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Trip Report    

Sea Kayak - Columbia River: Stevenson to Drano Lake

Great trip through the Gorge with 10-20+ kt of wind and waves up to about 3'. Fun but exhausting due to continuous sprinting/surfing through spectacular scenery.

  • Road suitable for all vehicles
  • 10-20 kt wind from the west.

    1-2 kt current to the west

    Wind waves up to 3' with significant whitecaps during most of the trip

The forecast for the gorge was a bit marginal - only showing 10 kts of wind with some chance of it coming up in the afternoon, but we decided to take a chance and try it anyway - turned out great with much stronger winds than forecast.

This is a trip that requires setting up a shuttle, and we found out that the parking at the take out (Drano Lake) is restricted to boat trailers only.  Fortunately Tim was using his trailer, so we dropped his rig down at Drano Lake.  This requires a $5 daily pass that you can get online through Skamania County Parks, or at the Home Valley Grocery which is right on the shuttle route (we did the latter).

We met in Stevenson at the boat launch at 9am and dropped the boats/gear off, then Tim and I set the shuttle while Larry waited with the boats.  This took about an hour and by the time we got back and geared up, we got on the water about 10:30.  The wind was already pretty good - estimated at 15kt when we launched.

We started out by going out into the wind/waves and practicing maneuvering in the conditions by paddling in circles in both directions several times.  All did well, so we headed east staying out in the main part of the wind/waves.  Surfing was good right from the start, and we made quick, fun and exhausting progress down to Home Valley park (about 5-6 miles) where we stopped at 11:30 for a break and for lunch. Home Valley Park provides some nice sheltered small beaches out of the wind, making a great place to regroup, rest and refuel.  As is usual for this trip, surfing opportunities are so great that we all paddled harder than we had planned and welcomed the break.

We got going again at about 12:30 or so and headed out into what we knew would be the largest waves and wind adjacent to and east of Wind Mountain due to the constriction of the Gorge at this point.  Conditions did not disappoint with lots of 2-3' well formed waves providing lots of long and fast rides.  Arrived at Drano Lake exhilarated and really exhausted at around 2:30pm.

We practiced some rolls and rescues in Drano Lake in windy but calm water conditions as we were all very tired at this point.  

After getting back to Stevenson and packing the cars, we had a great dinner at the Walking Man Brewpub in Stevenson.

Some notes to be aware of for this trip:

  • Need to research single car parking at Drano Lake or pick another take out point
  • Must continuously look out for barge traffic along the route.  While we didn't have any on this trip, I've been on others where this is an issue and you cannot hear them coming at 10kt or so.
  • Must be aware that if you come out of your boat, it is imperative to hold onto the boat.  A loose boat would not be able to be chased down, even by paddlers most likely.  May want to consider a boat leash, although this has its own hazards.
  • Although Bob's Beach in Stevenson is a good launch point, parking is pretty limited. The new East point kiteboard site is a bit better and the boat launch works well also.
  • Paddlers unfamiliar with paddling in consistent strong winds should demonstrate the ability to turn their boats onto any course while in the conditions prior to heading downwind for the paddle.
  • I emphasize that, although this trip is not very long, it is very taxing due to the almost continuous desire to surf the waves.  Consequently one is continuously working to sprint to catch a wave.  Need to ensure to keep fueled and hydrated. For first timers, it may be best to do a shorter version: Stevenson to Home Valley or Home Valley to Drano Lake.