If you’re visiting the Mt. Hood Territory communities of Oregon City, West Linn, Milwaukie or Lake Oswego, you’re lucky enough to have the Willamette River as your neighbor. The Willamette River is a cornerstone of Oregon, flowing 187 miles from Eugene to Portland with many twists, turns and surprises along the way. In Mt. Hood Territory, the river plummets over iconic Willamette Falls, an important fishing and trading site for Oregon Tribes and a site of early industry, including the first long-range power transmission.
But the Willamette River is more than a scenic backdrop or piece of history. It’s ripe with recreation opportunities from quick SUP outings to multiday paddle and camping trips. The Willamette River Water Trail ties these recreation experiences together into a series of itineraries that span the length of the river. In addition to detailed itineraries and maps, the Willamette River Water Trail also offers safety tips, permitting information and outfitter listings, so you can be sure you have everything you need to explore the river. Read on to learn about the Willamette River Trail and the Mt. Hood Territory communities it connects to.
The first step to your adventure on the Willamette River is deciding where you’d like to go! With 187 miles of diverse river terrain, that decision can be intimidating. The Willamette River Trail offers river itinerary ideas, from multiday river camping adventures to day trip excursions. Mt. Hood Territory is the home of two unique Willamette River Trail day trip itineraries. Click the itineraries below to plan your paddle, including navigational tips and safety alerts.
Get an unforgettable view of Willamette Falls with the Willamette Falls from Sportcraft Marina itinerary that paddles upriver to the base of the falls. You’ll pass by downtown Oregon City and see its industrial history, including Willamette Falls Locks on the west bank and Blue Heron Paper Mill on the east, both of which are no longer in operation.
The Willamette Narrows itinerary paddles upstream beginning at Bernert Landing in West Linn to Rock and Little Rock Island, a basalt formation that provides a great opportunity for wildlife viewing as you paddle through its narrow channels.
Before you can hit the water, you’ll need to make sure you have all of the required gear and safety equipment. Check out the Willamette River Trail gear checklist to make sure you have everything you need. First and foremost, all water recreators in Oregon are require to have a personal flotation device (PFD), and most watercrafts are must have a Water Access Permit. For detailed information on watercraft and safety requirements, visit the Oregon Marine Board's page for non-motorized paddlers. If you're planning to venture onto the banks of the river, Oregon State Parks Greenway lands offer public spaces to explore.
Don't forget to exercise good stewardship as you share the river with others. Keep an ear out for motorboats, which need deeper water to safely operate and pass. When you hear an approaching motorboat, paddle closer together in groups. Practice social distancing and observe Leave No Trace principles. For more information on recreating responsibly in Oregon, learn about the Take Care Out There initiative.
The following communities in Mt. Hood Territory are neighbors to the river, making it easy to visit their downtown dining and shopping, as well as the Willamette River Trail all in one trip.
Oregon City is a water recreation hub with an award winning main street a quick walk away. If you need a little help getting equipped for your Willamette River adventure, check out eNRG Kayaking at Sportcraft Marina (the itinerary put-in). They offer kayak and SUP rentals, as well as guided paddling tours to Willamette Falls, a great way to learn a little local history as you get out on the water.
Oregon City Main Street is about a 0.5-mile walk from Sportcraft Marina, or one mile from Clackamette Park. Stop by OC Brewing or nearby Corner 14 food cart pod for some post-paddling refreshments. A walk down Main Street offers more dining, shopping and the Oregon City Municipal Elevator with stunning river views from the top.
If you’re looking for a place to stay, the Best Western Plus Rivershore Hotel is the perfect location. Book a river view room and enjoy the sunset after a full day.
Bernert Landing at Willamette Park is about a 0.5-mile walk from Historic Willamette Main Street in West Linn. There you’ll find a newly renovated main street experience with a large variety of delicious restaurants. If you’re up for a quick drive, West Linn is also home to four wineries: Tumwater Vineyards, Campbell Lane Winery, Pete’s Mountain Winery, and twill Cellars, several offering spectacular views of Mt. Hood from their tasting rooms.
Milwaukie Bay Park in downtown Milwaukie has a popular boat launch, as well as a charming grassy park to relax on the banks of the Willamette River. In the summer, the Milwaukie Sunday Farmers Market is just across the street. Pick up some local treats for a picnic lunch at the park. Walk through downtown Milwaukie for shopping and dining favorites like the Main Street Collectors Mall & Soda Fountain with delicious milkshakes.
The City of Lake Oswego offers upscale boutique shopping, dining, and outdoor art along the shores of Oswego Lake. And just a 0.5-mile walk from these main street delights, you’ll find George Rogers Park and the shores of the Willamette River. The park has a sandy beach that’s quite popular in the summer for both sunbathers and water recreators. Alder Creek offers kayak and SUP rentals from the park in the summer months.
A short drive south from Lake Oswego along Hwy 43 you’ll find Mary S. Young Park. The park offers wooded hiking trails that lead to the banks of the Willamette, and while there’s no boat launch access, it’s another great place to enjoy the river and look for wildlife.
Searching for more ways to explore the water in Mt. Hood Territory? Check out our Water Play page for information on guides and outfitters, as well as recreation opportunities on the Clackamas and Sandy rivers and favorite lakes.