked on the Riverkeepers map, but show up on topo maps. Most of them are simple scout-and-shoot - but don't get cocky! The Clearwater Boat Ramp is obvious, and the confluence of the Middle and Coast Fork are obvious. And yes - I did see a solitary nudist at Glassbar Landing - but walking along a distant bank. Don't plan on using naked buins as a landmark. There is a navigation hazard marked in this stretch, but be aware that this isn't the only one. There are a LOT of sweepers and strainers in this stretch - if you're not paying attention, you will get caught up in these. If you're paying attention, you shouldn't have any problems. Just be on the lookout.

I-5 bridge at Springfield

River Mile 184

This one is a bit scary, and the Oregon Marine Board has issued a warning, a closure, and then declared it re-opened. The bridge has some heavy construction going on, and there are additional pilings to be navigated around. The approach and channels are clearly marked, but treat this one with respect. You'll start on the right side of the river, follow the river into a pool that requires a quick turn to the left, move to the middle to navigate the designated boat channel, then you'll need to move to the left to avoid the strainer field on the river right. You'll also share the river with a bunch of college kids in inner-tubes. I was told that you can go down this all the way on the right - but I sure didn't see it. Possibly a factor of the water level, and possibly a factor of the construction. Our kayaks made it through without much excitement, but navigating a canoe (fully loaded with camping gear and packs) requires some fancy handling to get things in place at the right time.

Eugene Autzen Bridge

River Mile 183

Eugene Rapids
Heads up - this is BIG. Big enough to be of interest to kayakers looking for play water. My instinct was to get out and scout this thing, and I should have done so - I was mislead by trusting the college kids & inner tubes going through ahead of us. Because of the strainer fields on river right, we had to go far river left - which leads you into two sets of standing waves. The kayaks bounced through, but the canoe took on water. Thankfully, there is an eddy to the right, but if you don't have a solid low brace in the stern, don't take a loaded boat down these waves. Seriously. You'll be swimming.

Downriver of this are some more class II rapids, but nothing to be too concerned about. Of course, just when you're feeling confident is when you're most vulnerable. Did I mention - "Don't Get Cocky!"

Near Beacon Landing

River Mile 172

Will tending the fire
It's difficult to know where you are if you're using the Willamette River Keeper map. Features have changed substantially, and there are few identifiable landmarks. Get some satellite photos, or print out the google maps of this area. This is where we camped on September 3rd, 2011 - another beautiful gravel bar.

We had a bit of excitement at this campsite. Towards dusk, Mark hears voices upstream. Seems late for people to still be on the water. Just then, we see packs and flotsam floating downriver. Mark (assuming passive victim in lifejacket) grabs Will, they jacket-up and float the canoe, then paddle like crazy to retrieve the flotsam. Turns out to be a pack full of something heavy (beer or fishing gear), half a paddle, a bilge pump and two lifejackets. Turns out two of the locals had been fishing in a raft, but didn't pay attention, and ran into a sweeper. They were ok, and VERY appreciative that Mark and Will had retrieved everything except for one of the paddles. They called a friend, then hiked out along the powerline clearing where a friend was going to pick them up. Must have been a disagreeable trudge through the blackberries and backroads.

Harrisburg Park

River Mile 161

Harrisburg Park
For our 2011 trip, we decided to start at Harrisburg Park (August 13, 2011) and end at Buena Vista. This was the easiest way to arrange for shuttle parking for a trip through this part of the river. We parked our take-out shuttle car at the Buena Vista Ferry - although this is no longer recommended. See the discussion down below about Buena Vista Ferry Recreational Use.

Harrisburg is a great little town to start your trip. The boat ramp is adjacent to a beautiful park, and there is a parking lot designated for boat launch vehicles. There is a canoe-friendly launch area, although the gravel bar might snag you if you don't get over to the far bank in short order.

The river along this stretch is fast, but smooth. There were no strainers to speak of, although this may change from time to time.

Harkens Lake Landing

River Mile 153

The actual landing looks more like a place the local kids come to party, rather than an attractive campsite. Amenities are a road, wire fence, and overflowing trash bin. Skip this campsite.

