Estacada and its immediate surrounding areas may have the most diverse and dynamic waterways on the entire West Coast, if not the nation. At least 16 different runs, Class 1-6, can be found within a 30-minute drive from downtown.
The Clackamas River is the most popular destination. The Clackamas is the home of the Bob's Hole Rodeo, a May event that attracts amateur and professional kayakers from across the nation. Participants perform tricks while surfing a wave/hole in midstream; they are judged on how long they can maintain their surfing, and the number and difficulty of tricks performed while doing so. These paddlers get phat, throw down tight moves, and get totally sick. Know what I'm sayin', bros?
Just 15 miles upstream from Estacada, Carter Bridge serves as the base for the Oregon River Games, which take place May 5-7. This event is tagged as the only remaining whitewater race on the West Coast in which inflatable rafts and catarafts compete against each other, the river, and the clock. World-renowned boaters have been among the contestants.
Perhaps the region's leader in exploratory descents, and the documentation of challenging whitewater, is Estacada resident Pete Giordano. He owns Blue Sky Rafting, a small but diverse rafting company located in Estacada's foothills. Giordano is also the author of 'Soggy Sneakers,' the main handbook that river runners utilize for guidance in the state of Oregon. His work and information on several beautiful local tributaries can be seen by visiting www.oregonkayaking.net. The site has at least eight challenging local runs complete with photos and trip notes. Even if you aren't a boater, photos of the numerous breathtaking waterfalls found on the site make it well worth a visit.
Aside from the extreme adventures that can be found locally, several runs are more scenic than scary for the beginning boaters. The last four miles of the Upper Clackamas just above the North Fork Reservoir is rated as class 1-2. These riffles can be done with an inexpensive craft like an inflatable kayak, a good life jacket, and a little common sense. Almost the entire run can be seen from the road, and a person can get out at any time should they feel too uncomfortable.
Certain characteristics of the Upper Clackamas and feeder tributaries warrant attention. The Clack is spring-fed, so the water tends to be cold year-round, and, while the shade of the canyons nourishes lush riparian zones, it can also make it chilly, especially in the late afternoon and evening.
If you're brand new to the sport of river running and don't have any friends with experience, it might be a good idea to take a commercial guided trip the first time down, or practice on the Lower Clackamas from Barton Park to Carver.
The author: Tim Brink has been boating for nearly 23 years, and has nearly 9,000 commercial and private river miles logged, class 1-5+. An Estacada resident, Tim works as a school psychologist, football coach, river guide, and is the current overall champion of the Oregon River Games. Tim resides with his fiancée Rose, Flaco the cat, and Ruby and Tuby, Class IV pygmy goats.