Skipanon River

There are two posts here, one above the other. This is meant to keep together all the posts regarding this river and its launch sites for easier reference later. The download may have taken longer and you may have seen the older post before but this system made more sense to me than a scattered chronological order.

January 11, 2019, I launched the 9.25′ Emotion kayak halfway up the river at the bridge by Rainbows End Lane and paddled upstream to Cullaby Lake and back. 

December 27, 2018, We launched the Emotion kayak along with a neighbor and his small kayak from Warrenton’s 2nd St. kayak dock. We paddled upstream to the Highway 101 bridge, beyond and back. 

11 January 2019: Finding the Source of the  Skipanon River

The Skipanon is almost too long a river to complete in a day but it can be done in two. I still haven’t paddled around the mouth to look at Warrenton’s large marina, the even larger lumber mill, and the mouth of the Columbia River that according to another local paddler ‘will make you feel small’. There is a small dirt road on the east side of the Skipanon that leads to the edge of the Columbia for anyone who wants to check it out by land.

A few weeks ago, December 27, two of us paddled and climbed upriver as far as the water reservoir road, which, I found out later, was less than 2 miles from the river’s source. When we got back to the dock, another boat owner told me how he had once paddled and dragged his canoe all the way to Cullaby Lake. As most canoes are 14 to 16 feet long and around 70 pounds, the challenge had been made.

Always looking for places to launch, I saw that the bridge at Rainbows End Lane had a pretty level launch site. The Perkins Lane bridge further upstream looked too steep to launch and, as I found out later, has no legitimate parking.

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Just a half an hour from Ilwaco.
A parking spot for two and a 150 foot grassy route to the water.
To the left, the bridge. To the right, adventure.
Under Perkins Lane, a quarter mile upstream.
Beneath the bridge, the sunlit beach is to the left and the bridge is reflecting off the water.
Little deer ferns, moss, and lichen also enjoyed the bridge.
The Fort to Sea Trail footbridge.
The Pioneer Farm Lane crossing looks like it could have once been a railroad bridge.
I looked at the map and no railroad line looks visible but, maybe back in the logging days maybe there was.
Another clue, “Northern Pacific” is written on the other side.

My NOAA partner last trip is familiar with someone helping the shoreline restoration.

I think the right-hand seedling has been chomped hard. The one to the left is doing better.

Ahead of me was a rustle and a rumble as a herd of elk spotted me before I spotted them. Here is the last little one before they were gone.

The young one’s head is left of the evergreen.

This reminded me that on the drive down, I heard a short announcement on the van’s radio from the Coast Guard asking people to please tie up their watercraft, particularly during high tide and strong wind events. When an empty boat is found drifting, they quickly need to identify the owner and whether there is an emergency. Crews are often put in needless risk and expense in a search for the boat’s owner.

I did not find the likely pool wherefrom this craft was lost.


The last mile had a current of almost 2 mph.
To the right, a small channel flows in from under Hwy 101.

I’ve heard that I’m descended from Henry Stanley who in 1871 found Dr. Livingston (as presumed). In 1877 Stanley confirmed John Speke’s 1858 assertion that Lake Victoria was the source of the White Nile, which later joins the Blue Nile at Khartoum.

I chose the route to the left, in search of a great lake, the source the Skipanon River.

The water was flowing too quickly around the left of this fallen tree to make headway.  I stayed in the boat and pulled through over the trunk.
Here is a closer look at the greenhouse with the dutch door above the fallen tree.
While pulling through, I spotted a shelf fungus that will have to readjust.
A happy planting of bamboo running to take away someone’s riverfront access.
Carnahan Park Lane is the last bridge before Cullaby Lake. The spillway is in the distance.
Cullaby Lake’s spillway, at last. It’s a steep scramble around to access the lake. If you paddle all this way to avoid paying the $5 parking fee to enjoy the lake I discovered something to share about Carnahan Park today.
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From October 1 to May 11 it offers a free boat ramp into the north end of Lake Cullaby. The bigger park to the south with the restrooms, swingsets, tables and such has the $5 parking fee all year.

