Aptly named, the town of Hood River is a haven for water sports of all kinds, as it is situated at the confluence of the mighty Columbia River and Hood River, with several rivers and lakes nearby.
If you’ve already tried Hood River’s most popular sport, kiteboarding, consider hitting the river by kayak this summer! There are plenty of places to go kayaking in the Hood River area, from Hood River itself to some smaller rivers across the border in Washington, plus a few scenic lakes surrounded by hiking trails.
WHEN TO GO
While it is a beautiful place to be year-round, the town of Hood River comes alive during the summer and early fall. The ample sunshine and warmer temperatures make outdoor recreation that much better, from kiteboarding to kayaking and hiking to biking. If you’re okay with navigating a bit more foot traffic, consider embarking on your kayaking adventure during the summer. That way, if you fall in the water, you’ll feel refreshed — and you may even want to take a dip to cool off anyway. If you’d rather wait a bit, the fall offers pleasant weather, fewer crowds and unbeatable scenery bursting with fall color.
KAYAK RENTAL + TOUR COMPANIES
Photo Courtesy of Gorge Paddling Center
Situated directly on the Hood River waterfront, the Gorge Paddling Center has everything you need for a successful day on the river. This locally owned and operated center offers kayak and stand-up paddleboarding rentals, which are available for just $25 for the first hour and $10 per each additional hour after that. Plus, they have tandem kayaks available for $35 for the first hour and $15 an hour after that.
If you need a bit more guidance, Gorge Paddling Center offers daytime and sunset tours in the Columbia Gorge with an experienced guide and all the equipment you need. Their location features protection from the wind and current, making it a safe experience for all ages and skill levels.
Owner and operator of Hood River SUP and Kayak, Justin Teague, has been kayaking since the age of 13. He has a major passion for all things paddling and has found Hood River to be the best river destination for water sports. Hood River SUP and Kayak offers a variety of rentals, including single and double kayaks, inflatable kayaks, stand-up paddleboards, downwind boards, and other gear, like dry bags, splash tops, splash pants and more.
BEFORE YOU GO
Before you hit the river, it’s important to consider a few safety precautions. River currents are unpredictable, so consider tackling an easier route if you are not an experienced kayaker. Fully research the section you’re interested in trying to understand all the potential threats and dangers along the way to ensure it will be manageable for you and your kayaking crew. Also, make sure you wear plenty of sunscreen and bring water and snacks for longer journeys.
BEST PLACES TO GO
Difficulty: Class III (Feat. Class III+ Rapids)
Length: 5.9 Miles
Photo Courtesy of Whitewater Guidebook
This 5.9-mile run from Tucker Bridge to the Columbia River is both scenic and fun for kayakers and rafters alike. This stretch contains mostly Class III waters with the potential for Class IV rapids, especially at high water above 6 feet. Along the way, you’ll pass through a small forested canyon and enjoy incredible views of Mt. Hood on a clear day.
Hood River (Dee to Tucker)
Difficulty: Class IV
Length: 7.6 Miles
If you don’t mind a bit of adventure (including hiking with your kayaks to access the river), the Dee to Tucker stretch of the Hood River is perfect for you. This section is just below the confluence of the river’s east and west forks, extending 7.6 miles with Class IV runs. Along this route, you’ll pass by beautiful forests, basalt cliffs and a pipeline, which is where some of the bigger rapids begin.
Difficulty: Class III (Class IV above 2000 CFS)
Length: 1.75 Miles
For those looking to step up their paddling game, look no further than the short (but adventurous) Bull River Run. This 1.75-mile route extends from the Bull Run Power House to the confluence of the Sandy River, featuring a handful of intense rapids along the way. It’s a great opportunity to practice catching eddies and boat scouting. You can also extend your trip by continuing on the Sandy River to reach Oxbow Park.
Difficulty: Class III-IV
Length: 6 Miles
Photo Courtesy of Whitewater Guidebook
The Sandy River is a 56-mile tributary of the Columbia River, extending from Mount Hood to the Columbia River. This 6-mile run puts in at the old Marmot Dam site and ends below Revenue Bridge. Along the way, you’ll experience class III–IV rapids with a handful of fun pool drop rapids and boulder gardens. Paddle with caution, as this section can collect quite a bit of wood!
Difficulty: Class III+
Length: 8.1 Miles
Extending a total of 96 miles in south-central Washington, the Klickitat River is an excellent river for kayaking. And the Upper Klickitat is one of the most popular rafting and kayaking put-ins, specifically at Parrot’s Crossing. You’ll experience continuous Class III rapids along the 8.1-mile route, passing by columnar basalt and massive Ponderosa Pines. This adventure feels like you’re in remote wilderness, featuring no road signs or traffic.
Difficulty: Class III – IV (Depending on Flow)
Length: 4.6 Miles
The White Salmon River is probably the most popular Class III rafting trip in the Gorge. There are several sections worth conquering, but one of the best is the middle portion, extending 4.6 miles from BZ Corner to Husum Falls. It has a steady flow of Class III waters, a beautiful forested canyon, and the grand finale, Husums Falls — the largest commercially run waterfall in the country!
Lost, Trillium + Timothy Lakes
If you’re looking for a bit more laid-back kayaking experience, head to a nearby lake instead! Many of the area’s lakes are open to kayakers, including Lost, Trillium and Timothy Lakes. Plus, they each offer amazing hikes with some of the best views around. Click here for more information about hiking Lost and Trillium Lakes and here for details about Timothy Lake Loop. And after you’ve worked up a sweat, spend the afternoon cruising around the lake via kayak.
AFTER YOU GO
After all this paddling, be sure to reward yourself with a hearty meal and a glass of beer (or two!). Looking for some direction? Check out some of our favorite restaurants in Hood River and some of the best breweries in the area! And if you can’t get enough of the great outdoors, here are some of the top outdoor adventures to do in Hood River.
We hope you enjoy your day out on the river! What local kayaking insight do you have? Let us know in the comments below.