A Discover Yamhill Valley reader told me there were kayaks and canoes for rent in Newberg. I called around to find out, and got Kat Ricker, the public information coordinator for the Chehalem Park and Recreation District. That is, I got the woman who really wants you to have fun paddling on the Willamette River in Dundee. I caught her at just the moment that she hit the button to take the Chehalem Paddle Launch’s website live.
Kat told me about the 14 kayaks and 4 canoes available to rent weekends through Labor Day. She told me about the life jackets, the permits, the safety whistles, the price and the hours. She gave me directions. And then she invited me to come paddle with her!
All this water around here — rivers, creeks, lakes, ponds, estuaries, streams — and the only water I’ve been in since I moved here is the kind that falls out of the sky.
I met Kat one mellow afternoon at the gravelly end of S.E. 8th Street in Dundee, on the bank of the Willamette, just across from the lee side of Ash Island. There was a trailer full of boats there, and nothing else. Just orchard, grass, river, trees and sky.
Kat introduced me to Bart Rierson and his daughter Melissa.
Bart is one of the brains behind the operation. Bart would like me to emphasize that he is one of many. He gave me such a long list of people he credits as invaluable to the project that his daughter joked that he was giving an Academy Awards acceptance speech.
The idea, Bart told me, is to help the Yamhill Valley grow in a healthy, happy way by bringing nice things here. If there are wonderfully fun things to do here, people will savor and appreciate the valley.
If people fall in love with paddling on the river, they’ll be thinking of that river when, say, it’s time to dispose of chemicals in an environmentally responsible way. Bart wants people to get out on the water, play, appreciate it and want to protect it.
Melissa, who is 16 and an enthusiastic newcomer to paddling, works at the launch. It’s something of a dream summer job for her, too. She’s giving up every weekend through Labor Day, sure. But she gets to play outside while she works.
She fitted me with a lifejacket, paddle and kayak. There are 14-foot and 12-foot boats. I chose the shorter, more stable length. She gave me a thorough and informative safety rundown, carried my boat to the water and helped me launch. At the very moment Melissa warned me about the deep mud at the bank, I sunk in ankle deep. So watch out for that.
Also, wear shoes and clothes that will survive mud and river water. It may be avoidable for people less clumsy than me, but better safe than sorry.
Melissa joined me in her own longer, swifter kayak. Bart and Kat shared a canoe.
I only had an hour to spend on the water, so we didn’t paddle all the way around Ash Island. Instead, we headed downstream, outrunning cottonwood tufts on our way to Chehalem Creek. The water was pretty low, so we didn’t get far before we hit logs in the water.
“Sometimes you have to play limbo out here,” Melissa said.
We stopped to admire a rookery of herons, take a few photos and enjoy the stillness. Then we paddled back. We sat and chatted at a picnic table near the boat trailer. Had some water. Admired the weather. If part of your workday involves a trip to the river, why cut it short?
When you go — and you know you’ll go — dress down. I had on clogs and wound up borrowing a pair of sneakers from Kat. Bring water and sunscreen. Pay attention to the safety lecture. If you have a camera, phone, keys, anything you don’t want to get wet, you can borrow a water-tight case.
Although you can’t reserve a boat ahead of time, the launch uses the CPRD computer system. Save 10 minutes and sign up online before you get there. Go to www.cprdnewberg.org and click on online registration. That takes you to a screen where you click “request account” to get rolling.
Have fun out there! Say hi to the river for me!
Some useful information: The launch is open 10 a.m.-7 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays through Labor Day. You can call 503.537.2909 for more information, or scope out the links above. Enjoy!