Whether relaxing with an afternoon paddle or starting a multi-day trip, you’ll want to know the basics before getting started. Here’s a quick rundown of what to know:
safety first, wear a lifejacket:
Personal floatation devices (PFDs or lifejackets) are not required for adults—but are nevertheless strongly encouraged whenever you’re on the water. Children 12 and younger are required to wear a U.S. Coast Guard-approved life jacket whenever the boat is underway. (The Oregon State Marine Board hosts a website on various lifejacket styles and how to choose the right PFD for your preferred activity.) Learn more about staying safe while paddling the Willamette Water Trail.
keep your distance:
Try to avoid crowded boat ramps, and maintain at least six feet of physical distance (roughly the length of a kayak paddle) from others whenever possible—even on the water.
ensure you have the proper permit:
All paddle craft 10 feet and longer are required to carry an Oregon State Marine Board Waterway Access Permit ($7 for a seven-day pass, $17 for an annual pass, $30 for a two-year pass). These permits help fund the aquatic invasive species prevention program and grants to develop or improve paddling access for boating facility providers, and paddling without a permit may lead to a $115 fine.
respect private property:
Private property borders much of the Willamette Water Trail; assume that property, unless otherwise noted on a sign or map, is private—and take care to respect all signs that warn against trespassing or hunting.
share the water:
Listen for the occasional motorboat, and paddle closer together in groups when you hear a motorboat approaching. Motorboats need deeper water to safely operate and pass.
leave no trace:
Please abide by the Seven Principles of Leave No Trace; those principles include remembering to plan ahead and prepare, dispose of waste properly, and respect wildlife. (And while you’re outdoors, remember to Take Care Out There.)
What else should you know about paddling the trail? We’ve rounded up 10 ways to have fun while staying safe along the Willamette Water Trail. And uncover safety, requirements, educational resources, and more from the Oregon Marine Board.