We’ve kayaked this spectacular river many times over the years, and never tire of it. What makes it so special? Beginning with a stunning crystal clear turquoise spring, the river winds through lush meadows and farmland with a backdrop of the Cascade Mountains on the horizon.
The Special Beauty Of The Wood River
Kayaking the Wood River is exhilarating. With swift currents, shallow gravel bars, submerged logs, narrow passageways, and hairpin turns, this is no easy float. Click on the map to enlarge it and you’ll see what I mean. That contorted blue ribbon is the Wood River. (Image courtesy of Wikipedia)
We’re not white water kayakers by any means. We do our paddling in a comfortable tandem kayak, and most of our adventures have plenty of float time with abundant opportunities for bird watching and photography. There are some relatively mellow stretches on the Wood River, but for the most part, it requires vigorous and attentive paddling from both of us to keep the boat from careening sideways into the riverbank. We do have a few opportunities to snap a few quick shots when we’re stuck on (yet another) gravel bar, or when we stop for lunch along the way.
Other than our kayaking buddies Linda and Steve, we saw only two other kayakers on this perfect day in mid-October. The birding is always wonderful along the river. This trip, we saw Bald Eagles, Red-tailed Hawks, flocks of Evening Grosbeaks, American Dippers, Common Ravens, and Clark’s Nutcrackers. (We tried our best to take photos, but most turned out to be blank sky or blurred beyond recognition. Photographing birds from a swiftly moving and bobbing kayak is mostly an exercise in futility.)
A Few Details
Our favorite place to put in is at Kimball State Recreation Area, where the gorgeous headwaters are located. There’s a primitive campground here, should you want to stay overnight. Another option is Rocky Point Resort, just 20 miles away and with additional mellow kayaking options and kayak rentals.
Obviously, with current this strong you’re not going to be paddling upriver, so you’ll need to arrange for a shuttle. We often go with friends, but we’ve also left a bike at our take-out point to ride back to the truck. It’s a 4-mile paddle from Kimball Recreation Area to the Wood River Day Use Area, but we generally add another couple of miles to the trip and take out further downstream. There is no particular place to take out, we just scout out a reasonable spot where the road crosses the river and set up a shuttle from there.
This is a great trip. Do it if you have the opportunity. Just be sure to portage at the weir.
This looks stunning. What makes the water have that turquoise color? It’s like color I see in Hawaii, not in the Northwest. I’ll have to figure out a way for us to get down to Ashland without a car, and on public transit. This river I would love to see!
Sheila, I’ve also wondered what creates the gorgeous color of the headwaters — something to do with dissolved minerals, but I don’t know what minerals. Yes, you definitely need to come to Ashland! We would love to see you and Bruce.
Absolutely love the colors in photos 2-6…. stunning. We sold our canoe a few years back and there are times we really miss it. Love paddling – thanks for taking us along.
Ingrid, we’re so happy we decided to bring our kayak on our full-time journey. Having it along has really enriched our travels. (Although sometimes it seems a bit crazy when we’re lugging it through the desert with no kayaking for weeks at a time.)
Oh please, take me with you next time! I can NOT believe the color of the water at the put-in. That is amazing!!! I’m not fond of fast water, but boy this looks absolutely amazing!!!!
Janet, I’d love to take you along! We’ll be kayaking in the Klamath Basin next spring — so get ready! I don’t like white water either — to me, the Wood River is a perfect run.
That looks like a fantastic day on the water! We think about getting an inflatable every once in a while, good to know about such a beautiful place.
Lisa, if we couldn’t bring our tandem kayak on our journey, we would definitely get an inflatable. We’ve always loved kayaking, and being able to get onto the water adds another wonderful dimension to our travels.
This looks like an absolutely fantastic paddle. But your pictures are so wonderful I don’t see how it could require that much attention. Another must do thing to add to our list. Maybe some day….my prince will…..no no maybe some day we can paddle this with you two. Otherwise we’ll be exercising the bike option since you are our only friends in Oregon “so far”. Those first pictures, with the reflections and the gorgeous blue water are frame worthy. But I seem to say that a lot about your photography.
Ha, I’m taking pictures anytime we’re grounded on a gravel bar or snapping quickly and then grabbing the paddle to try make up for a few seconds of inattention. We really, really would love to kayak this with you and David. It’s your kind of adventure, for sure! Thank you, Sherry, for your kind comments about our photos.
Laurel, what a gorgeous paddle! The foliage colors and that beautiful water mix so well. Love the reflections photos. Sure sounds like a perfect day to me:)
Pam, it’s a spectacular paddle! We always try for a fall paddle so that we can enjoy the autumn colors.
The Wood is one our favorite canoe trails as well. We do run the weir, just aim straight , duck and go! Thanks for sharing your adventure stories. Sorry sorry about Kitty.
Diane, I like your approach to the weir! I always think I’m going to brave it, and then chicken out at the last minute and portage. :-) Thanks for your condolences; we miss our kitty so much.
I love getting out in our canoe — unfortunately we never do it as much as I would like. This is beautiful and looks so peaceful.
I agree, Colette — there’s never enough kayaking! We find that we’re kayaking a lot more since we’ve been traveling full-time.
Thank you for the article. I just kayaked it and we were able to add 1 mile past the day use area but wonder is there is a place further down to take out….anyone know?