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Trip Report: Beacon Rock / Pierce National Wildlife Refuge
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Trip Report: Beacon Rock / Pierce National Wildlife Refuge

Trip Report: Beacon Rock / Pierce National Wildlife Refuge

--When, Where, Conditions--
When: Friday August 15th
Location: Beacon Rock State Park and Pierce National Wildlife Refuge
Conditions: Beautiful weather. Mix of sun and clouds. Reasonable water temp. Afternoon wind when on the exposed portion of the Columbia (under 15kts) and some stronger currents flowing downstream.
Duration: Roughly 4 hours and about 15nm

--Helpful Info--
Difficulty: Easy on the backside of Piece and Ives Island, moderate difficulty on the main part of the Columbia. Experience with current and paddling in windy conditions is ideal.
Kid Friendly? Yes, on the backside of the islands
Pet Friendly? No, as the islands are wildlife refuges
Useful Links: The Nature Conservatory

The Report: Guide Nathan and I took a Friday free from work to explore a potential new venue for a guided trip and tour, and just to get out and paddle! I was also using the opportunity to test out the Oracle Carbon Bent Shaft Paddle from Adventure Technology (AT Paddles), as I am normally a traditional straight shaft paddle user.

After a killer bagel and some incredible coffee from Seven Virtues Coffee Roasters near my house, we headed out into the Columbia Gorge for what I was expecting to be a cloudy day. By the time we reach the monolith of Beacon Rock, the weather was showing signs of change. Before we even launched, we were treated to an osprey snagging a fish right out of the water (Fun Fact: Ospreys turn the captured fish in their talons to make themselves more aerodynamic. Neat!) We took off, basking in the beauty of Beacon Rock, Hamilton, and Table Mountain while keeping our eyes peeled for more wildlife on Pierce and Ive's Island. We paddled all the way up to the mouth of Hamilton Creek, which in winter/high water months, connects back to the Columbia, but as this is August we hit a dead end. We did however see not one, but two Columbia Black Tailed deer swimming while we out and a about.

After a quick stretch break, we headed out to main force of the mighty Columbia so that we could surf a few wind waves. The current against the opposing summer west winds create awesome consistent waves, big enough to do downwind paddles on kayaks or SUPs, right here in Oregon/Washington! Following the surfing and catching a few eddies in our touring kayaks, we launched on the South side of Pierce Island with a radical view of the Oregon side of the Gorge. The beauty out there never ceases to amaze me. Pierce Island is a cool little Island Managed by the Nature Conservancy, so people are allowed from July-February (Feb-June is nesting season for many species), but encourage a leave no trace tenant.

Post lunch, Nathan and I headed out for another short surf session before rounding the trip back at the park. We celebrated our paddle with an hour of traffic heading back into the city, but that proved to be an awesome time to be dreaming of Next Adventure's entry into the Portland Adult Soap Box Derby next year (stay tuned for details).

Beacon Rock Pierce National Wildlife Refuge Columbia River Gorge

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