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Upper Willamette River Paddle

Christensen Landing to Wheatland

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Launch Point Christensen Landing (Eugene, Or)
Max Difficulty: SKI
Paddle Length/Time 101 Miles/7 Days
Tide/Current Station Not Applicable.  Do check the river flow levels, levels can drop rapidly after mid-June making some sections of the river to shallow to paddle.
Destination Wheatland, Or

Last year we paddled the lower Willamette River, we had a great time and decided that we would do the upper Willamette River this year.  This was planned as a 6 day paddle and required coordination with Oregon State Parks, to camp, and with the Willamette River Keepers, without whose help this trip would have been a non-starter.  The River Keepers do have a map available showing all the camping sites and contacts along the river.  If you are thinking about doing this paddle the map is well worth the price.  To start planning your paddle go to Willamette River Water Trail web to access the map on-line and to order a hardcopy. Things to consider on this paddle is the water levels/flow, do it too late in the season and you'll not have enough water to make it in some sections.

Day 1.  We meet at Christensen Landing Park (River Mile (RM 169), located just north of Eugene.  The park has a gravel boat ramp suitable for launching our kayaks.  We have 8 kayaks on the trip, 2 doubles and 6 singles.  We coordinated having a car shuttle service meet us here to pick up our cars and deliver them to the Arcane Winery in Wheatland, our final destination.  The price is reasonable and saves us a lot of hassle at the end of the trip.  Our first day’s destination is Blue Ruin Island (RM 165).  T
his is a large island with a small backchannel, usually year-round. It has little protection from the sun, but offers a flat area for camping.  The guide called for back tracking up the back channel to the camp site, this became a bit of the challenge as we had 3-4 mph current.  We eventually pulled our boats up channel on foot then floated with the current into the camp site.  The 1st days paddle distance is 3.27 miles with the current it’s an easy day.  The site is very rustic with no amenities other than some flat spots for tents.

Day 2.  We are up and at it early in the AM.  We have breakfast and prepare for the day.  Our destination is Buckskin Mary (RM 145.5) this is a Willamette River Water Trails (WRWT) Site.  We head down river the weather is good and we have a good current pushing us down stream.  We explore the river and its back channels.  This part of the river is forested.  After about hour and half we come up to Harrisburg, a small down on the river, we decide to take a break and walk about town exploring.  We find a gourmet pie shop in town!!!  We quickly decide to score a few pies for dessert later tonight.   We are underway in about an hour headed downriver. The rest of the paddle to Buckskin Mary is quiet and secluded we see no other boaters on the river, we are making good time.  We arrive at Buckskin Mary in the mid-afternoon and soon have our camp site established, there are no amenities.  We spend a quiet evening enjoying the blue skies and warm weather and, of course, eating our pies.  We paddled 21.3 miles today, a total of 25 miles so far. 

Day 3.  The morning finds the sun shining and clear skies we cook our breakfast and get some coffee and soon are ready to head out again.  Our destination today is Hyatt County Park, about 6 miles north of Corvallis.  This is one of our bigger paddle days and we get underway, we continue to have a current pushing us and keeping our average paddle speed at about 5 mph, even with our breaks.  The river winds back and forth and we explore it and some of the back channels we find that look deep enough to paddle.  We paddle for about 3 hours and soon reach Corvallis where we intend to take a lunch break.  We stop at the north end of Riverfront Park.  We wander through down looking for a suitable place to eat.  We end up at the Flat Tail Brewing Company and have a great lunch!  We wander back to the kayaks after lunch continue on our way paddling about 8 miles to reach Hyak County Park.  Conrad and I take a side trip into a small lake/estuary just off the river, fun to explore but not much there.  Hyak County park is just down river, this is a small county park with a concrete boat ramp and a small camp area above it, there is running water and restrooms.  We soon have our camp established and enjoy a “happy” hour sitting on a wood deck overlooking the river.  We are the only campers here and there are few people stopping by.  We have covered 50 miles since the start of our journey.