Harkens Lake
However, just downriver is a very attractive gravel bar on the north side of the island, which is where we camped on August 13, 2011. This island is being cut apart by the river, and there are multiple channels through it - some navigable by canoe. Best of all, some of the banks are covered by blackberries, and by wading across a shallow stream we were able to pick about a gallon of the tastiest berries I've ever eaten. Across the narrow river was an encampment of some sort - possibly farm workers? - complete with cars and porta-potties.

Just a little bit further downriver is Irish Bend. This stretch of the river has multiple gravel bars that would be good camping. It's difficult to know what is public and private, but many of them are on islands that have sprung up since the Willamette River Keeper guidebook was created.

Norwood Island backchannel is BLOCKED

River Mile 149

Do NOT go around the backchannel of Norwood Island. You'll float through some beautiful overhanging trees and through some flowing current - then discover the abandoned railroad trestle is completely blocked with flotsom. Now you need to panic, turn around, and paddle like a madman back up stream, around the sweepers and unreliable eddy's. If you don't have a really good stroke, you will be sucked down into the trestle which waits for you like the Sarlaac on Tatooine. You will die if you get caught in the trestle flotsam - I'm pretty sure that's true.

Near Norwood Island

River Mile 148

jumping over will
After our little encounter with the backchannel of Norwood Island, this campsite (September 4th, 2011) was a welcome landing. Will slept out on the rocks, and Mark jumped over him in the morning.


River Mile 147

I was told this smokestack marks an abandoned pottery kiln, but that is definately not true. It's not abandoned, and it's most likely a hard-core irrigation pump station.

Snag Boat Bend

River Mile 143

We thought it would be fun to take the hide around the Snag Boat Bend refuge, as mentioned in the Willamette River Keeper guide. Granted, we'd have to walk down the road to get to the access point. But it is easy to confuse this with Buckskin Mary Landing (RM 145.8 and marked by a sign), just upriver. Our mistake was getting out on the eastern side of the refuge along the finger, rather than going up the tributary. This is visible in the Google map, and is probably visible in the topo's or aerial photos. Lesson learned - best to carry a good photo map if you're going to bushwhack.

Peoria Park (River mile 141.5) is difficult to see from the river. If you're going to try to get out at this point, you'll need a really good topo, and an excellent sense of direction. The landing is up a small inlet, disguised as one of many small inlets, impossible to tell apart.

Kiger Island

River Mile 136

We made camp on August 14, 2011 somewhere near Kiger Island. The picture at the right shows buildings that seem to place us around river mile 137, but it's difficult to tell, even with a topo. It was a typical gravel-bar campsite - small and narrow, and probably not there next year. We chatted with the farmers that owned the land next to the river, and they described the river as making some major changes in direction, size and depth. The google map shows the island as largely gravel, but when we were there, it was covered in Willows and trees.

Lunch outside of Corvallis

River Mile 134

This is a nice lunch spot with all the amenities. Blackberries, shade, a nice place to sit, innertubers floating by in droves.

Michael's Landing

River Mile 131

Of special note - Claire paddled stern all the way from last night's campground to Michael's Landing. Yea Claire!

Michael's landing provides access to Corvallis if you need to stock up on ice, beer, etc. There is a nice park, and grocery stores within walking distance - probably eight blocks. This could also function as a put-in or take-out spot - it appears that a lot of the local University students use this park for that purpose. Water can be found - but not at the parking area. You'll need to walk up to one of the stores on the main street.

Campsite on Island, August 15, 2011

River Mile 125

camp on August 15, 2011 and September 5th, 2011
Past here, the river is pastoral, but doesn't offer much in the way of campsites. We found a nice bank to have lunch on, but too narrow for camping. It wasn't until river mile 125 before we found an island that offered a worthy campsite. And it WAS worthy. The island splits the river, offering a shallow, non-motorboat channel and a larger channel. The smaller channel is delightful for swimming - although it could gone by next year.

Hyak Park

River Mile 122

Hyak Park
This is a great little park, with lots of parking for boaters. I suspect there is a lot of activity here during the weekends - the parking lots are way bigger than the picnic grounds, so I'm guessing there is a lot of waterfront activity happening. It would be a good place to put-in or take-out. Or stop for lunch. There are biffies and water, but no access to grocery stores.

