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Kayaking the Lower Columbia River: Exploration and Discovery

Program Number: 2288RJ
Start and End Dates:
4/20/2014 - 4/25/2014; 5/15/2016 - 5/20/2016; 5/29/2016 - 6/3/2016; 6/12/2016 - 6/17/2016; 6/26/2016 - 7/1/2016; 7/10/2016 - 7/15/2016; 8/7/2016 - 8/12/2016; 8/28/2016 - 9/2/2016; 9/11/2016 - 9/16/2016; 9/25/2016 - 9/30/2016; 10/9/2016 - 10/14/2016; 10/23/2016 - 10/28/2016;
Duration: 5 nights
Location: Skamokawa, Washington
Price starting at: $848.00 - Price may vary based on date, departure city
Program Type: Water Sports Activity Level: t (see description)
Meals: 14; 5 Breakfasts, 4 Lunches, 5 Dinners    
Meal Options: Low Fat; Vegetarian; Low Salt    

Skamokawa is the ideal starting point for exploring the lower Columbia River by kayak. Paddle in a variety of habitats, from narrow sloughs winding through Sitka spruce swamps to wide-open expanses on the estuary of the Columbia. Walk among the giant trees of ancient coastal forest. In addition to giving professional kayak instruction, your leaders are experts in local history, geology and wildlife.


• Weave your way through the long chain of tidal marsh islands that comprise the 35,000-acre Lewis & Clark National Wildlife Refuge.
• Paddle along the 90-foot cliffs and waterfalls of the Lower Gorge, or through the quiet Sitka spruce swamps of the Julia Butler Hansen Refuge.
• Enjoy two traditional music performances: “Songs of the Lower Columbia” and “River Songs."

Activity Particulars

Kayak in single or double kayaks on both protected sloughs and open river. Field trips up to six hours, including a break for lunch. Kayaking locations dependent on tides. No previous kayak experience is necessary.

Date Specific Information


April is the best time to see wildlife on the lower Columbia; overwintering loons and waterfowl are still present, while many other migratory bird species are just arriving or passing though on their way to the Alaskan tundra. Harbor Seals and both California and Steller Sea Lions are still present in the the section of river that we paddle (by May most have gone). Sparse boat traffic on the river in April means greater chance of seeing other mammals such as Roosevelt Elk along the shoreline. April is also the best time to see the waterfalls along the cliffs of the Lower Gorge, where we will paddle on Thursday.

Coordinated by Columbia River Kayaking.


Lewis and Clark paddled down the Lower Columbia River near this historic river town, situated where two national wildlife refuges meet. The village is a gateway to the explorers’ historic water trail and the surrounding landscape and wildlife habitat.

Skamokawa Resort on the Columbia River.

Road Scholar Instructors
These instructors are participating on at least one date of this program. Please note that changes may occur.
Mark Whitaker

Mark Whitaker is a well-known and respected kayak guide and coach, having led more than 130 Road Scholar programs. He builds traditional Greenland-style skin-on-frame kayaks, has led open ocean trips along the Oregon coast and coached for the West Coast Sea Kayak Symposium and other symposia. He was on the board of directors for the Institute for Sustainable Forestry and ran the institute’s Wild Iris Research and Development Hardwood Mill.
Andrew Emlen

