Well in 2004 I did the section you are inquiring about even though I did not know there was a water trail… To me, if there is water then its a trail. This was part of a bigger trip --ST. Louis to the Pacific following lewis and clarks trail etc.
My expereince with the LOCKS— well in 2003 wheni called before my trip they said, ‘oh sure just pull the bell ahead of the lock gate and the lockmaster will open, yes you can go blah blah blah’…So after my completion of the Missouri and the hike overland I ditched my portage cart with friends…since they told me no problem…
Well I get to the first Lock and they say ‘no way, your going to have to portage’ so i did.
The next lock they let me through!!! Yippie…the only one in the lock…so they wasted 40 million gallons of water to lower me to the next level. Well the next dam…‘ah you gotta portage’. The one after I got to lock thru again!
The point being…there was no consistancy!!! I think they are apprehensive on the average joe or jane drowning in the lock etc… a BIG reponsibiltiy for sure on the ole Gov. Cascade is or at least WAS a NO-GO…since its a big power source for Portland…and they know how much explosives will fit in your kayak so dont bother…
The current picks up just below the damn.
I loved the lower part…it was incredible after 6 months of paddling and never being on a river with that much pull was awesome.
There were plenty of places to camp I thought.
The area called CApe Horn…a few miles below Beacon Rock…a BIG nice island river left to camp on. I made it from above Cascade to a small island off the S.E tip of Government island. There was actually several developed camp spots there…really nice despite being near portland even though you never really can see the city…i felt alone and I was! From that island I made it to ST. Helens which has another nice island camp directly across from town… fire pits and picnic tables too. I was there this time in Sept of 04 and didnt see anyone. A great camp alone even though close to a town. From St. Helens I made it to County Line State Park on the Washington side at the county line. I had to pay but they comped me when they found out i had paddled across the country. A hot shower too.
Before that there were a few small islands which looked like good camps too, some big sand bars etc. I started seeing sea lions here too which suprised me being 70+ miles from the ocean. The next day I made it to Skamockawa by noon…an awesome camp on the huge sand dunes. From there I crossed over to the Oregon side, tucked behind some islands,a short upstream paddle around one island and followed the lovely back channels to Astoria by 1pm. This is the same side channel that lewis and clark followed. And you can see why…protected and no weird currents or boats to run you over. Some big waves around the point just before Astoria too…
If you paddle SF bay you wont have any problems i dont think. Id stay out of the shipping channel once you leave Skomackawa …huge tides and you dont want to get raked through the hundreds of pilelings before it empties in the ocean. I cant remember the name of the bay on the Wash side (Grays?) a paddler said dont go in there…its really shallow even miles from shore.
I liked going thru Portland ARea…plenty of room to avoid ships and barges…its was great to see them ect for me. It felt like I was NOT near a city at all, I thoughtit was going to be really congested.
There is a nude beach before St. Helens I think, it maybe after… It looked like good camping along there too…a big beach.
Gee I dont know what else to say…i didnt preplan any of it going through there. I just stopped after paddling all day and camped where i ended up which seemed like good camps…rather on the developed side. I think there is plenty of non-devleoped camps too. A floating restaruant at Kamas Wash which you can paddle right up to. It was the best food on my 3600 mile trip! Bring along the journal of lewis and clark and read the geology and such as you pass through the same areas. It hasnt changed too much.
Email me for more info if you like