Where to go whitewater rafting near Portland


A full day on the water isn’t a bad way to spend a summer afternoon, especially when another Pacific Northwest heat wave hits the rails. (Fingers crossed, it’s the last one this summer.) You could swim in one of Oregon’s many lakes or cool off at a nearby swim spot, but have you ever tried water rafting? lively?

Novices who have never even touched a paddle (pro tip: don’t call it an oar) might avoid the images of raging rivers and turbulent currents, but Mark Zoller of Zoller’s Outdoor Odysseys invites you to reconsider your thinking, saying that those new to rafting tend to be “the best student in the class,” provided they prepare and listen properly on the trip.

Zoller, a second-generation river guide, says this summer’s heat waves, especially the June heat wave that broke Pacific Northwest temperature records, helped the outfitter break their own records. . “From April to July, we set records for the number of guests we had, and one of the reasons was the heat in June,” says Zoller. “June is one of our slowest months because the kids are in school and all that, but with that extra heat, it’s gone nuts.”

With the unprecedented heat and a still very active global pandemic, Zoller says the company is seeing more family and friends trips to rivers, as opposed to corporate retreats.

“The absolute vibe is gratitude. I have never, in all my years of professional career, that people are more sincere about their gratitude for being out on the water “, Zoller said. “I have never felt more blessed by customers than this year. “

So where to start ? Here are some nearby rivers and guides to get you started. Whether you drop by individually or through a commercial outfitter (like the ones we’ve listed below), here are some friendly tips from Zoller: “Always wear your [personal floatation device], always research the body of water you are going on to make sure it is suitable for your skill level, and never combine alcohol when rafting.

Note: The chance to bounce on fun, splashing rapids is the focal point of rafting, but it’s best to know a bit about what you’re up against before you set out. Rapids are rated on a difficulty scale from I to V – a Class I river will have rapids and small waves, but nothing that would bounce you off your boat. Class V, on the other hand, means long, deep and dangerous rapids with hidden obstacles, in other words, reserved for experts. Most of Oregon’s rivers fall somewhere in between, and any certified guide should be able to keep you safe (no guarantee you won’t get wet, though!).

Clackamas River

30 km from Portland, cgirl III +

Mount Hood stans will be delighted with the Clackmas River Scenic Area, which is located entirely within the Mount Hood National Forest. This 47 mile river flows northwest, just west of the Cascade Mountains in northern Oregon. Whether you’re heading for a half-day or full-day excursion, prepare to experience scenic forests, wildlife sightings, and challenging rapids.

Santiam North River

70 miles from Portland, Class II-III

A descent of the North Santiam River provides a great introduction to whitewater rafting for first-timers and a relaxing experience for families, although veterans still have fun on this 92-mile river, especially in the spring, September or in October, when water levels rise. Expect mild but exciting summer and fall excursions, plus plenty of opportunities to spot local wildlife, such as osprey, bald eagles, and white salmon.

White salmon river

120 km from Portland, class III-IV

This 44-mile Columbia River tributary is one of the area’s most popular boating, kayaking and rafting sites for its year-round seaworthiness, and it’s perfect for a late-night adventure. summer and early fall. From the slopes of Mount Adams to the Columbia Gorge, you’ll have glacial runoff, sweeping rapids, breathtaking canyons carved by lava flows, and rugged landscapes that will make you forget that Portland is little more than a mile away. hour and a half.

Deschutes River

100 miles from Portland, Class II-III

A true river for rafters of all ages and abilities, the Deschutes River (approximately 250 miles) is located in central Oregon. For Portlanders, the most popular starting point is at Maupin in Wasco County. From there, rafting experts, beginners and everything in between can find half-day trips, full-day trips, and even day trips on the river, as well as many options for a beer and a burger after the rafting.

McKenzie River

140 miles from Portland, Class II +

The upper and lower sections of this 90-mile tributary of the Willamette River offer smooth, consistent rapids, perfect for beginners and family trips. About two hours south of Portland, the McKenzie River, named after Scottish Canadian fur trader Donald McKenzie, flows west to the southern end of the Willamette Valley. The water is clear, cool and not too hard for beginners, depending on your point of launch.

Local guides

Call ahead or check websites for pricing, booking information, etc.

Blue sky rafting, (503) 630-3163

Northwestern Whitewater Adventures, (503) 380-1599

Oregon River Experiences, (503) 563-1500

Ouzel outfitters, (541) 385-5947

Portland Rafting Company, (971) 380-1204

River drifters, (800) 972-0430

Rafting and kayaking on the wet planet, (877) 390-9445

Zoller’s outdoor odyssey, (509) 493-2641


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