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Teens land best summer jobs

Working at Alder Creek gives teens time to paddle, help public learn new sports


Paxton Leatherman, left, and Zach Burrell are enjoying working with Suzi Elle at Alder Creek this summer. The job has many perks, including being able to get out on the river by kayak and paddle board often.

Could a summer job be much better?

Lake Oswego teens Paxton Leatherman and Zach Burrell don’t think so. They both believe they’ve landed the perfect job by working at Alder Creek Kayak and Canoe’s Tryon Cove location.

Leatherman, who graduated from Oregon Episcopal School this year, is an avid whitewater kayaker, and he is enjoying the perk of being able to get out more frequently, and getting a discount on gear he needs. Burrell, who will be a sophomore at Lakeridge High in the fall, is getting acquainted with the watersports offered by Alder Creek.

“He has really improved already,” Alder Creek Kayak and Canoe co-owner Suzi Elle said.

Alder Creek Kayak and Canoe is a kayak, canoe and stand-up paddle board store and paddling school headquartered in North Portland on Jantzen Beach. Owners Elle and her husband, Dave Slover, also operate locations in Tualatin and Ridgefield, Wash. The company has, for many seasons, offered kayaking and other watersport classes and excursions through Lake Oswego Parks & Rec. Last summer, Parks & Rec organizers approached them to open satellite locations at George Rogers Park and Tryon Cove in Lake Oswego.

Somewhat hidden off the beaten track, Tryon Cove Park is run through an intergovernmental agreement between Lake Oswego Parks & Rec, Metro, Portland Parks & Rec and Tryon Creek Restoration Project. The property was originally purchased by the City of Lake Oswego, and later, Metro and Portland reimbursed the City and purchased certain parcels of the land.

According to Jan Wirtz, recreation superintendent for Lake Oswego Parks & Recreation, the property has always been intended as a natural resource, enhancement and protection of wildlife habitat and for public recreation.

“The property was recognized even back in the day for its importance to the watershed health of the region,” she said. “Having the paddle sport recreation opportunities available to the public by accessing the Willamette River out at Tryon and George Rogers parks is one of many ways we can educate and participate healthfully in taking care of ourselves and the environment.”

To get to the park, it is easiest to go north on Highway 43, turn left onto Breyman Road, and then go south on Highway 43 and take a left onto Stampher Road. Follow Stampher under the railroad trestle until you come to the park, turn right and continue to the Alder Creek boathouse.

It’s easy to find, once you know where to go. And the protected cove is perfect for launching kayaks and paddle boards.

“We didn’t know what to expect,” Elle said. “But our classes are always full, and every day, we get inquiries at George Rogers about rentals, hosting special events and having birthday parties.”

People are smitten by the watersports, particularly kayaking and stand-up paddle boarding, so much so that Elle has hired 11 local teens for the Tryon Cove, George Rogers and Tualatin locations, under the direction of a seasoned lead staff member.

The Tryon Cove location offers basic skills classes, kayaking and stand-up paddle board classes and tours to Elk Rock and Hogg Island.

“Our stand-up paddle board class is a three-hour session, and the kayaking class is four hours,” Elle said. “We want to make sure you are 100 percent confident in your skills when you finish a class.”

Participants in the kayaking classes are encouraged to complete a water exit and re-entry exercise, so they will know what to do should they capsize.

“We don’t force people to do it, but it gets rid of the fear of falling in,” Elle said. “All employees have taken the basic skills class, too, so they can help others adjust gear and explain how it works.”

Leatherman and Burrell were anxious for the cloudy weather to pass, as business is slower when the sun isn’t shining. They prefer to be hustling to get people on the water.

“This is a ‘feel good’ business,” Elle said. “It’s a ‘happy making’ business. Kayaking and paddle boarding are lifelong sports. We’ve got people in their 70s and 80s coming out.”

The George Rogers Park location offers kayak and stand-up paddle board rentals only. It is located at 611 S. State St. in Lake Oswego. Call 541-705-0283 for more details.

The Tryon Cove location offers classes, tours and rentals of kayaks and stand up paddle boards. It is located at 14110 Stampher Road off Highway 43 in Lake Oswego. Call 971-313-4781 for details.

Through Aug. 28, both locations are open 10 a.m.-8 p.m. daily, with the last rentals going out at 6 p.m.

To learn more about Alder Creek Kayak and Canoes, visit aldercreek.com or call Elle at the Jantzen Beach location at 503-285-0464.

Contact Barb Randall at 503-636-1281 ext. 100 or by email at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

STAFF PHOTOS: VERN UYETAKE  - Suzi Elle, co-owner of Alder Creek Kayak and Canoe invites the public to come out and enjoy paddle sports. The company has opened rental locations at Tryon Cove and George Rogers Park in Lake Oswego. Lessons are available.