We used this as a shuttle point for our September 2011 trip, and worked great. It's apparently not a well-used park, just outside of Albany, and rumored to be a gay meet-up point. Aaron and I had biffies and water while we waited for Janell and Will to retrieve our car - about two and 1/2 hours round trip.

Takena Landing

River Mile 119

Takena Landing
In the middle of the City of Albany is Takena Landing, right near where Highway 20 crosses the Willamette. Use the landing on the north side of the river, the south side is a good place to get ice cream, but not to get to the river. We started our 2010 canoe trip at this landing.

Watch the current and the bridge pilings. I was a bit surprised at how much current is actually coming down the river at this point, and if you're not paying attention, your boat is likely to take off without you. Worse, you may be just getting accustomed to being in your boat when you come up to the bridge. If you wrap yourself around a piling, you are going to have a really short and unpleasant trip.

Avoid using the floating dock that extends from the landing. Again, there is a lot of current. If you load on the upriver side, you're likely to see your boat get sucked under the dock. If you load on the downriver side, you'll experience some strong currents that may want to roll your boat upside-down.

Quiet River
The river quickly becomes quiet and un-populated. Although there are roads, homes and farms located right next to the waterway, you won't see them thanks to the thin layer of trees along the banks. This picture is taken just one-quarter mile down from the landing, looking towards the main part of residential Albany. The shoreline is pristine.

We immediately began to see eagles and herons, and really felt like we were in a wilderness situation. You'll find that the shallow depth of the water restricts motorboats - once you go over a sandbar, you'll be in your own world.

Near Black Dog Landing

River Mile 113

First Campsite - July 15, 2010
Our first campsite was on the tip of the island located at mile 113. River keepers mention that the island has a camping spot about halfway down on the right - and it does. Janell and I left Claire at the point of the island, then paddled down to take a look. It's enclosed and faces east, so there was no wind to keep away the bugs. Instead, we chose to stay at the southern-most tip of the island on the gravelly washout.

With our air mattresses, sleeping was no problem. And the rocks were fine to get around on. So it made an ideal campsite - much more pleasant than the buggy campsite down river. Oh - and if you like to swim after paddling, the rocky campsites offer much better swimming holes than the wooded sites. We only saw one other couple paddling by that evening, so complete privacy. I also suspect that most of the traffic goes by on the west side of the island - we were on the east side, so missed any activity that might have come by.

As pictured, we also carry a camp kitchen. This little wonder folds up to about the size of a loooong briefcase, and includes a small table and place to put the stove. We have one of those ancient two-burner Coleman that have been converted to propane, no need for a fancy backpacking stove when you're paddling a canoe!

Next morning, we arose to a beautiful sunrise, breakfast, and a delightful paddle.

Luckiamute Landing

River Mile 108

"There's a story about a woman and pottery - happened not too long ago, and not far from here," said old Mr. Smith, pulling on his pipe and watching the thunder clouds gather in the late afternoon sky. "Emma Sioux was crazy about pottery, so it was natural she was blown to bits by a potter, considering that's what shaped her life in every other way." (Read the rest of the story here...)

Our original plan for the 2010 trip was to put in at Luckiamute Landing. The River Keepers map seems to indicate road access and a landing, and so we drove back and forth along Buena Vista Road, looking for an obvious landing. Nothing to be found. We did find a trailhead with a gate, which is locked. The road leads to a campsite and a landing - but it would have been a substantial portage (1.7 miles) from the road to the river. Not recommended.

From the river, Luckiamute Landing is obvious, marked with a LARGE sign showing River Mile 108 - right across from where the Santiam river enters the Willamette. There is a quick trail to the campsite. You'll find no water, and no car access, but a very nice campsite.
Lots of room for tents. When we checked it out, it was vacant, but the guest book indicated that it was used on a nightly basis. You may wind up sharing this campsite - but there is plenty of room. There are more pictures of this campsite here.

