Get on the water by bike at one of these pedal-to-paddle destinations

Have river (and bike and inflatable kayak), will paddle.
(Photos: Jonathan Maus/BikePortland)

We’re lucky here in Portland to be surrounded by rivers and lakes. We also happen to have some pretty great bikeways. Put them together and you’ve got lots of fun possibilities.

After years of thinking about it, I finally did a pedal-to-paddle! Last weekend I loaded up our inflatable kayak into the trailer and Juli (Mrs. BikePortland) and I pedaled about nine miles south to Sellwood Riverfront Park. I’ve heard from so many folks that have recently started paddling (either kayak or stand-up paddleboard, aka “SUP”) that I figured it might be helpful to share a bit about our experience.

For me the limiting factor was two pieces of equipment: the kayak itself (which we just picked up from Costco) and a trailer to carry it in. Believe it or not I’ve lived without a cargo trailer for many years since our kids (now 10, 15, and 18!) grew out of our last one. I picked up a Burley Flatbed for $250 from Clever Cycles (a rare local bike shop that stocks trailers!) and have been very happy with it. I like how simple and open it is. It also folds down easily and the wheels pop off in seconds when I need to store it.

The Burley had plenty of room for a two-person kayak, paddles, and air pump. Strap up a few bungee cords and we were set to roll.

Because this is Portland, about half of our route was carfree. We headed south on Interstate and then hopped on the Eastbank Esplanade by the Steel Bridge. That path eventually turned into the Springwater Corridor (after the annoying short gap on SE Caruthers) and then we were river-bound.


One of my concerns with the pedal-to-paddle concept was the security of my bike while it’s parked. I opted for a very high-visibility rack right near the restrooms of the park. Being such a busy, hot, weekend day I wasn’t concerned about theft at all. Just to be safe, I folded the trailer up over the saddle of my bike so my chain lock reached through it. (Note: An even better spot to park would be the fence right near the docks and beach — you can see them from the river!)

Even with a leisurely pace, we went from our backyard in north Portland (near Peninsula Park) to having paddles in the water in just about an hour.

Sellwood Park is just one popular boat/board launch spot. I asked Ryan Hashagen, an experienced paddler (and local tricycle king) who’s explored more Pacific Northwest waterways than just about anyone, for his list of the best local pedal-to-paddle destinations:

Smith & Bybee Lakes

(Photos: Ryan Hashagen)

Wide marshy lakes full of wildlife from Herons to Turtles. Great views and plenty of shoreline to explore. Can get windy, but it is not hard to stay close to shore at Smith and Bybee. Bikable on the 40 Mile loop.

Vancouver Lake

Beautiful views of the Volcanoes. Often a very calm lake, but be careful of afternoon winds. Bonus trip is to go down from Vancouver Lake into Lake River at Felida. Bikable from the I-5 bridge and also has the Frenchman Bar bike trail adjacent to the boat launch.

Multnomah Channel on Sauvie Island

Wonderful spot to paddle, closeish to the Sauvie Bridge. Very little boat traffic, wakes, or current. Fun houseboats to check out.

Downtown Milwaukie

The boat launch is right off the Trolley Trail. Paddle to Elk Rock Island and back for a good explore. Be careful of motorboats on the West side of Elk Rock as they sometimes come through quickly with a wake.

Lacamas Lake

Lacamas Lake is awesome! Explore from Lacamas Park into Round Lake. The Lacamas Lake Trail runs the length of the Lake An extra credit trip is to put in at the North End of Lacamas Creek at Goodwin Road. Paddle all the way to Lacamas Park and pedal the trail back.

Let us know if you have any suggestions or questions. Have fun out there.

And don’t forget to watch our video and subscribe to the BikePortland YouTube channel!

— Jonathan Maus: (503) 706-8804, @jonathan_maus on Twitter and
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