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2288
Washington

Kayaking the Lower Columbia River: Exploration and Discovery

Paddle along the basalt cliffs, Sitka spruce swamps, and tidal marshes of the Columbia River estuary with experts as you improve your kayak technique and learn about this grand region.
Rating (5)
Program No. 2288RJ
Length
6 days
Starts at
1,099
Washington

Kayaking the Lower Columbia River: Exploration and Discovery

Paddle along the basalt cliffs, Sitka spruce swamps, and tidal marshes of the Columbia River estuary with experts as you improve your kayak technique and learn about this grand region.
Length
6 days
Starts at
1,099
Program No. 2288 RJ
Prefer to enroll or inquire by phone? 800-454-5768
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DATES & starting prices
PRICES
Apr 24 - Apr 29, 2022
Starting at
1,099
May 22 - May 27, 2022
Starting at
1,149
Jun 5 - Jun 10, 2022
Starting at
1,149
Jun 19 - Jun 24, 2022
Starting at
1,149
Jul 3 - Jul 8, 2022
Starting at
1,149
Jul 17 - Jul 22, 2022
Starting at
1,149
Aug 7 - Aug 12, 2022
Starting at
1,149
Aug 21 - Aug 26, 2022
Starting at
1,149
Sep 4 - Sep 9, 2022
Starting at
1,149
Oct 2 - Oct 7, 2022
Starting at
1,149
DATES & starting prices
PRICES
Apr 24 - Apr 29, 2022
Starting at
1,349
May 22 - May 27, 2022
Starting at
1,399
Jun 5 - Jun 10, 2022
Starting at
1,399
Jun 19 - Jun 24, 2022
Starting at
1,399
Jul 3 - Jul 8, 2022
Starting at
1,399
Jul 17 - Jul 22, 2022
Starting at
1,399
Aug 7 - Aug 12, 2022
Starting at
1,399
Aug 21 - Aug 26, 2022
Starting at
1,399
Sep 4 - Sep 9, 2022
Starting at
1,399
Oct 2 - Oct 7, 2022
Starting at
1,399

At a Glance

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 an ancient coastal forest. In addition to giving professional kayak instruction, your leaders are experts in local history, geology and wildlife.
Activity Level
Outdoor: Spirited
Kayaking in single or double kayaks up to six hours. No previous kayak experience necessary.
Small Group
Small Group
Love to learn and explore in a small-group setting? These adventures offer small, personal experiences with groups of 13 to 24 participants.

Best of all, you’ll…

  • 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."

General Notes

Due to the nature of this program, listening devices are not available.
Featured Expert
All Experts
Profile Image
Andrew Emlen
Since starting Skamokawa's kayaking program in 1998, Andrew Emlen has led more than 250 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. He is a certified wilderness first responder.

Please note: This expert may not be available for every date of this program.