The Santiam River enters the Willamette at this point, and increases the amount of flow through the river. You'll notice the difference. No rapids, but there is a lot of volume. There were several cases where I underestimated the speed we were moving at, and had to accept going around the island on the side we were already headed for. Careful not to get wrapped around a rock!

Here are the pages from the guest book at Luckiamute Landing

Buena Vista Ferry and Buena Vista Park

River Mile 106

This little park would work well for a put-in or take-out location. There are biffies and parking, but it is mostly a grassy hill. There is a drinking fountain, but getting any substantial amount of water from it is not going to work. There is no other source of water at this park.

No Recreational Use
The Buena Vista Ferry runs just downriver from the park - and yes, it does move quickly. Remember that there is a lot of current flowing through the river at this point, and it is easy to be fooled into thinking you have plenty of time to avoid the ferry when you really don't. They will not be able to stop in time if you get too close - err to the cautious side.

After you pass the ferry, try to stick to the right side of Wells Island. The left side has a lot current upwelling and snags that you'll want to be aware of. Nothing you can't handle - but just heads up.

American Bottom

River Mile 104

American Bottom campsite is well-marked with a large river mile sign (RM 104) and is just downriver from Wells Island. We didn't stop here, so I have no idea what this is like.

Just downriver from American Bottom is a DSL Island. The map says to watch the left channel, and it is likely that in low water, the left channel won't be open. It also says there is primitive camping, but this island looked pretty overgrown. Which would be ok, if you like grass and mosquitos.

Sidney Access

River Mile 102

Calling this an access is laughable. We were looking for water, and tried to get up to the campsite - but this clay bank is almost vertical. If it was the slightest bit wet, it would be completely unclimable. Unless you are planning on a splash landing, don't use this as an entry point. It's more like a scenic overlook.

Judson Rocks to Independence Bar Landing

River Mile 99

This stretch has a lot of developed houses, roofing (bang - bang - bang) and motorboats. The transition from a near wilderness experience to a party barge is instantaneous. Folks on docks, lawn chairs, beer and rock guitars warming up in someone's garage.

Houses and irrigation pumps dot the river, and you can expect friends. We saw one possible campsite on the west side of the river at mile 98, but opted to camp on the gravel bar on the east side at mile 97 (July 16, 2010). We can hear music at what we thought was the park, but is actually a high-school hangout just down the river. There is also a house just across the river. Mowed lawn, etc, but far enough that you won't see any activity.

Things did quiet down, and we were enjoying the sunset and the evening breeze when a young couple approached, wearing swimsuits and carrying an inner-tube. They were asking directions to the bridge, which we believed was some distance down river. They had apparently been floating for some time, and were hoping to meet up with friends. Good thing - it was getting dark, and I didn't think they had waterproof flashlights. Off they went, back into the river, and apparently they did meet their friends just around the corner. Never a dull moment.

Independence Riverview Park

River Mile 96

THIS is where you want to get water. There is a beautiful amphitheater and park just alongside the landing. Great place for lunch, and a nice grocery store just across the park. This would be an excellent place to put in or take out, if you are looking for a drop at this point in the river.

Feral Llamas

River Mile 91

There - right in the middle of the poorly composed picture. It's a feral llama, wandering away from us. This chunk of land is marked as an island, but it's pretty clear that the southern tip joins up with mainland most of the time - not just when it is dry. We never did see the entrance to the channel, and only realized we were passing this when we got to the northern edge and saw Halls Ferry Landing.

This stretch of the river is a delightful stretch of nearly wilderness - or at least, you can fool yourself into thinking it is. As is true about the entire river, aerial photos will show you the thin strip of trees between the river and farmland. This island is an exception, since it is apparently too narrow to farm.

The river guide mentions this would be a good place to camp or take a rest, which it might. Keep your water supply stocked, because there isn't potable water, other than what can be filtered out of the river. Plus - I've had moose and bear in a campsite, but I suspect some llamas are used to humans, and would be curious enough to wander in and see what's for dinner.