Since starting Skamokawa's kayaking program in 1998, Andrew Emlen has led more than 180 Road Scholar programs. Andrew has a master's degree in environmental studies. A former instructor of environmental science, geology labs and field biology, he is well-versed on local birds, mammals, insects, plants and mushrooms. Andrew plays cello, guitar and several other instruments with his fellow local musicians during evening presentations that feature music of the lower Columbia River.
Meals and Lodgings
   The Inn at Crippen Creek Farm or The Inn at Lucky Mud
  Skamokawa, WA 5 nights
 The Inn at Crippen Creek Farm
Type: Bed and Breakfast
  Description: The Inn is secluded on 14 acres in a quiet valley near the town of Skamokawa. Enjoy a respite from the hectic rhythm of everyday life. Feel free to walk the ground, find a quiet spot on the creek to read. Our free ranging hens will keep you amused and guests are welcome to help collect the eggs.
  Contact info: 15 Oatfield Road
Skamokawa, WA 98647-9718 USA
phone: 360-795-0585
  Room amenities: The rooms have a private bath, luxurious linens, plush absorbent towels, and radiant floor heat.
  Facility amenities: Our newly rebuilt farmhouse is reminiscent of simpler times, with porches that beckon you to sit and invite you to linger. Our great room offers an extensive library of books, music CD's, a piano, games and movies. We serve hearty breakfasts and use the freshest local ingredients in hand crafted meals that will surprise and delight your palate. We make everything from scratch and raise as much as or own food as possible--pastured chickens and their eggs, and pastured pork.
  Smoking allowed: No

 The Inn at Lucky Mud
Type: Bed and Breakfast
  Description: The inn has large guest rooms, each with private bath, interior and exterior secure entrances, and porches facing onto the terrace and the pond. You may see photos of the inn at . The 40-acre wooded grounds feature a disc golf course.
  Contact info: 44 Old Chestnut Drive
Skamokawa, WA 98647 USA
phone: 800-806-7131
  Room amenities: The living room has a large bay window, fireplace, and a piano for those who play. Downstairs is a common area for entertainment; it includes a small kitchen, comfortable chairs and a library of books. This room, too, has its own entrance onto the pond.
  Facility amenities: You are welcome to enjoy the serenity around our lodging, play a round of frisbee golf or take a walk on the forested trails.
  Smoking allowed: No
  Bathroom: Each of the rooms within the inn has a private bathroom.

Travel Details
  Start of Program:
Check in at your Inn beginning at 3:00 PM You will be staying at The Inn at Crippen Creek Farm or The Inn at Lucky Mud that night.
  End of Program:
Our program ends after the 8:00 AM breakfast. Check-out time is 10:00am. You will be staying at The Inn at Crippen Creek Farm or The Inn at Lucky Mud the night before.
  Required documents:
The Participant Information Form is required. A liability waiver will be mailed with your pre-program materials.
  Parking availability:
Lodging offers free parking in the gravel parking lot on site. You may access your vehicle at any time.
To Start of Program
  Location:  Skamokawa, WA
  Nearest highway: Washington State Route 4
  Nearest airport:  Portland International Airport (PDX)
  From End of Program
  Location: Skamokawa, WA
    (Additional transportation information same as above)
Travel Details

Portland, OR


From Airport




Commercial Van/Shuttle
Columbia River Kayaking
phone: 360-747-1044
Advanced Reservations Required


Per Person/One Way:


$75 per person one way
Prices are subject to change.


Travel Time:


One hour and 45 minutes 




87 miles


Shuttles at the end of the program can be arranged during the program.


Kelso, WA


From Train Station




Commercial Van/Shuttle
Columbia River Kayaking
phone: 360-747-1044
Advanced Reservations Required


Per Person/One Way:


$40 per person one way
Prices are subject to change.


Travel Time:






39 miles


Shuttles at the end of the program can be reserved during the program.