Profile Image of Andrew Emlen
Andrew Emlen View biography
Since starting Skamokawa's kayaking program in 1998, Andrew Emlen has led more than 250 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. He is a certified wilderness first responder.
Profile Image of Kyleen Austin
Kyleen Austin View biography
Kyleen has been exploring the outdoors her entire life and has led Road Scholar programs since 2014. She is a certified Wilderness First Responder and has completed the British Canoe Union’s four-star kayak sea leader training. Kyleen studied English and Music in college, worked as a worldwide marketing director for IBM, directed the American River Conservancy and is a cheese-loving founder of Little Island Creamery on Puget Island. The multi-talented Kyleen is also a singer-songwriter. Watch her perform on her programs for Road Scholar!
Profile Image of Connor Emlen-Petterson
Connor Emlen-Petterson View biography
Connor Petterson has been a leader for Columbia River Kayaking since 2016. He is studying biology at Evergreen State College in Olympia, Washington, and leads Road Scholar adventures when he is home in the summer. In addition to his extensive knowledge of natural history, Connor holds a Wilderness First Responder certification.
Profile Image of Levi Helms
Levi Helms View biography
Levi Helms grew up in Wahkiakum County and started kayaking with Columbia River Kayaking in 2005. He has his BCU Three Star Sea Kayak and Wilderness First Responder certifications and has led Road Scholar programs since 2015. Levi is also a builder and home gardener. He loves to share personal tales of growing up in Skamokawa.
Visit the Road Scholar Bookshop
You can find many of the books we recommend at the Road Scholar store on bookshop.org, a website that supports local bookstores.
Sky Time in Gray's River: Living for Keeps in a Forgotten Place
by Robert Michael Pyle
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.
Plants of the Pacific Northwest Coast: Washington, Oregon, British Columbia and Alaska
by Jim Pojar and Andy MacKinnon
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
by Robert Clark
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.
Beach of Heaven: A History of Wahkiakum County
by Irene Martin
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.
Northwest Passage: the Great Columbia River
by William Dietrich
Possibly the most comprehensive of the histories of the Columbia, broad in scope, thoughtful and thought-provoking.
Naked Against the Rain: The People of the Lower Columbia 1770-1830
by Rick Rubin
This book is hard to find, but it is an excellent account of the Chinookan peoples native to the lower Columbia River.
Way to the Western Sea: Lewis & Clark Across the Continent
by David Lavender
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.
Seeking Western Waters: The Lewis & Clark Trail for the Rockies to the Pacific
by Emory and Ruth Strong
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.
Undaunted Courage: Meriwether Lewis, Thomas Jefferson and the Opening of the American West
by Stephen E. Ambrose
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.
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6 days
5 nights
14 meals
5 B 4 L 5 D
DAY
1
Check-in, Registration, Orientation, Welcome Dinner, Class
Skamokawa, WA
D
Skamokawa Resort

Dinner: Dinners at Skamokawa Resort, prepared by The Duck Inn catering, feature fresh local ingredients, including a meat or vegetarian entree, vegetables, salad and home-made dessert.

Evening: Enjoy a slide presentation on the history of Skamokawa by Andrew Emlen, who for 16 years taught a course on the Lower Columbia River as an adjunct faculty member for Lewis & Clark College.

DAY
2
Kayak Introduction, Julia Butler Hansen National Refuge
Skamokawa, WA
B,L,D
Skamokawa Resort

Breakfast: A hearty breakfast will be served each morning, including eggs, hash browns, bacon or sausage, juice, and fresh fruit. Breakfast is usually at 8 a.m. At 8:45, you will be transported to the kayak put-in or to a field-trip destination.

Morning: We will drive to Cathlamet for a one-way kayak trip to Skamokawa with the outgoing tide. We will begin with an introduction to kayaking in protected Elochoman Slough. We will paddle along the exact route of Lewis & Clark, who were led through this slough by Wahkiakum Indians who brought them to the village of Elochoman to trade. The area near the former village site is part of the wildlife refuge that still resembles the forest Lewis & Clark saw in 1805, including individual trees that were standing at the time.

Lunch: Each day we will prepare pack lunches that may include a deli sandwich or wrap, chips, fruit or homemade cookie that will be eaten in the field. On Monday we will emerge from Elochoman Slough to a sand beach on the main channel of the Columbia.

Afternoon: After lunch we will have a short paddle on the main channel of the Columbia before entering historic Steamboat Slough, another protected section of the wildlife refuge dominated by Sitka spruce swamp. We will continue down river with the outgoing tide to Skamokawa. After returning to Skamokawa, the guides will present a demonstration of all the commonly used kayak rolls and rescues. There will then be an opportunity for any participants who want to try learning these skills to don a wetsuit and practice. There usually will be about an hour and a half of free time before dinner on this day.

Dinner: Dinners at Skamokawa Resort, prepared by The Duck Inn catering, feature fresh local ingredients, including a meat or vegetarian entree, vegetables, salad and home-made dessert.

Evening: Historian Irene Martin 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.

DAY
3
Kayak along the 90-foot basalt cliffs of the Lower Gorge.
Skamokawa, WA
B,L,D
Skamokawa Resort

Activity note: To take advantage of better tides or weather, the Day 3 and Day 4 itineraries may be switched.

Breakfast: A hearty breakfast will be served each morning, including eggs, hash browns, bacon or sausage, juice, and fresh fruit. Breakfast is usually at 8 a.m. At 8:45, you will be transported to the kayak put-in or to a field-trip destination.

