Oregon has a multitude of first-rate waterways well-suited for every water sport imaginable. We have teamed up with the Oregon State Marine Board to explore and share our favorite waterways. Be sure to tune in for future stories about boating in Oregon!

Shawn Karambelas grew up on upper Willamette River; waterskiing every morning and night for more than 15 summers. He’s made a career from his love of water sports, owning and operating SK Northwest.

Prineville Reservoir

In July, the weather is hot and the water is nice and warm—you won’t mind hitting the water at Prineville! There is a nice sandy beach on the southwest shoreline between the State Park and the Resort (west of Roberts Bay). We enjoy camping here, but love having the resort and state park amenities so close. As you’d expect, morning water is glass; in the afternoon there’s more boat activity. Prineville is large enough that you could spend a weekend running around it and not explore it all.

Upper Willamette River near Champoeg State Park
Some of the best smooth water in the state is on the Upper Willamette River from Newberg down to the Boones Ferry Landing. This area north and south of the I-5 Bridge is often referred to as “wakeboard alley”. (Wakeboarders take note: please avoid operation near developed shorelines. You are responsible for damage caused by your wake.) The earlier you are on the water, the more glass-like water there is to carve. This stretch of river doesn’t have much beach front, but Champoeg State Park has a nice dock to tie up against for lunch or to use the restroom facilities up top.

Fern Ridge Lake
This is a great day trip for the family. Create a home base with the cooler and blankets up on the grass, and the boat along the sandy lake edge. Surrounded by forest, Fern Ridge Lake has beautiful scenery with a safe, clean feel for the family—it’s a water playground, with lots of room for you to find your own open space! Mornings offer the best water, but it never becomes really rough like some bigger bodies of water can. Take some time to explore the shoreline—you’ll find lots of scenery and wildlife.

Columbia—Multnomah Channel / Sauvie Island
Multnomah Channel has it all—lots of wildlife, sandy beaches, and miles of calm, protected water. Again, please watch your wakes when operating near houseboats, moorages and docks. If you want to get away from the public this is a great place to go. This stretch of river has some of the richest wildlife on the river. Boating around the entire Sauvie Island can be an all-day event. The north side of the island offers more open water with much more space, but be aware that this is now a shipping lane.

Columbia—Government Island /Marine Drive

With Mt. Hood in the background, this is an unforgettable site. Like other spots on the Columbia, the Government Island area has lots of sandy beaches and open water. This is a great stretch for wakeboarding or skiing, thanks to the protection the island affords—though in late summer, be aware of sandbars around the 205 bridge. There’s a great area to camp along the shoreline—you’ll wake up to glassy calm waters. This is one of the state’s best boating playgrounds around the 4th of July.

For more information on waterskiing and wakeboarding in Oregon, please visit our Water Sports Section.

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