Columbia River in Washington - Weekend Trip Report

by  safety6

A self-supported trip created by safety6

Trip Overview

We had been planning on kayaking on the Columbia for a couple of years now. We finally made it happen. Skamokawa is a small town located on the banks of the Columbia. Vista Campground is right on the banks of the Columbia making ideal for paddling from. There were dredging operations going on and the beach was being enlarged by the sand being dredged up. There still where plenty of places to launch from. A quick word on tides and currents. This area is affected by the tides, be sure to check your tide and current charts. It's much easier paddling with the flow than battling it. While the maximum current we encountered was 2.1 kts going against that is tiring, and not real necessary. There are current stations near Skamokawa for reference. We took 3 day trips from Skamokawa, here they are:

Trip 1 - Cathlamet to Skamokawa via the Elochoman Slough approximately 7.5 miles one way. We launched from the Cathlamet Marina (great place for a hot shower!) and headed down the slough past an old closed logging mill. We saw several river otter and hawks. This is very quiet and easy paddling. Watch the tides since at low tide there may not be enough water to pass through. Exit Elochoman Slough into the Columbia (good place for a break!) watch out for large ships in the river they tend to stay near the northern edge of the Columbia. We then paddled west to Steamboat Slough and took that into Skamokawa. With the right currents you can launch from Skamokawa and paddle to Cathlamet and return...or you can make it a one-way trip. Either way great fun...and relaxing.

Trip 2 - Skamokawa and return via Welch & Fitzpatrick Islands, distance 9.4 miles. We launched from the boat ramp at Skamokawa (located next to the campground) due to low tide. We headed up Steamboat Slough and then across the Columbia River, keeping a wary eye out for river traffic, we entered Red Slough which separates Tenasillahe Island from Welch Island. The ebb was pulling us along making it for an easy paddle. The slough is a 200 yards wide. On reaching the south end of the slough we turned west along Welch Island. When paddling through these Islands remember that they are marsh islands and have beach only at low tide, some have no dry ground at high tide. We proceeded west along Quinn Island and landed on the west end of Fitzpatrick Island. There is a great beach here at low tides. We had a snack and after cleanup after ourselves proceeded north across the Columbia and then paddled east back to Skamokawa. The water temp is 75+ at this time of year...very different from our normal Puget Sound waters.

Trip 3 � This trip was our longest paddle. We went Skamokawa to Welch Island, from there SE to Quinn Island, we paddled along the South edge of Quinn until we reached Tronson Island. We paddled between Tronson and Woody Island, exploring the south side of the island looking for a beach to have lunch luck so we turned east and paddled around the north end. We lucked out and found a sandy beach about 10 long and pulled in our 5 boats. We quickly discovered that in 20 minutes the beach was gone and the dry land we were sitting on now had 2-4 inches water over it. Made for a hurried lunch. We quickly launched and headed back to east along the south shore of Grassy & Fitzpatrick Island, the flood was now pushing us along at 1-1.5 kts. The winds do pick up in the afternoon and you can expect 10-15 kts from the west after 2pm. On reaching Welch Island we grouped up for the crossing back to Skamokawa. We had 6-12" waves and the wind at our back. We did have to wait for a large freighter to pass us. The wake was manageable. We passed up an exposed beach landing in favor of landing at the protected boat ramp. A couple of us decided that we needed more paddling and we paddled up the Skamokawa Creek and followed it inland for about 2 miles, where it got too rocky to proceed.

This is a great area for paddling and I would encourage paddlers to try it out. It is part of the Lewis and Clark River trail.


Rooms are available at the Skamokawa Kayak Center ( and camping is available at Vista Campground. The campground has pay showers, the Marina Cathalamet also has showers...bit hotter for those who enjoy a hot shower!!!!


Nimbus Sea Kayak, Werner one-piece composite paddle. Garmin 76C GPS.




From Portland take I-5 north to Longview, WA. Take Highway 4 exit and follow it to Skamokawa, WA. Camping is available at Vista Campground. From Seattle take I-5 South to Longview...same as above!


We took nautical charts but a good Topo would actually work better.

Trip Details

  • Trip Duration: 2-3 Day Trip
  • Sport/Activity: Kayaking, Canoeing
  • Skill Level: Beginner
  • Water Type: River/Creek (Up to Class II)

Trip Location