Morning: We will start along the historic waterfront of Cathlamet, including the 1868 Warren Cannery. We will then proceed along the cliffs, formed 16 million years ago as part of the world's second-largest basalt flows. Many interesting formations can be seen along these 90-foot cliffs, including the cast of a tree that was engulfed in lava and left an imprint of its bark before being consumed in flames. Multiple waterfalls cascade into the Columbia from the cliff top, and native wildflowers are abundant from April through June.

Lunch: Our pack lunch will be eaten on a tiny cobble beach tucked among the cliffs. The pebbles on the beach include rounded examples of quartzite and petrified wood carried from what is now Montana during the Missoula Floods of the Pleistocene, the world's largest freshwater floods.

Afternoon: Depending on time and weather, we may return to Cathlamet via Cathlamet Channel or cross the channel to Birnie Slough to paddle a longer loop through the homes and farms of Puget Island before crossing back to Cathlamet. After driving back to Skamokawa Center, we will walk across the road to the 1894 schoolhouse that has been lovingly restored as the River Life Interpretive Center. It serves as historical museum, bookstore and community center.

Dinner: Dinners at Skamokawa Resort, prepared by The Duck Inn catering, feature fresh local ingredients, including a meat or vegetarian entree, vegetables, salad and home-made dessert.

Evening: The four-member folk band Skamokawa Swamp Opera will perform music by and about the people of the Lower Columbia River, including their original songs. Skamokawa Swamp Opera are known for creative arrangements using various combinations of voice, guitar, cello, banjo, mandolin, mandocello, and percussion.

DAY
4
Field Trip to Cape Disappointment State Park
Skamokawa, WA
B,L,D
Skamokawa Resort

Breakfast: A hearty breakfast will be served each morning, including eggs, hash browns, bacon or sausage, juice, and fresh fruit. Breakfast is on Day 4 is usually at 7:30 a.m. At 8:15, you will be transported to Cape Disappointment.

Morning: We will be taking 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 will take the .7-mile hike down to Little Waikiki Beach on the outside of the cape before driving back to Skamokawa for dinner. We usually return by 5 p.m.

Dinner: Dinners at Skamokawa Resort, prepared by The Duck Inn catering, feature fresh local ingredients, including a meat or vegetarian entree, vegetables, salad and home-made dessert.

Evening: Kyleen Austin will give a fascinating presentation on birds that nest on lower Columbia River islands, including their life histories and the controversies surrounding them.

DAY
5
Kayak Welch Island the Lewis & Clark National Refuge
Skamokawa, WA
B,L,D
Skamokawa Resort

Breakfast: A hearty breakfast will be served each morning, including eggs, hash browns, bacon or sausage, juice, and fresh fruit. Breakfast is usually at 8 a.m. At 8:45, you will be transported to the kayak put-in or to a field-trip destination.

Morning: We will paddle across the main channel to Welch Island, the easternmost of a chain of tidal marsh islands that comprise the 35,000-acre Lewis & Clark National Wildlife Refuge. Some of the big old cottonwood trees there house active Bald Eagle nests. We will paddle around this 1,800-acre island in the center of the Columbia before landing on another island for lunch.

Lunch: We will have lunch on a small sand beach on Tenasillahe Island. This island has a dike trail that will give us a chance to take a walk and look for wildlife before crossing back to Skamokawa.

Afternoon: We will paddle back across the channel to Skamokawa.

Dinner: Our final dinner at Skamokawa Resort showcases wild-caught salmon along with other fresh local foods.

Evening: Skamokawa Swamp Opera musicians Kyleen Austin, Andrew Emlen, Erik Friend and Jillian Raye will return to perform a program of River Songs, with varied instrumentation including guitar, mandolin, banjo, mandocello, cello and voice. The program will include many well-known sing-along numbers as well as local Columbia River tunes.

DAY
6
Departure Day
Skamokawa, WA
B

Breakfast: Enjoy a hearty buffet breakfast, including eggs, sausage, a variety of cereal, fresh fruit, and juice.

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.






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