Trip Report    

Sea Kayak - Columbia River: Cottonwood Island

Wonderful trip with lots of wildlife - more eagles than we could count, sea lions and a small flock of swans. Great time of year for this trip.

  • Road suitable for all vehicles
  • River flows were pretty high due to recent rains, but currents were manageable.

    Particular hazards on this trip are the periodic rows of pilings extending out into the river from the west shore of Cottonwood Island.  These would act as strainers , and could entrap a kayak if not careful.

    Also beware of large ship traffic in the river - we saw several freighters passing by during the day.

The forecast was for relatively strong winds (10kt from the west) with gusts up to 25. With a strong crew, I decided to try to do the trip anyway, but perhaps paddle downwind and up current along the west shore of Cottonwood if the forecast was true.  I drove to the Sportsman's Club put in just south of the island to view the river conditions before launch and it was very calm - little wind. Decided to paddle out to the north end of the island once on the water and decide which way to go based on conditions.

We got on the water right on time and floated with the current down the Cowlitz. It was immediately apparent that the fish were still running as there were large numbers of eagles in trees and on the sand bars. Once we had a view of the Columbia, it was clear that the forecast wind was not materializing, so we paddled south into Carrolls Channel. About half way down the channel we saw a small flock of swans out ahead of us.  They took flight before we could get very close. Before reaching the south tip of the island, we explored a large inlet and an old abandoned wood barge.

We stopped at the beach at the south end of the island for lunch.  Unfortunately a light rain squall came in at the time, so it was a bit wet and cold. After lunch we paddled across the river and explored the mossy cliffs southward along the old Trojan power plant site - now a park. We turned around at Coffin Rock which was inhabited by a number of large bull sea lions.

Back across the river, we paddled down current along the west shore, stopping once along the beach for a quick break.  By the time we reached the north end of the island and entered back into the Cowlitz, the tide had dropped several feet which made navigating the sand bars back into the Cowlitz a bit tricky - had several groundings along the way.  Got back to the launch about 4pm on schedule. Very little wind most of the day, a bit of rain and relatively chilly.