If your idea of off-the-beaten track involves water, put sea kayaking on your summer fun list. Paddle along Oregon waterways to see the hidden home of birds, wildlife and natural landscapes that can’t be explored in any other way. Tour companies up and down the Coast can get you out on the water, even if you are new to kayaking. Here are a few ideas to get you started:
North Coast: Kayak Tillamook offers year-round tours of lakes, bays, rivers and sloughs on the North Coast. Co-owner Marcus Hinz likes to take beginners to Cape Meares Lake for a paddle past blooming lily pads and unwieldy beaver lodges while keeping an eye out for rough-skinned newts swimming in the water. Hinz says the lake is a geological anomaly, tucked in between the Pacific Ocean and Tillamook Bay on the Bay Ocean Spit. “Sitting on this calm fresh water lake you can hear the roar of the surf just over the sand dune,” he says. More experienced paddlers will like what he calls the Three Graces tour. Departing from the charming fishing town of Garibaldi, the route takes people around three large sea stacks. Low tides reveals starfish, sea anemones and various birds, and paddlers will usually see curious seals along the way.
Central Coast: Safari Town Surf Shop in Lincoln City helps visitors explore the Salmon River estuary and its sea lions, eagles and shorebirds. Owner Tony Gile guides trips upriver, tailoring each two- or three-hour tour to the ability and age of participants. The winding river narrows and widens along the route. “You are just kind of exploring. You don’t know what is going to be around the next bend.” Typically the next bend reveals birds, animals and the quiet beauty of the remote area. Time and tide permitting, Gile likes to take people to a remote sandy beach at the mouth of the Salmon River, inaccessible by car or on foot and popular with napping sea lions. “It’s beautiful, but not a lot of people get to see it,” he says.
South Coast: Dave Lacey, owner of South Coast Tours, might be a little biased, but he says of his region, “In all honesty it is the most beautiful part of the Coast.” Lacey leads tours from Port Orford to Brookings. His most popular tour for beginners is Port Orford Head, just off the coast of Port Orford. “It’s got amazing geologic features — headlands, arches, coves and sea caves,” Lacey says. Along the way, paddlers will find themselves up close to a variety birds and marine mammals, including sea lions, seals, osprey, cormorants, pelicans and pigeon guillemots. “The South Coast is a hot spot for wildlife.” Lacey says his customers are often impressed by how easily they take to sea kayaking. “People expected it to be harder and a little more dangerous. They don’t realize how stable the boats are.”
Tour companies provide everything you need to get out on the water — a kayak, wet suit, life jacket and paddle. You provide the paddle power and enthusiasm.