Motorboats begin to appear

River Mile 89

There isn't much of note at this point, except this seems to be the boundary between a "wilderness" zone and water available to motorboats. We had been enjoying a really quiet trip from mile 96 up to this point, when suddenly water skiers and motorboats appeared. There is apparently a shallows at this point that prevents traffic upriver- we didn't notice it because of being in canoes and kayaks. But there is a major boat launch at mile 86, and the boats travel all the way upriver to this point.

There is a large sandbar/gravel area on the west side of the river that works reasonably well for a lunch spot - in a pinch, you could camp here, but it isn't marked as public land.

Major Motorboat Landing

River Mile 86

This is the main landing for Salem motorboaters and waterskiiers. Located right across the river from Minto Brown Park. Expect a lot of traffic, and expect the traffic to increase until you get to mayhem central at the Salem Riverfront.

Salem Riverfront Park

River Mile 84

So much for your wilderness adventure. Salem Riverfront Park is a major development in downtown Salem. Very popular at any time, expect a lot of boat traffic and a lot of horsepower. Also - expect that the river cops will be checking your Aquatic Invasive Species Permit and counting life jackets. Fines for those of you who didn't plan ahead!

We didn't get out of our boats, but there is a good chance you'll be able to stock up on water and groceries. You'll want to leave someone with the boats to prevent curious tourists from borrowing your gear.

The good news is that downriver of this park, there is a shallows that restricts motorboat traffic. Things will get progressively quieter as you move away from this area.

Sunset Park

River Mile 81

I'm not convinced this park is actually here.

Palma Ciea Park

River Mile 80

Likewise, I'm not sure this park exists. We didn't see it from the river.

Keizer Rapids Park, Nuttbrock Landing and Darrow Rocks Landing

River Mile 79

This is just upriver from Nuttbrock landing, and in the crook of the river. If you miss it, you'll have a difficult time getting back to it. If you blow by it, you'll find yourself around the corner, and getting back will involve a long hike back over a gravel pit. Trying to wade back up-river will be difficult or impossible due to the reeds growing next to the river.

This park is also a hang-out for the local youth of Keizer, as is the entire riverfront around the gravel pit. When I hiked back to take a look, I noticed what looked like bike paths - and then noticed two kids flying over the jumps and nearly landing on me. Heads up!

This is a private campground (campsite on July 17, 2010), run by Jerry Nuttbrock. Call him at 503 932-4803 for reservations. There is a cost to stay here. You can contact him by clicking this link.

As you go by this developed campsite, you'll have mild rapids to your left, and a series of developed campsites on the right. These are all private and developed by Jerry. These may be marked as private by now - when we were there, we saw no signs until we started to explore behind the campsites. If you approach on foot from the mainland, you'll see the signs. If you approach from the river, you might miss these signs.

This didn't appear to have any sort of gravel beach. Mostly grass. Just downriver is the Darrow Bar Island. The entrance does have a lot of pilings, and there appeared to be a significant current running through them. If you decide to swing around behind this island, you'll want to plan ahead, as it happens fast, and a surprise encounter with a piling never ends well.

Wheatland Ferry

River Mile 72

This is a busy ferry crossing - but there are no services, no water, no groceries. There were biffies. It is a great place to meet up with someone in an automobile. In fact, we arranged a mid-trip swap of personnel. But do be careful dealing with the ferry crossing - it has a lot of momentum and no ability to steer around you and your puny little boat.

Navigating downriver of the ferry involves a lot of current, and few recognizable landmarks. It would be helpful to have a topo map for this section, as the riverkeeper maps are short of detail. Although there isn't a lot to miss, you may find yourself somewhere you didn't expect.

Jackson Bend Landing

River Mile 63

This is marked as "no access" and they aren't kidding. The bank is vertical. If you've had any rain, it will also be incredibly slippery - water on top of clay. Great if you like to coat yourself in mud, then slide into the river. Not so great if you are trying to go in an upward direction. Don't plan on using this as any sort of an access point, unless you are planning to have someone just throw stuff off the cliff for you to catch in your boat below. There is no shoreline. Not sure why this is called a landing - it's a muddy cliff.

