It's hard to believe that Portland ever lacked a dearth of quality paddle outfitters, considering the many evergreen-lined rivers and nearby coastline. But back in 1986, the founders of Alder Creek Kayak & Canoe felt there were too few options serving the area, so they launched their own garage shop. Their passion for the outdoors and paddle sports steadily built the company, and today, a staff of equipment experts advises guests on kayaking, canoeing, standup-paddleboarding, and rafting supplies. Beyond selling gear from vessels to apparel, staffers lead on-the-water classes and organize group trips. The shop also outfits customers for independent exploration with a fleet of rentals.
Housed at the bottom of the roaring Willamette Falls, which comprises the confluence of Willamette and Clackamas Rivers, eNRG Kayaking's on-water shop and docks serve as the home base for instructional excursions in kayaking, rapids rafting, and standup paddleboarding. Head instructor Sam Drevo also helps those more experienced in watersports to attain a swift-water rescue certification or an ACA instructor certification, required credentials to shake hands with most river deities. Sam watches over all levels of kayakers with experience earned through years of competing, including a ranking as the world's sixth-best freestyle kayaker in 1998 and a first-place win at the Ford Gorge Games' Outdoor World Championships in 2001.
When Sam is not leading tours around the falls or down segments of either river, he guides extended expeditions to other northwestern and foreign waterways. His 16 international aquatic excursions have taken paddlers to rivers on four continents, through countries such as Canada, Costa Rica, Thailand, Laos, China, India, and Botswana. Sam and his staff aim to protect the rivers through eco-friendly exploration and sell a range of kayak models to help others to similarly respect the ecosystem or sneak up and tickle unsuspecting bass.
The outdoor experts of Northwest River Guides lead whitewater-rafting, kayaking, and standup-paddleboarding trips on local waters that range from the Willamette to Klickitat Rivers. They also prepare adventurers for independent outings through kayaking classes, including advanced training in swift-water rescue. For those seeking once-in-a-lifetime experiences or to bolster their strange-and-exotic-water collections, Northwest’s guides organize international expeditions to such destinations as Canada, Costa Rica, and Scandinavia. Members of American Whitewater, the Outdoor Alliance, and Portland-based nonprofit We Love Clean Rivers, guides advocate preservation and stewardship during each trip.
At Natural High Rafting, they lead guided rafting and fishing trips on more than 12 of Oregon’s scenic and coastal rivers, including the Deschutes and Clackamas. The fishing trips also seek out fish by species, often encountering monsters such as steelhead, trout, and coho and chinook salmon.
The McKenzie River flows past some of Oregon's most awe-inspiring natural scenery—douglas fir–blanketed mountainsides, bald eagles diving to catch trout, and gargantuan boulders splitting the current into Class II and III rapids. Guides like Captain "Wild Matty" equip outdoorsmen with fly or spinning rigs and guide vistors on fishing trips on the McKenzie River, Siuslaw River, and Lake Creek to catch rainbow and cutthroat trout, spring- and fall-run chinook, and steelhead. The guides can also arrange lunch options for every outing, such as deli-style sandwiches, Wild West barbecue, or hot dogs on a hook.
Down the McKenzie River, the staff members of River Trail Guides steer rafts through Class II and III rapids, taking thrill seekers as young as aged 6 along for the ride. Full- and half-day trips float down up to 14.5 miles of churning river, splashing over gurgling rapids before rafters stop to eat lunch. The guides also offer river drift-boat fishing, wherein visitors cast their lines toward seasonal catches, such as trout, steelhead, and smallmouth bass.