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.
With Imperial River Company, active relaxation isn't an oxymoron. That's because the company lives by its motto: "Actively relaxing on the banks of the Deschutes River." It does this by harnessing the area's rolling hills and serpentine river for a wealth of outdoor getaways. Whitewater rafting acquaints guests with the Deschutes River's undulating waters during guided rafting trips that launch from a private dock and return to the same area for picnics and beach volleyball. Additionally, fishing expeditions help guests reel in wild redside trout and summer steelhead while taking in the postcard views of the locale, and cycling services rent out single and tandem bikes for calming jaunts along winding roads and around canyons.
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.