Scappoose Bay is a mere 30-minute drive from downtown Portland along Highway 30. And yet, when I ventured out there to experience stand up paddle boarding (SUP) for the first time last summer, I could have been headed to a different world.
Scappoose Bay is a nature wonderland where you can float out onto the quiet river on kayaks, on boards, or in a boat, and go on an eye spy of wild birds and other animals. Vive Northwest was hosting its first SUP outing with Next Adventure as our guide, and Executive Director Jorge Guzeman and I were eager to see who would show up for our group Daycation.
(iPhone users! Download the free Daycation mobile app for the full Explore Scappoose Bay Daycation and about 20 other urban nature excursions.)
Vive Northwest launched in April 2016 as a way to connect the Latino community to the outdoors and nature. I teamed up with the founder, Jorge, in 2015, and we have been working together to bring this organization to a wider audience ever since. It's been an awesome experience growing as an organization over the past year and being able to have an impact so quickly.
As a partner in The Intertwine Alliance's Daycation initiative, we hosted our first group outing in partnership with the Urban Greenspaces Institute last fall, taking a group of 16 people to explore Oaks Bottom Wildlife Refuge in Southeast Portland. Oaks Bottom is another natural area I would never have expected to find in the heart of a city of 2.35 million people. Portland’s growth is among the 15 fastest of the country’s 50 largest metro areas. With people constantly pouring in, and extensive development happening around the city, places like Oaks bottom and Scappoose Bay will only become more treasured.
Everyone began trickling in to get fitted for life jackets and grab their paddles. Only a few participants had ever been stand up paddle boarding before. We had a handful of last-minute signups for the outing, and were excited to bring so many people together.
Hearing a mix of Spanish and English, we headed onto the water, where our guides from Next Adventure split us into groups for a quick lesson on paddling and some tips on balancing on the water. Scappoose Bay is a protected marina and is fed by a number of streams. It’s accessible year-round and great for beginners. The folks at Next Adventure gave us a little history of the area and an overview of the wildlife. Native Americans gathered wapato, a tuber used as a major food source, along the river. They used their toes to grasp the root and pull it out of the mud.
We spotted a 400-ish year old tree, and some cows grazing along the grass and mud, as we made our way toward one of the streams that feed the river. As we turned off the main waterway, our guides gave us a brief -- maybe a little over dramatic, but informative -- lesson on water safety and rescue tactics. Near the end of our paddle, we were able to see, pretty up close and personal, an eagle swoop down from the trees. It was substantial in size, and our guides made sure to point out that sometimes eagles mistake babies for prey -- probably more to give perspective on how large eagles are, rather than because it's truly a safety issue, so don’t let that deter you from visiting the bay with your children!
The whole trip took about 2 hours, with some stops along the way and only a few occasional falls into the water -- some by choice (the water is perfectly fine to swim in) and some in a struggle for balance. We had some pretty fantastic weather, and afterward we all made our way to the Scappoose City Air and Car show for live music, giveaways and to catch up with our favorite Vive Northwest volunteer, Scappoose Mayor Scott Burge.
As I’m writing about this Daycation, the sun is shining, making my office pretty uncomfortably hot. It's a bit distracting, and now I’m itching to get back out and explore more of the outdoors that this growing city offers, apparently all within a few miles. It’s the first sun I’ve seen in the past 8 or 9 days, so I think I'll leave the blinds up and turn my office into a little tropical heat wave.
I’m excited to be planning some upcoming Daycations -- rain or shine, can't wait around for the next sunny day -- so stay up to date by following Vive Northwest on Facebook. We'll see you around The Intertwine soon.