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Washington

Kayaking the Lower Columbia River: Exploration and Discovery

Program No. 2288RJ
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
Rating (4.86)
Activity Level
Starts at
1,449

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To make your experience as safe as possible, we require all participants to be fully vaccinated. See our Safety Roadmap

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Prefer to enroll or inquire by phone? 800-454-5768
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Prices displayed below are based on per person,doubleoccupancy.
DATES & starting prices
PRICES
Apr 30 - May 5, 2023
Starting at
1,449
May 14 - May 19, 2023
Starting at
1,449
May 28 - Jun 2, 2023
Starting at
1,449
Jun 11 - Jun 16, 2023
Starting at
1,449
Jun 25 - Jun 30, 2023
Starting at
1,449
Jul 9 - Jul 14, 2023
Starting at
1,449
Jul 23 - Jul 28, 2023
Starting at
1,449
Aug 6 - Aug 11, 2023
Starting at
1,449
Aug 27 - Sep 1, 2023
Starting at
1,449
Sep 10 - Sep 15, 2023
Starting at
1,449
Sep 24 - Sep 29, 2023
Starting at
1,449
DATES & starting prices
PRICES
Apr 30 - May 5, 2023
Starting at
1,729
May 14 - May 19, 2023
Starting at
1,729
May 28 - Jun 2, 2023
Starting at
1,729
Jun 11 - Jun 16, 2023
Starting at
1,729
Jun 25 - Jun 30, 2023
Starting at
1,729
Jul 9 - Jul 14, 2023
Starting at
1,729
Jul 23 - Jul 28, 2023
Starting at
1,729
Aug 6 - Aug 11, 2023
Starting at
1,729
Aug 27 - Sep 1, 2023
Starting at
1,729
Sep 10 - Sep 15, 2023
Starting at
1,729
Sep 24 - Sep 29, 2023
Starting at
1,729

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 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 Julia Butler Hansen Refuge.
  • Enjoy two traditional music performances with songs by and about the people of the Columbia-Pacific Region.

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 Austin 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. She 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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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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

Activity note: Resort check-in from 3:00 p.m.

Afternoon: Program Registration. Arrive as early as 3:00 p.m. at Skamokawa Resort. After you check in and have your room assignment, program staff will give you your welcome packet containing the up-to-date schedule that reflects any changes, other important information, and to confirm the time and location of the Orientation session. If you arrive late, please ask for your packet when you check in. Then, relax or explore nearby Skamokawa Vista Park or the J. B. Hansen Refuge. Any time between 4:00 and 5:30 p.m., drop by the kayak shop to meet the Group Leaders and get fitted to a kayak and gear. There will be social time in our reserved area at the Duck Inn at 5:30 p.m.

Dinner: At Skamokawa Resort.

Evening: Orientation. The Group Leader will greet everyone and lead introductions. We will review the up-to-date program schedule, discuss roles and responsibilities, logistics, safety guidelines, emergency procedures, and answer questions. Periods in the schedule designated as “Free time” offer opportunities to do what you like and make your experience even more meaningful and memorable according to your personal preferences. The Group Leader will be happy to offer suggestions. Program activities, schedules, personnel, and indicated distances or times may change due to local circumstances/conditions. In the event of changes, we will alert you as quickly as possible. Thank you for your understanding. Next, we will have a slide presentation by Andrew Emlen on the history of Skamokawa. Emlen taught a course on the Lower Columbia River for 16 years as an adjunct faculty member for Lewis & Clark College. Continue getting to know your fellow Road Scholars, settle in, and get a good night’s rest for the day ahead.

DAY
2
Introduction to Kayaking, Paddle Lower Gorge Cliffs
Skamokawa, WA
B,L,D
Skamokawa Resort

Activity note: Getting in/out of vans; in/out of kayaks; paddling 6-8 miles throughout the day.

Breakfast: 8:00 a.m. at a reserved area of the Duck Inn. Each day, we will have pack lunches provided and take them with us on our field trips.

Morning: At 8:45 a.m., we will walk (less than 1/4 mile) to the Viewpoint Landing dock and launch kayaks for our field trip. We will paddle from Skamokawa through historic Steamboat Slough, lined with up to 400-year-old Sitka Spruce. This forest has been preserved as part of the Julia Butler Hansen Wildlife Refuge for the Columbia White-tailed Deer.