Driving Directions
  I-5 from Portland or Seattle Going north on I-5 (from Portland), take exit 36B toward Kelso/Longview. About 2 miles after taking the exit, take the exit marked 3rd Ave./Industrial area. You will come immediately to a light. Take a left at the light onto 432 west. Continue for 8 miles until it ends at State Route 4. Turn left onto State Route 4 and follow for about 29 miles to Skamokawa. Going south on I-5 (from Seattle), take exit 40 toward Kelso/Longview. Follow the signs to WA-4 / Ocean Beach Highway. Once on Ocean Beach Highway, drive 35 miles until you reach the town of Skamokawa. Once you are in Skamokawa, take a right onto East Valley Rd. It is the first right after entering town. If you drive over the bridge over Skamokawa Creek, you've gone too far. East Valley Road forks at the junction with Middle Valley Road after 1.2 miles. For the Inn at Lucky Mud, keep right and continue on East Valley Rd. Follow East Valley Rd., watching for the mile markers. The inn is 1/4 mile past mile marker 6. You will see a sign that says "The Inn At Lucky Mud." Turn left into the driveway. Go to the top of the hill. The inn is the first house you will see on your right. Phone for Inn at Lucky Mud: 360-795-8770. Do not try to use GPS to get to Lucky Mud. GPS navigation is unreliable out here. For the Inn at Crippen Creek: Follow the directions above until the fork of Middle Valley and East Valley Roads. Take the left fork, Middle Valley Road. Continue for about 3 miles. The road will take a sharp right and go over a small bridge, where it becomes Oatfield Road. There will be a straight stretch of road before the road winds up the hill. Near the end of the straight stretch there is a white sign for the Inn on your left. Turn left into the driveway at 15 Oatfield Rd. If you use GPS instead of these directions, say "Hello" to the family of your kayak guide Andrew, as you will end up at their farm at the end of the valley, half a mile beyond the Inn. Phone for Crippen Creek: 360-795-0585.
Equipment Requirements: The kayak as well as a paddle, flotation jacket, spray skirt, whistle, and pump are included. We have some sleeveless 3 mm wetsuits available for borrowing.
The prices listed for commercial services and facilities that are not included in the program cost, such as airport shuttles or extra nights lodging, are subject to change without notice. Since Road Scholar cannot guarantee the accuracy of these prices, we strongly suggest contacting the companies directly for the most up-to-date information.

Daily Schedule

Day 1: Check-in, Dinner at Lucky Mud, Evening Program on the
(Sunday, April 20)
 Arrive To: Arrive as early as 3 p.m. at your B&B and relax or explore on-site before dinner. At 5:30 p.m., participants staying at the Inn at Lucky Mud will be driven to The Inn at Crippen Creek for the Opening Dinner. Dinner will alternate between the two B&Bs.
 Dinner: The dinner buffet at The Inn at Lucky Mud includes fresh salad from local ingredients, vegetables, a meat or vegetarian entree and homemade dessert.
 Evening: Enjoy a slide presentation on the history of Skamokawa by Andrew Emlen, who teaches a course on the Lower Columbia River as an adjunct faculty member at Lewis & Clark College.
Accommodations: The Inn at Crippen Creek Farm or The Inn at Lucky Mud
Meals Included: Dinner

