Easy and Fast Corvallis, Oregon ~ Willamette River 3 miles Put in: Willamette Park or Crystal Lake Boat Landing Take Out: Michael's Landing you will find to the right of the river after you pass under two bridges.
Book your River Date This August with Corvallis Kayak Rentals a local nonprofit called Ocean Blue Project.
EASY AND QUICK Independence to Emil Marx Park, 4.5 mile Put in: Independence's Riverview Park Take out: Emil Marx/Lloyd Strange Fishing Hole This stretch of river is about as simple as you can get. From Independence's Riverview Park, the river moves at a good pace through generally pleasant scenery. The only downside is occasional motorboats. A pair of gravel bars make good places for snacking and swimming on a trip that only takes about two and a half hours total (including setting up the shuttle).
Spring Valley Greenway to Grand Island Access, 4 miles Put in: Spring Valley (just across from Western Mennonite School) Take out: Grand Island Access This pretty stretch of river takes you past Willamette Mission State Park, across the Wheatland Ferry's path and into the forested channel of Grand Island.
The river remains scenic throughout, and considering the short distance of the trip, stopping for a swim here and there is encouraged. Two elements make this a float where you'll have to pay attention. After floating past the Wheatland Ferry, make sure to paddle left, out of the main current and navigate into the left channel of Grand Island. Otherwise, you'll miss your take-out point. The put-in and take-out spots also are tricky. At Spring Valley, you must make your way down a steep embankment to get to the river. It's not too hard for adults but can be tricky for kids. At Grand Island, you must carry your boat about a 100 yards to the car.
SCENIC AND LONGER Keizer Rapids Park to Wheatland Ferry, 8 miles Put in: Keizer Rapids Park Take out: Wheatland Ferry boat landing This quiet and pretty stretch of river might be my favorite stretch on the Willamette near Salem. Once you get paddling, the roads feel a long way away and the riparian forest of the greenways in West Salem take center stage. The trip ends at the Wheatland boat landing and will take a full day. You can float a shorter version of this trip as well by taking out at Spring Valley (see above). That trip is about 5.5 mile, but can be a hassle to set up a shuttle. Even so, with younger kids, the shorter option often is a good bet.
Independence to Wallace Marine, 11.5 miles Put in: Independence's Riverview Park Take out: Wallace Marine Park This stretch of river has always been a little too long, slow and urbanized for my taste, but it's still worth mentioning given its proximity to Salem. The first half is nice, but once the river hits the edge of Highway 22, the float isn't nearly as enjoyable. Even so, this stretch is worth doing during the annual Great Willamette River Raft Race, Aug. 8 (willametteriverrace.com). Buena Vista to Independence, 11.5 miles Put in:Buena Vista County Park Take out: Independence's Riverview Park I haven't had time to run this stretch of river yet, but according to those who know, this long day trip or overnight adventure might be the best float near Salem. The river curves past multiple islands, Ankeny National Wildlife Refuge and seven riverside camping spots. The best camping spot, about 2.5 miles into the trip, is American Bottom. It has a fire ring, seasonal toilet and picnic table. Check the Willamette Water Trail website for more campsites and details to make this longer trip worthwhile. Zach Urness has been an outdoors writer, photographer and videographer in Oregon for seven years. He is the author of the book "Hiking Southern Oregon" and can be reached at zurness@StatesmanJournal.com or (503) 399-6801. Find him on Facebook at Zach's Oregon Outdoors or @ZachsORoutdoors on Twitter.
Willamette Water Trail What it is: A guide to boating the Willamette River Where to find it:willamettewatertrail.org What you'll find: The location of river access points, boat launches, campsites, picnic areas, river hazards and other helpful information What you'll need: A boat, life jacket, paddle, two cars to set up a shuttle
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