Day 4.  It rained during the night, we are setup under trees and they do provide us with rain cover, the downside is that the water drips of the branches long after the rain has stopped.  We have breakfast while our rainfly’s dry out.  We are soon packed and ready to get going.   Our destination is the Rogue River Chatoe located on the Rogue River Hops Farm.  We have rented the entire B&B there.  The weather is good in the morning and we are headed down river again, we pass Albany.  We keep paddling for a couple of hours, we have a 20 mile day today.  We stop for lunch about halfway to our destination.  The skies are getting cloudier and we are soon putting our paddling jackets on as a chilly rain falls on us.  It rains for the most of the rest of the paddle to Rogue River Chatoe.  The rain stops about 30 minutes prior to us reaching the farm.  The pullout is a bit muddy but not too bad.  We unload what we’ll need for the evening and head for the B&B.  The B&B is an old 2 story farmhouse with a nice kitchen and living room on the first floor and several bedrooms on the 2nd.  We are all soon checked in at a waiting line for the hot showers is established.  The Hop Farms has a tasting room with some snacks and good selection of beers.  There is no real food and we’ll be cooking in the kitchen.  We do get root beer floats for dessert at the tasting room…what a treat.  Everyone enjoys the beds that night.  We hope for a return to warmer weather tomorrow.  One of our paddlers suffers from a mild case of hypothermia, something we are not used to dealing with on our paddles.  It’s a reminder to be carefully even in chilly weather… it doesn’t need to get that cold to affect some folks.  We have completed 77.2 miles.

Day 5.  The good weather is back.  We wake up to a sunny day.  It’s nice just having to pack some clothes and not worry about tents and sleeping bags.  We cook our breakfasts in the kitchen and are soon ready to get underway.  Our destination tonight is Keizer, it will be a 22 mile paddle.  We head out and after about an hour and a half we get to Independence, we opt to stop and get some coffee and wander about town.  The town was the center of hop farming in the early 19th century.  There is a very nice riverfront park.  We find a nice coffee shop on Main Street and enjoy and nice break.  We wander about town and take in the sights.  We get back underway and continue down river enjoy the quiet and the scenery.  We proceed about 12 miles when we arrive in Salem, we opt to stop and pull into Riverfront City Park.  We pull up to the dock and tie our boats up.  A small paddle wheel steamer is tied up to the dock, it apparently does tourist runs up and down the Salem Waterfront.  We wander into town and have a nice lunch at the Coin Jam.  We only have about 4 miles to go so we are not in a rush.  We pile back into the kayaks and head down river, the current is still pushing us at 4-5 mph.  We cover the remaining distance pretty quickly.  The campsite is north of the Keizer Rapids Boat ramp, about 200 yards.  We see someone in campsite building a fire in the fire pit, they take off when we land… we end up enjoying their fire that evening.  The camp site is small and grassy.  The restrooms are back at the boat ramp about 200-300 yards, there is a paved walking trail that will take you there.  We have a very nice last night of camping.  We have paddled a total of 92.8 miles so far.

Day 6.  Our last day on the river.  We have a short paddle to Wheatland.  It is another very nice day, the sky is clear and the temperatures are in the 80’s.  We paddle down river enjoying our last leg.  It only takes a couple of hours to cover the almost 9 miles to Wheatland Ferry Landing.  We opt to pull our boats out there since it is easier than at the Arcane Winery.  We walk over to the Winery and pick up our cars, they are waiting for us there, just as promised.  It takes us about 45 minutes to unpack the boats and get everything into and on to the cars.  We are all soon ready to go.  We had planned to stay at the Winery that night but we got in so early that it was easier just to go ahead and drive back to Seattle.  We paddled a total of 101 miles on this trip.

This was a very nice paddle, with only the one afternoon of rain.  We enjoyed the trip immensely and would recommend to any paddlers looking for a path less traveled.  A nice break from the usual ocean paddles. Be sure to check the water levels before you go!

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Last Updated:  June 30, 2015