Day 2: Introduction to Kayaking on Protected Deep River. Paddle into historic, wildlife-rich Gray's Bay on the Lewis & Clark water trail
(Monday, April 21)
 Breakfast: Enjoy a hearty buffet breakfast each morning at your B&B, including a variety of cereal, sausage, fresh fruit, juices, homemade bread and farm-fresh eggs. Breakfast is usually at 8 a.m. At about 8:45, you will be transported to the kayak put-in or to a field-trip destination.
 Morning: We will have an introduction to kayaking on protected Deep River, offering an opportunity to work on strokes before paddling out the river to Gray's Bay. Gray's Bay of the Columbia River is one of the premier wildlife areas in the region. Wildlife seen on this trip include river otters, harbor seals, Roosevelt elk and nesting Bald Eagles. Three loon species may be seen in April. Here the Columbia is eight miles wide, offering impressive views of the estuary, yet our path along the forested hills along the shore is protected from prevailing winds.
 Lunch: Each day we will prepare pack lunches that may include a deli sandwich, chips, fruit or homemade cookie that will be eaten in the field. Our lunch site the first day is a small golden sand beach tucked among sandstone bluffs, with a view across the broad Columbia to Astoria. Here we will share some of the most exciting journal entries of the Lewis & Clark expedition at the location where they experienced it. Our beach also offers the possibility of finding Miocene marine fossils.
 Afternoon: After lunch our tide will have turned to aid our return to our put-in. After driving back to Skamokawa, our experts will present a demonstration of all the commonly used kayak rolls and rescues. Participants can don a wetsuit and practice rescues. Enjoy about an hour and a half of free time before dinner.
 Dinner: At The Inn at Crippen Creek, enjoy a buffet including fresh salad from locally grown ingredients, vegetables, a meat (often local, grass-fed beef) or vegetarian entree and homemade dessert.
 Evening: Historian Irene Martin has won the 2000 Governor's Heritage Award for her work documenting the cultures of the Lower Columbia. Author of six books on the history of the region, she is also a gillnetter and an Episcopal priest. Her wide-ranging interests and intellect make for a fascinating presentation.
Accommodations: The Inn at Crippen Creek Farm or The Inn at Lucky Mud
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 3: Kayak Through the Sitka Spruce Swamp Sloughs of the Hansen National Wildlife Refuge
(Tuesday, April 22)
 Breakfast: Enjoy a hearty buffet breakfast at your B&B, including a variety of cereal, sausage, fresh fruit, juices, homemade bread and farm-fresh eggs.
 Morning: We will follow Lewis & Clark's route through Elochoman (ee-LO-ko-man) Slough, a narrow waterway where the Corps of Discovery followed two canoes of Wahkiakum (wa-KIE-a-kum) Indians to their village site to trade (fish hooks for dogs and wapato tubers). We will follow the slough all the way to lunch through the Sitka spruce swamps of the Julia Butler Hansen National Wildlife Refuge, which feature trees up to 400 years old.
 Lunch: At the end of the slough, we will emerge on a sand beach on the main channel of the Columbia, where we will eat our pack lunch.
 Afternoon: We will continue paddling downriver with the outgoing tide. For less than a mile we will be on the main channel before continuing to Skamokawa (ska-MOCK-away) via Steamboat Slough, also part of the Hansen Wildlife Refuge. After returning to Skamokawa we will walk across the road to the 1894 schoolhouse that has been lovingly restored as the River Life Interpretive Center.
 Dinner: At The Inn at Lucky Mud, enjoy a meal featuring fresh local ingredients.
 Evening: The four-member folk band Willapa Hills will perform music by and about the people of the Lower Columbia River. Willapa Hills are known for creative arrangements using various combinations of voice, guitar, autoharp, cello, banjo, mandolin, mandocello, fiddle, piano and percussion. They are currently collecting local stories from long-time residents and turning them into songs. Their work was selected for inclusion in the Washington State Historical Society archives.
Accommodations: The Inn at Crippen Creek Farm or The Inn at Lucky Mud
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 4: Field Trip to Cape Disappointment State Park
(Wednesday, April 23)
 Breakfast: A hearty breakfast will be served each morning at your B&B, including a variety of the following: cereal, sausage, fresh fruit, juices, homemade bread, farm fresh eggs.
 Morning: We take a break from kayaking to drive out to Cape Disappointment State Park, where the Columbia River meets the Pacific Ocean. Along the way we will stop at Dismal Nitch, named (as spelled) by Captain William Clark, the small cove where the Corps was forced by bad weather to camp for days on giant logs that floated and pitched about at every high tide. When we arrive at the park, we will hike a two-mile trail inside the cape where the Corps of Discovery also was proceeding on foot. Here we'll explore a section of ancient temperate rainforest with trees up to nine feet in diameter and see landmarks described in the expedition journals.
 Lunch: We will eat our pack lunches in a picnic area of the park near our trailhead.
 Afternoon: We will visit the Lewis & Clark Interpretive Center. Perched on top of Cape Disappointment with a spectacular view of the river bar and ocean, this particularly well-done center was rebuilt for the Lewis & Clark bicentennial. Afterward we may take the half-mile hike down to Little Waikiki Beach on the outside of the cape or visit the Columbia Pacific Heritage Center in Ilwaco before driving back to The Inn at Crippen Creek for dinner. We usually return by 5 p.m.
 Dinner: Wednesday night is always pizza night at The Inn at Crippen Creek. The Speranzas know how to make real Italian pizza, of different varieties including meat and vegetarian options, along with salad, and, for dessert, a delicious panna cotta.
 Evening: Guide and kayak builder Mark Whitaker will give a slide lecture on the history of kayaking.
Accommodations: The Inn at Crippen Creek Farm or The Inn at Lucky Mud
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 5: Kayak Along the 90-Foot Cliffs and Waterfalls of the Lower Gorge During Wildflower Season.
(Thursday, April 24)
 Breakfast: Enjoy a hearty buffet breakfast at your B&B, including a variety of cereal, sausage, fresh fruit, juices, homemade bread and farm-fresh eggs.
 Morning: Our final paddle will take us along the profoundly beautiful cliffs of the Lower Gorge. An extension of the Columbia basalt flows, the second-largest basalt flows on earth, these lavas filled the Columbia River valley 17-15 million years ago. Today waterfalls plunge into the Columbia from the 90-foot cliffs. Wildflowers, including rare endemics, bloom in all colors and are fed upon by Rufous Hummingbirds. You may view the cast of a tree engulfed by the lava, leaving the imprint of the bark texture clearly visible millions of years later.
 Lunch: We will eat our pack lunch on a small pebble beach next to the cliffs and a waterfall. Our beach is partly made up of Missoula flood deposits, rounded pebbles of quartzite and many other minerals carried all the way from Idaho during the last ice age.
 Afternoon: Depending on the tides, we may either return along the cliffs the way we came, loop through the homes and farms of Birnie Slough back to Cathlamet, or take the Columbia main channel down to Skamokawa.
 Dinner: Our final dinner at The Inn at Lucky Mud showcases Columbia River salmon along with other fresh local foods.
 Evening: Our final evening program features the musical duo of Emlen & Reynolds performing "Corelli to Cruzatte: Music of the Lewis & Clark Era," in period costume. The first half of the program features classical music from Thomas Jefferson's library, and the second half features fiddle tunes and folk songs likely to have been played on the Lewis & Clark trail. Emlen & Reynolds have performed for many state and national Lewis & Clark bicentennial events and historical society events, and have been videotaped for the National Park Service archives.
Accommodations: The Inn at Crippen Creek Farm or The Inn at Lucky Mud
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 6: Departure Day
(Friday, April 25)
 Breakfast: Enjoy a hearty buffet breakfast at your B&B, including a variety of cereal, sausage, fresh fruit, juices, homemade bread and farm-fresh eggs.
 Morning: Our program ends after the 8 a.m. breakfast at your lodging. No program is scheduled, but you are welcome to continue sharing remembrances of the week. Check-out time is 10 a.m.
Meals Included: Breakfast

