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.