Scouts canoe Trip PNW

Looking for a location to take a dozen or so scouts on a week long canoe trip in Oregon or Washington. No major rapids, at least 50 miles of distance. Any recommendations? We will have a mix of canoes and kayaks but skill level is low.

What time of year?


I think I know a guy who does that locally. I’ll see if I can track him down.

A long trip with kids with little experience presents some challenges. I can immediately thing of some places to avoid like Lake Chelan and the Columbia River.

One good places come to mind Lake Roosevelt behind Grand Coulee Dam. It is 186 miles long. I would paddle the upper end of it starting up by Kettle Falls. Good weather, some road access, walleye fishing, forests around.

The other is Potholes Reservoir, but it is harder to navigate and has a lot of insects. It would be okay by August.

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I IM’ed you. Did you receive the message?

Actually, I was thinking stretches of the Columbia could be good. Specifically, Bonneville Dam to Portland or from Longview to Astoria. Beautiful stretches, islands to camp on, no major currents(a bit of downstream currents for Bonneville Dam stretch, and some tides in lower stretch). There are ships and boats, but shouldn’t be too hard to avoid. Water temps at that time of year should be in the 70s, so good swimming temps.

There is plenty of wind on the Columbia, and long fetch which creates large waves. Plenty of power boats, not to mention ships and barges on long cables. It would be too risky for kids if you ask me. White caps are common.

Hi, Scoutmaster5443,
A week long river trip like you describe is a challenge in the PNW because there aren’t many 50 mile stretches of river with relatively mild water and overnight camping access along the way, especially for a large group. The Columbia River reservoirs might work since some of them do have public access that could accommodate your Scout group.

As suggested by ppine, the upper Columbia (upper Lake Roosevelt) is one such section, probably your best bet. But it’s still susceptible to high winds and big waves so be very careful and pay close attention to the weather forecast. Whenever we paddled on the Columbia, no matter which section it was, the weather was a major safety factor. We got caught in some nasty wind and waves a few times and learned to have a lot of respect for that river even though it’s mostly a series of reservoirs.

Be aware that unless you stay at developed camp grounds, drinking water probably won’t be available so bring a way to filter river water.

I agree about the lower Columbia River not being an ideal place for inexperienced paddlers. If the weather’s good and you can avoid the ships and barges it can be fun, but it wouldn’t be my first choice for what you’re looking for.


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We always have water filters on hand. We typically hammock camp and prefer not to use official campsites, Thank you so much for your feedback, I’m sharing this information with my fellow Scoutmasters and Senior Patrol Leader.

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