It is possible there is nothing more idyllic than lazily drifting down a waterway, and just outside Seattle on the Sammamish River you can do just that. The 13-mile long river runs from the north shore of Lake Sammamish, in the city of Redmond, to Lake Washington’s northern end in Kenmore. The water moves along slowly, with virtually no current the entire journey.
What Makes It Great
To see the whole river, put your boat in the water at Redmond’s Marymoor Park. From here, the river flows north through Redmond until it reaches Woodinville, after which it turns northwest and then west. Sammamish then continues to bend westward, and is soon joined from the north by North Creek in Bothell and then Swamp Creek in Kenmore. Take your boat out of the river at the Washington Department of Fish & Wildlife water access site just east of where the river runs into Lake Washington in Kenmore.
If you want to get in more of a workout, you can also travel the river the other direction (i.e., upstream). The current is light enough that it will provide a bit of resistance against your paddle, but still not entirely wear you out.
While the river is undeniably set in an urban environment, when you are nestled down in the channel on a boat you would hardly know that you are passing by housing developments and golf courses. The abundant wildlife will make you feel miles and miles away from the city: the Sammamish River is home to waterfowl like Canada Geese, ducks, and great blue heron; eagles; beavers; and runs of salmon and trout including Chinook, Coho, sockeye, and steelhead.
Named after the native people who once lived along its entire length, the Sammamish River played an hugely important role to them, and then to the first white settlers in the area. Since then, the river has taken on a different look, as it has been modified for various efforts including to better use the channel for transport, the floodplain for agriculture, and to reduce flooding in the Sammamish River Valley and Lake Sammamish.
Who is Going to Love It
Paddling the Sammamish River downstream (from south to north) is a great excursion for anyone who wants to spend a day lounging, but under the cover of doing something active outside. There is nothing more relaxing than drifting on a river and taking your sweet time about it. You’ll feel like Huckleberry Finn!
Directions, Parking, & Regulations
You will want two cars: leave one at your planned take-out, and drive the other where you plan to put-in.
There is parking available at Marymoor Park in Redmond and at the Department of Fish and Wildlife site in Kenmore, although you will need a Discover Pass for the latter.
Alternatively, you can take-out (or put-in, if you’re traveling upstream) at Blyth Park in Bothell, which only shortens the trip a couple of miles.