Free Time Opportunities
  Skamokawa, WA Collupy Glass
Collupy Glass is a small glass-blowing company in Skamokawa. Treasure and Michelle Collupy are a husband and wife living their American dream. They are partners in life as well as in business. Treasure's creative shapes and techniques combined with Michelle's brilliant colors make for a unique piece of glass. You may call ahead during the week to watch the glass-blowing process in action. For additional information, visit
  Disc Golf Course
The Inn at Lucky Mud proudly presents an 18-hole championship disc golf course designed by Adam Fletcher with assistance from nine-time Washington State champion Lowell Shields. Disc golf is played much like traditional golf. Instead of a ball and clubs, however, players use a flying disc, or Frisbee® For additional information, visit
  Julia Butler Hansen White-tailed Deer National Wildlife Refuge
Deer and elk may be observed and photographed from the road which passes through the mainland portion of the refuge; evenings and mornings are the best times. The refuge is also a home or migratory stopover for 200 species of birds. You are welcome to walk, bicycle or drive along the serene country road. A wildlife observation site and interpretive exhibits are along State Highway 4 and at the refuge headquarters on Steamboat Slough Road. For additional information, visit
  Skyline Golf Course
Everyone is welcome at Skyline Golf! A great atmosphere for beginners, youth, women, senior citizens, high handicappers, non-players, tag-a-longs, and the just plain curious. Learn and participate in a fun, comfortable environment. Compared to other nine-hole golf facilities, there aren’t many with the full amenities offered here. It makes us unique! For additional information, visit
Important information about your itinerary: Every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy and completeness of the information featured on this website. Itineraries are based on our best information at this time. Circumstances beyond our control may require us to adjust itineraries or other details. We regret any inconvenience this may cause and appreciate your understanding. Information will be sent to you from your Program Provider approximately three weeks prior to the program start date. The prices listed for commercial services and facilities that are not included in the program cost, such as airport shuttles or extra nights lodging, are subject to change without notice. Since Road Scholar cannot guarantee the accuracy of these prices, we strongly suggest contacting the companies directly for the most up-to-date information.

