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.
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.
Adam Ball literally grew up on the water—he can’t remember ever not living next to it, and most of his fondest memories involve being on the water with friends and family in some way. “If I go for three or four weeks without being on the water, I don’t feel right,” he said. Through happenstance, Adam’s passion for the water transformed into a business. After discovering paddle rafting, he started taking out whoever would go with him: friends, coworkers, friends of coworkers who had a cousin who knew this guy who said his mailman mentioned something about wanting go rafting. Then people started calling to book group trips. And thus Adam became a business owner.
Today, he and his team of experienced guides take adventurers out onto North Santiam River, which drops 27 feet per mile as it races along the Cascade Mountains. Guides prepare guests for the Class II and III rapids—sporting nicknames such as Rock & Roll, Upper and Lower Escalator, and Jaws—which provide safe yet challenging obstacles for passengers of all skill levels. The river winds past sights that range from canyon walls to opulent homes. Wildlife sightings abound, such as osprey that swoop to snatch salmon, river otters that lounge on the shore, and duck and geese that ride alongside the boat through the rapids. A local rottweiler also makes regular appearances, lumbering down to the shore to bark and solicit lunch money.
Having traversed the Santiam River for more than 30 years, Bill Sanderson and his crew know every rock, every twist, and every rapid by heart. With 50 miles of navigable waters, explorers can choose their own adventure?whether it's a half-day jaunt through the rapids or a three-day camping trip?led by the knowledgeable guides of North Santiam River Trips. In warmer months, rafters can fish for steelhead, rainbow trout, and chinook salmon, or simply cruise along the river keeping an eye out for elk, otters, and beavers along the shore.
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.