Five Island

River Mile 62

This is a great campsite (campsite on July 18, 2010). Located just behind the point of Five Island, on left side of the the river-right channel (on the island). The swimming is excellent, and you'll have a good amount of late-day sun. The beach is gravel, great sleeping if you have a sleeping pad. Just enough breeze to keep the bugs away, lots of firewood if you're inclined to have a fire. This is wilderness camping. No biffies, no services. Pack out your trash - please.

Staying on the right/north side of the island shields you from the majority of the traffic that will go by on the left/southern side of the island. The right channel isn't friendly to larger boats, and the entry to the channel is quick (and mildly obstructed) which filters out a certain number of boaters. There is an irrigation pump that comes down to the river from the mainland, as well as an access road. Not 100% private - but pretty darn close.

Candiani Bar

River Mile 59

Downriver from Five Island you'll see a large gravel bar on the river left, and then Candiani Bar. I doubt you'll see the entry to the back-stream channel around this island. If there was camping on this island, we didn't see it.

The river flattens out in this stretch, apparently due to Ash Island. Read up on the Newberg Pool - you'll be paddling in it. This also means that you'll see an increase in motorboat traffic. Which is understandable, seeing as how you are coming up on ...

Rodgers Landing

River Mile 50

Welcome back to civilization. This is a major public landing. There are biffies, but don't think there is any water. It is busy. On the bluff overlooking the landing is something that looks like a briquette or cement factory. Downriver from this you will see lots of houseboats and riverfront cabins. Don't make the mistake we did - these aren't grocery stores. We pulled up to one houseboat, and traded a bottle of wine for some ice cream treats - but it wasn't a grocery stop.

Champoeg Park

River Mile 45

Fortunately, the large landing is hard to miss. But don't miss it - there isn't a lot of camping downstream. The landing is marked by large piers, with a ramp leading up to a staircase, which leads up to the campsite (campsite on July 19, 2010). If you have a lot of loose stuff, you'll have a lot of trips up and down the ramp.

Champoeg State Park is a great facility. You'll find yourself in a grassy, fenced-off area next to a parking lot. Lots of picnic tables, bathrooms, and access to showers in the main camp (which you need to walk to). Cost is $5 - well worth it.

Somewhere around mile 42 you'll see a road leading down to the river. There were blackberry plants on the shoreline, and if you hike up to the top of the bluff, you'll find a small fresh produce store.

We had lunch at the Boones Ferry Boat Ramp (Mile 38.5). A smelly place. At this point in the river, it is slow going, no current, and the water traffic is getting larger.

Molalla River

River Mile 36

Molalla River State Park was initially a HUGE disappointment. The sandbar we pulled up to was a party place for motorboaters - which isn't necessarily a bad thing - but for some reason, these folks leave behind a vast amount of trash. Some of it is really nasty. And it's obviously stuff that was brought in by boat. Broken coolers. Vast amounts of empty food containers. Burned lawn chairs. Plastic bags everywhere. And it's noisy - large motors doing circles in the river. Yuck.

What turned this from a disaster to the nicest campsite of the trip (campsite on July 20, 2010) was a quick journey the up Molalla River. There is a lot of current flowing into the Willamette River, so the paddle will be challenging. You'll probably need to get out and walk, although there is enough water to float over rocks and sandbars. Bless these hazards - they are all unnavigable by standard motor-boats. At one point, you'll see the mysterious artwork on the south shore. Go far enough, and you'll find yourself on a beautiful gravel point. Be aware some of this is private property - although it's difficult to tell where, as it isn't posted. But it's quiet. It's clean. Great place to catch some sun. Swimming is great. It's bug free.

Don't be fooled - it isn't entirely private. There is a bridge somewhere further upriver, and some fishermen will walk down to the river, then walk along downriver. I'm not sure how they get out once they reach the Willamette.

Past the junction between the Molalla and Willamette River is the actual Molalla River State Park - not much more than a boat ramp.

Willamette Narrows

River Mile 30

Willamette Narrows
This short stretch of the river is absolutely beautiful. Don't miss it. If you've ever been to the Boundary Waters Canoe Area, you'll feel back at home.

Take-out at Bernert Landing

River Mile 28

A delightful park. Bathrooms, probably water. Downriver from here is the Willamette Falls. Don't go over them.

Here is a complete slide show of all the pictures we took