Suggested Reading List

Beach of Heaven: A History of Wahkiakum County

Author: Irene Martin

Description: Local historian, gill-netter and Episcopal priest, Irene Martin has won a Governor's Heritage Award for her books on local history. She lives in Skamokawa and will be an evening program presenter for our Road Scholar program.

Naked Against the Rain: The People of the Lower Columbia 1770-1830

Author: Rick Rubin

Description: This book is hard to find, but it is an excellent account of the Chinookan peoples native to the lower Columbia River.

Northwest Passage: the Great Columbia River

Author: William Dietrich

Description: Possibly the most comprehensive of the histories of the Columbia, broad in scope, thoughtful and thought-provoking.

Plants of the Pacific Northwest Coast: Washington, Oregon, British Columbia and Alaska

Author: Jim Pojar and Andy MacKinnon

Description: This is the best plant guide for our area. Organized by family, it has good photographs and drawings and rewards identification of each plant with a wealth of ecological information and notes on human uses.

River of the West: Stories from the Columbia

Author: Robert Clark

Description: This beautifully written book tells the story of the Columbia through the individual stories of its inhabitants, from Native Americans early and modern, explorers, missionaries, emigrants, fishermen and those seeking new lives during the dam-building era.

Seeking Western Waters: The Lewis & Clark Trail for the Rockies to the Pacific

Author: Emory and Ruth Strong

Description: These authors have done something unique. For each day of the expedition’s travel in the Columbia River watershed, they provide a journal excerpt, explanatory text, and a photograph. Nearly every page provides a photo of an artifact, landscape, plant or animal described in the journals of Lewis and Clark.

Sky Time in Gray's River: Living for Keeps in a Forgotten Place

Author: Robert Michael Pyle

Description: Bob Pyle, a winner of the John Burroughs award for natural history (for Wintergreen), here has written what Kathleen Dean Moore best described as “a lovingly rendered ecology of people in their home place”, just west of Skamokawa in Gray’s River.

Undaunted Courage: Meriwether Lewis, Thomas Jefferson and the Opening of the American West

Author: Stephen E. Ambrose

Description: This biography of Meriwether Lewis is the book that rekindled interest in the Lewis & Clark expedition, a bestseller with footnotes. Don’t expect a great deal of information on the Columbia, however. A Montanan, Ambrose wrote twice as much text per mile on the Missouri River as he did on the Columbia. All the same, a nice complement to a week following Lewis & Clark’s trail along the lower Columbia.

Way to the Western Sea: Lewis & Clark Across the Continent

Author: David Lavender

Description: Looking for one short, readable book that tells the entire Lewis & Clark story? Lavender encapsulates it all, adding interesting background and context for the events of the expedition. This is the book I was handed by the staff of Fort Clatsop National Memorial when I began volunteering there in 1992.

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