Ross Island - Flat Water Paddling

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Flatwater trips don’t get any closer to downtown than the river that cuts through the heart of it. The paddle around Ross Island is an urban favorite for a fist full of reasons; not the least of which are convenience, stunning city views, and a surprisingly vast array of wildlife.

Written by

Abby Joffe


0.0 miles

Destination Distance From Downtown

75.0 miles


2 of 5 diamonds

Time To Complete

1 hours

Varies, about 2 hours


All Seasons

Dog Friendly


Fees Permits




The Ross Island Paddle is an urban favorite among canoers and kayakers. A contingent of SUPers find the trek with favor as well. Sitting smack dab in the middle of the Willamette where the waterway bends around downtown, Ross Island, like many of Portland’s natural areas, is teaming with wildlife including black-tailed deer, river otter, and beaver. Over 100 species of birds also lay claim to the island during migration, including bald eagle, osprey, and blue heron.

What Makes It Great

The Island itself sports a rather large lagoon. The 100-foot deep body of water is the result of mining that ceased in the 1990s. Though the mining has stopped, sand and gravel are still being processed on parts of the island. A sizeable barge makes its way to and from the island daily through the Holgate Channel, so keep your head on a swivel when paddling through that particular waterway.

A number of different organizations are involved in maintaining and protecting the Ross Island in one form or another, so there are a number of rules and regulations with regards to island exploration.  The island is the site of an extensive urban restoration project and you are welcome to explore its beaches so long as you stay below the “ordinary highwater mark.”

If you go before work, you can go flatwater paddling on a mighty river, around an island that pretty much guarantees a handful of unique wildlife sightings and still make it to the office on time. If you go after work, you can get the same nature rush and be home before dinner. It’s the consummate urban adventure and it’s in the heart of town.

Who is Going to Love It

City-dwellers that love to take advantage of the best things their town has to offer will love this area. In Portland, our outdoor amenities are among the best in the country and it’s why many of us live here. When you live in a city like Portland and you have the green spaces and the Parks and Recreation that we do, you appreciate it and it often inspires you. The paddle around Ross Island is an emblematic outing that will drive home the fact that you picked one hell of a place to hang your hat.

Directions, Parking, & Regulations

Willamette Park and Sellwood Riverfront Park are both great places to start. They have a good amount of parking and restrooms. Parking at Willamette Park is $1 per hour for 5 hours then you will be charged the full day rate.

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Ross Island

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