One of the house owners shared with me that they had just paddled their kayaks and a canoe down the river recently but were stopped by the fallen trees west of the 101 bridge. They had a fun trip because the river had plenty of water. That might imply a more difficult trip during a drought. Today I noticed the 8.6′ rising tide had affected the river up to near the Fort to Sea Trail Bridge. From there upstream the current began that got up to 1.9 mph making for slow progress but a quick trip home.

This water level gauge near Cullaby Lake’s outfall shows 8.8 feet.

I turned around to revisit the river from another angle. I averaged 4 mph compared to the 1.9 mph going upstream.

It looks like this bridge used a repurposed shipping container transporter.
Another attractive private steel bridge.
This bridge tensions two steel cables under a central 4×12 cross beam and uses the deck for compression. I could not find the proper name for this eloquent style. It’s not a suspension bridge if the cables are tensioned to lift. In school we built balsa bridges to see which one could hold the most eggs over a 3 foot span. I won with a single cantilever style suspended on its ends, similar to the Forth Bridge in Scotland but without the center towers.


Later I could hear this guy bellowing ahead.
He quieted down and posed for a strong profile shot. I stayed out of his field.
The sun was getting low when I returned to walk the water. There was little mud here so my gear came home clean which is unusual for a shore launch.


6.64 miles traveled in 2 hours 48 minutes with a maximum speed of 4.9 mph (downstream with the current) averaging 2.0 mph.)

27 December 2018: Upstream Over & Under the Skipanon River

The Skipanon River originates in Cullaby Lake, Oregon, and flows under the coastal highway 101 a half a mile south of the big box stores. It then flows through Warrenton, past a marina, a large lumber yard, and then into the Columbia River, not too far from the jetty at the mouth. There are few houses along its length making it a convenient paddle close to but mostly out of sight of civilization. I had recently read about a second free kayak dock just upstream of the Warrenton Marina launch. It was overlooked in my book. The dock is located at the east end of SE 2nd street in Warrenton. I felt it was a pretty big omission from the book as I had recommended that people pay to launch from the marina instead. Still, $5 might buy better security if you prefer parking lots.

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Here’s the river from near the marina to our goal – the 101 bridge.
The Bridge to Nowhere‘ crosses the mouth of the Columbia and leads to Warrenton.  Built to be Ilwaco’s gateway to Oregon.

Today I was with Chris, who besides once giving me one of his old boats to restore, is also a member of the local South Pacific County Technical Rescue Team that helps respond to local swimmer emergencies. It was highly likely he could pull me out of trouble if necessary. Today the wind would be light, the temperature in the low 50’s and the tide would be rising from 3.2 to 8.8 feet during our trip. A rising tide is preferred for paddling up rivers.

A well-maintained parking lot and ramp crosses a dike and down to the dock.
A little waterproof box in the footwell keeps the electronics dry, a waterproof bag in the rear is for the rest

I took the short ‘MaryBeth’ kayak that is both relatively lightweight at 39 pounds and at just over 9 feet is much better than the longer sea kayaks for maneuvering and banging around smaller rivers.

A view upstream from the low dock with a deflated boat being prepped.

The easy trip is to head downstream, tool around the marina, look at the Columbia River and back. That would be about a two and a half mile trip. Today we were going upstream to Highway 101 if possible. I expected two culverted bridge portages and counted about four blocking trees on google earth between the bridges and the highway.  It would certainly be easier for us than for explorers of yore.

Pilings here and a lumber yard downstream. Part of our logging culture.
Looks like concrete and stone or maybe glass. Durable and attractive.
The first portage I expected was a quarter mile upstream at SE 7th street.
However, at a +3.2′ tide, we were able to paddle under the bridge.
Later at an +8.8′ tide, the area was to be avoided as it could affect the boat.
Along this stretch, we saw people enjoying  Warrenton’s Skipanon River Loop Trail.

It looked well graded and follows the top of the dike.

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The kayak dock is to the right of the ‘Skipanon River Park‘ label.


Almost a mile later was the Fort Stevens Highway Spur bridge, just west of the Home Depot.
Once again we were able to easily paddle under it.

Later on the return trip at an +8.2′ tide, I had to lay down to clear it.

Later that day with my Converse muddy shoes of adventure.
The water was mirror calm with no current.