Lunch: At a scenic sand beach overlooking the main channel of the Columbia.

Afternoon: We will paddle a loop within Elochoman Slough that will take us through a wildlife-rich channel just wide enough for the kayaks. We’ll then return to Skamokawa with the outgoing tide.

Dinner: At the Duck Inn.

Evening: We will be joined by historian Irene Martin, who won the 2000 Governor’s Heritage Award for her work documenting the cultures of the Lower Columbia. The 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 will make for a fascinating presentation.

DAY
3
Julia Butler Hansen National Wildlife Refuge, Live Music
Skamokawa, WA
B,L,D
Skamokawa Resort

Activity note: Getting in/out of kayaks; paddling 6 miles throughout the day. NOTE: The schedules for Days 3 and 4 may be switched to take advantage of better tides or weather.

Breakfast: At the Duck Inn.

Morning: At 8:45 a.m., we will walk (less than 1/4 mile) to the dock and put in kayaks for our field trip. 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. We will paddle around this 1,800-acre island in the center of the Columbia before landing on another island for lunch.

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, often via historic Steamboat Slough. After returning to Skamokawa Landing, we will walk 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: At the Duck Inn.

Evening: The 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
Cape Disappointment State Park
Skamokawa, WA
B,L,D
Skamokawa Resort

Activity note: Getting in/out of vans. Hiking 3 miles; trail starts with 150 feet of elevation gain, well-maintained, some up/down, uneven ground. NOTE: The schedules for Days 3 and 4 may be switched to take advantage of better tides or weather.

Breakfast: At the Duck Inn.

Morning: After breakfast, you will be transported up the valley to Alcyon Farm where we will take a 1.5-mile interpretive hike on wooded trails along the headwaters of Skamokawa Creek. Then we will visit the Wahkiakum Historical Society Museum.

Lunch: At Skamokawa Resort.

Afternoon: After lunch, we will paddle up the protected waters of Skamokawa Creek. It is a four-mile round trip to where the headwaters of Wilson and Skamokawa Creeks tumble into the pool at the head of tidewater.

Dinner: At the Duck Inn.

Evening: Kyleen Austin of Columbia River Kayaking will give us a presentation on her 2019 solo kayaking expedition from Ketchikan, Alaska to her home on the Columbia River.

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

Activity note: Getting in/out of kayaks; paddling 7 miles throughout the day.

Breakfast: At the Duck Inn.

Morning: At 8:45 a.m., we will walk (less than 1/4 mile) to the dock and put in kayaks for our field trip. We will paddle across the main channel again, this time to FitzPatrick Island, a roosting area for white pelicans, double-crested cormorants, and Caspian Terns. We'll cross back to the rugged north shore of the Columbia with its basalt bluffs punctuated by cobble beaches and the remains of old cannery towns.

Lunch: On a pebble beach at the site of a long-abandoned cannery town.

Afternoon: The incoming tide will help us paddle back to Skamokawa along the basalt bluffs of the north shore.

Dinner: Our final dinner at the Duck Inn features wild-caught salmon with other fresh, local foods.

Evening: Skamokawa Swamp Opera musicians Kyleen Austin, Andrew Emlen, and Erik Friend will return to perform another set of songs by and about the people of the Columbia-Pacific region. Prepare for check-out and departure in the morning.

DAY
6
Program Concludes
Skamokawa, WA
B

Activity note: 10:00 a.m. resort check-out.

Breakfast: At Skamokawa Resort. This concludes our program.

Morning: If you are returning home, safe travels. If you are staying on independently, have a wonderful time. If you are transferring to another Road Scholar program, detailed instructions are included in your Information Packet for that program. We hope you enjoy Road Scholar learning adventures and look forward to having you on rewarding programs in the future. Don’t forget to join our Facebook page and follow us on Instagram. Best wishes for all your journeys!






Important registration tip:
If you want to attend the live lecture, please do not wait until the last minute to enroll.
If you enroll after a lecture is complete, we’ll send you a recording of the event.