Stand-up paddle the urban Willamette

Sellwood bridge, just south of the launch site

I pushed off at Sellwood Riverfront park. The plan? Paddle the board toward the city. I wouldn’t make it all the way, but the journey looked good. I parked on a street nearly under Sellwood bridge and headed toward what I thought was a boat launch. It seemed that it had been one a long time ago. As I approached, I saw a vague hazard sign. It didn’t explain much and there was no fence. I couldn’t see anything scary, so I went in. After launching, I looked back over my shoulder to see a warning sign about a cable and 11,000 voltage! I paddled much faster. Note to self: don’t exit this way.

Between Sellwood and downtown Portland

Going north toward town was a push against current and wind. The water was a little choppy, not too bad, no white caps. I dropped to my knees a few times when I came upon cross currents, water stitches, surges, and bucks. I absolutely did not want to fall in. Too cold. This was more of a workout paddle, not a cruise. I really wanted to get a good view of the city and the first bridge, so I didn’t take the side route through calmer water that diverts east, just off the yacht club.

Also on the east side, just before the yacht club, is Oaks Park. Sounds of people screaming on the roller coaster bounce out and off the water.

I was glad to not have my chihuahua mix hood ornament dog with me. She would have hated the water splashing across the front of the board.

After close to an hour of paddling, I pulled into a small gathering of snags in the middle of the river. A perfect rest area and a place to sit down and take a few pictures of the still far away city. I noticed a small board held between roots and branches. I plucked it out- my next sign! It was imperfect in perfect ways- part lumber, part river wood. It had aged and ripened in the river.

From the river: Holy. Sacred, divine, blessed, nature.

The only other boaters out were people fishing and kayaks. I like to throw a friendly wave and hope that doesn’t cause me to pitch off my board.

Evening on the water- almost out

It was getting late or I might have pushed it farther. I needed to get off the water before dark, and that meant I needed to turn around. Two hours of solid paddling is enough anyway. Coming back was faster with the wind and current; however, the river still had surprises in movement. For example at random times, there would be drops and surges, or it felt like the board was goosed and pushed me forward toward the nose. No idea what that was but it made me laugh.

The way out? Just take the stairs. Right before the last dock prior to Sellwood bridge, dart left, and there are two different sets of steps leading out of the water. Incredibly civilized. Sort of like Venice, only concrete rather than marble. Close enough to make for a magical water outing.

Easy access to Riverfront park