need advice on what river to paddle in WA

as the title says the first week of september i am going to visit a buddy of mine that moved to Vancouver WA a couple years ago. we are planning a multi day expedition down a river, but need help figuring out which river to go on. we want to catch salmon, we want to avoid any major white water, or portages, and we want to be able to paddle each day and camp at night, for 3 or 4 nights. He doesnt know the water ways in WA yet having only lived there a short while.

all suggestions and info are welcome on where to go, except ney saying. i posted something similar in another forum a few years back wanting to do the same thing in Oregon, i got literally no useful i formation, just several people chewing me out assuming i didnt know what i was doing and had no business paddling a class 3 river…it was very discouraging, and unhelpful. if you feel tempted to do the same thing, please keep in mind;
i have several water safety, swimming and paddling and life saving certifications(adult certs, not merit badges) from the BSA as well as life guard and rescue training. i have 20 years expiriece kayaking up to and including class 3 whitewater my buddy does not have the expirience (again, not looking for whitewater, but if we encounter it i can handle up to class 3)

thanks in advance for any replys

Hi Captainawesome7–first off, I sort of get the idea you might be talking about smaller rivers. You didn’t mention what kind of boats you would be using. My first instinct would be to suggest the Columbia River, but as you probably know, the Columbia is not a small river. However, it does offer endless paddling, camping and fishing opportunities. You wouldn’t have to worry about class anything rapids, but that doesn’t mean you wouldn’t find things quite bumpy at times.

Close to Vancouver, you could choose the North Fork of the Lewis and the East Fork, but I’m not too sure about salmon fishing on the East Fork. Fishing on the Cowlitz river is very good and nothing too much in the way of rapids. Not too far east of Vancouver is the White Salmon River. I think it offers just about everything and then some.

The best I can advise is to at least consider the Columbia downstream from Vancouver where there is fishing, camping on just about any beach you pick and you have access to the mouths of a bunch of smaller rivers like the Willamette, Lewis, Kalama, Multnomah Channel, Cowlitz, etc., etc. For the Columbia though, a sea kayak would be the best choice if you’re going to be taking along camping equipment. Upriver from Vancouver is also worth a look, but I’ll leave that to those more familiar.

If fishing is your goal, that will dictate where you want to be. Honestly, that could be the most challenging part of your visit! Lots of closures/limitations currently because of the horrible salmon runs this year. Do some homework first to make sure the rivers nearby are even allowing for salmon fishing.

thanks, yeah to clarify we are using kayaks. definately some ideas there. i really appreciate it.

@captainawesome7 said:
thanks, yeah to clarify we are using kayaks. definately some ideas there. i really appreciate it.

Right, I got that, but what kind of kayaks?

inflatable class 3 worthy.

Well I suppose you could take them on any river you might choose and be alright, but they would probably be very slow on the Columbia.

that might be a concern but i am mostly ok with slow going.

Better watch the wind forecasts for the Columbia.

Yeah, well the wind forecasts don’t mean much for where I paddle on the Columbia. They are usually off by several factors and the wind changes dramatically depending on exactly where you are. The wind follows the river–more, or less–and don’t underestimate what is going on out in the middle by what you see near shore. Also be aware that conditions can go from flat to furious in a matter of minutes in some places. All in all though, it’s as good as it gets. One more thing; don’t underestimate the speed of big ships if you’re crossing the channel. They are moving faster than you think and even if you’re quite sure you can beat them, you never know what might happen at the worst possible time.

I was referring to an inflatable’s directional stability in windy conditions generally.

Right you are. There are probably exceptions, but it could be a nightmare trying to make your way against wind, waves and current in many inflatibles. And downwind would probably be broach city.