The Dog Blog: Oregon City on Four Legs

July 12, 2011 (Updated February 19, 2012)

Pip looks at the kayak with some misgivings, as if to say, you want me to get in that? Seriously? Getting a middle-aged woman with a desk job into a tippy object on the water is one thing. But the good folks at eNRG Kayaking have a firm grip on the subject and the boat. Once I’m settled in the driver’s seat, Pip takes the leap of faith, hunkers into the front, and we’re on our way.

“Steady as she goes, lad,” I say, as we follow our guide in a somewhat zigzag pattern upstream. Our destination: Willamette Falls – the second largest waterfall, by volume, in the United States. The Falls drops 1,500 feet in a horseshoe shape between Oregon City (the oldest city in Oregon) and neighboring West Linn, just south of Portland.
This section of the river is bordered by the tired industrial buildings that built the once thriving city – the paper mill, lumber mill, ship builders, and power station. We’re paddling through history and a strange juxtaposition of the power of nature and the will of man.

At the base of the Falls, amidst the foam and spray, we stop at a little eddy, latching onto giant boulders to anchor ourselves. There, history calls out to us again from the mysterious petroglyphs painted on the rocks, marking this as sacred Native American fishing ground from generations gone by.

The human condition is to pause and consider the small footprint in time that we spend on this earth. Pip is luckier. He is preoccupied with the sounds and the smells of this new adventure, completely satisfied with his place in the Universe.

The paddle back to eNRG’s headquarters, smack dab on the river, is an easy float. We’re riding with the river’s current this time, looking forward to our post-adventure lunch and compulsory nap.

Welcomed by the pet-friendly Best Western Rivershore Hotel, we sprawl across our room, testing – as good dogs know well to do first – the quality of the beds. Niiice. Next, the view: a little balcony looks over the Willamette River and provides captivating smells, sounds, and the fresh air so good on the nose. Lunch (for one of us) is in the restaurant, just off the hotel lobby. Meanwhile, Pip gobbles up his snack and nestles in for a snooze.

While Pip dreams of bunnies and butterflies, I take on a Cobb salad and plan our next adventure, no need to wrestle further with the currents of tide and time.

More on Dog Travel in Oregon City

Traveling with your dog has less friction these days, as cities, hotels and parks are catering more and more to the canine crowd. Which is good news for those of us whose dogs sleep on the couch, get regular belly rubs and have custom, name-plated water bowls. So when Pip and I head to Oregon City, we always play on the Willamette River and we also we visit these other dog-friendly hotspots:

Mary S. Young State Recreation Area
People gather every morning for a special ritual in the wide-open spaces of Mary S. Young State Recreation Area in the City of West Linn, across the Willamette River from Oregon City. The ritual? Games of fetch, frolic and sniff. Here, “unleashed” is the order of the day. Eight miles of trails wind through this quiet, forested park, some bordering the river and others leading deep into birding territory.

Clackamas River Walk

Over the Clackamas River to the town of Gladstone and back, this trail offers 7.5 round-trip miles of water views and flat paths.

Hazelia Field Dog Park
This beautiful off-leash area is just south of Lake Oswego. The park has two separate off-leash areas, one open to all dogs and one reserved for smaller and/or timid dogs. You’ll find plenty of tall trees for shade, picnic tables, covered shelters, water stations, poop bags, and garbage cans.

For More Information on this Area, visit the Mt. Hood Territory’s Website at:

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