Warrenton High School is not far to starboard, but the bank was so woodsy you would never know.

A warning of adventures ahead.

About a third of a mile upstream I found out my boat was just a bit taller than Chris’s.

He wanted to be sure that you know he cleared a route and did great with these obstacles.
After a face full of compost I had to climb out and pull the boat through.
At the next treefall, he went through again while I beached and pulled my boat along the muddy shore.
The skeg marks the less muddy path.

Upstream, I set up like a snow sled and slid down the bank with my feet out. The stabilizing feet outside was a good thing as the bow went underwater and the stern leaned left and right as it followed down the bank.

No during pictures – I was busy.
Chris was able to limbo under the next one too.
It was up and over for me. Notice the clean bow from sliding in earlier (now a +4.1′ tide)

Here is a picture from the return trip (a +7.5′ tide) as we were able to go up and over the same tree.


Chris had the thought that except for a portage the first bridge at 7th, the rest of these obstacles might be paddled over on a high tide. With no current, we could do these more safely at our leisure without being pushed around and possibly getting pinned.

YES, a couple of muddy boats have made it 2.9 miles in an hour and a half up to the Highway 101 bridge.

Chris could have been much further along if I hadn’t had to do three portages, but I never felt pressured. Like bicycling, hiking and running, group members have different speeds.

Very smooth water with the exception of what we think was a small otter and the occasional surprised bird taking off, usually mallards.

Next came the SE Dolphin Ave. bridge near where it meets Rainbows End Lane. There looks to be enough room to park a car here and launch.  The bank doesn’t look too steep either. Best thing is that it’s upstream of the downed trees.


We’ve had a lot of rain lately and the tide has recently been over +11′ leaving the grass swept down along the shore. Today the Skipanon started flowing against us at this point even though the tide was +5.1′ and still rising.

Here is the Perkins Road bridge with a slight current beginning to show.

The water had recently been high enough to leave debris on low branches, like head level. I recognized this plant from my family’s aquariums as a kid. It’s the invasive Brazilian elodea.

Looking for trouble.
Here’s something Chris spotted. It’s above the clump of grass.
It’s a tower with tree camouflage. 
We figured this bridge would make a good turn around.
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This unnamed road meets highway 101 south of the box stores where the passing lane begins for the northbound traffic.

We were now two and a half hours in, out of the woods, and heading across a pasture with not much variety ahead.

I found out later it was still 1.7 miles to Cullaby Lake.

The owner of the inflatable boat at the kayak dock later told me that he once took his canoe all the way to Cullaby Lake. He had had to drag it through the last part. It does look possible from Google Maps if one can get through the houses close to the lake.

After turning around we crossed again under the narrow Fort to Sea Trail bridge.
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It is part of a 6.5 mile walking path between Fort Clatsop at the upper right and Sunset Beach which is south of Camp Rilea at the lower left.
This poor tree on the bank has been chewed, chopped, screened and painted purple. Not sure why.
Signs of a gardener living upstream.
A house letting the English ivy take over their riverfront.
Finally, we were back at the 101 bridge with the trees to traverse still ahead.
After paddling over the trees aided by the 3.4 foot rise in the tide, I laid down to clear the second bridge. This time noticed a cluster of summer homes.

Chris spotted this odd little church near the Fort Stevens Highway Spur. The speaker apparently stands on the block to the left of the cross and the parishioners’ use benches closer to the shore, but still underwater. Behind me was a view of the river and the woods.


The three tunnels under SE 7th St. were a hazard to avoid now.

Chris getting ready to portage. Unusual was the smell of fuel and the oil slicks visible on the incoming tide.

The inflatable boat guy had also had an enjoyable day motoring around the marina. He had just finished deflating his boat and was making plans for more trips in the coming year. I helped him stuff his boat into his truck.

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Hi Chad. If you’re reading this blog, maybe I’ll see you out in the water next year.
45 minutes of stopped time. Partly it was me pondering the fallen trees.

8.67 miles traveled in 4 hours 27 minutes with a maximum speed of 4.3 mph (downstream with the current) averaging a pokey speed of 1.9 mph.)

2 thoughts on “Skipanon River

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