Chehalem Paddle Launch provides water recreationalists a place to rent a kayak, canoe, or paddle board, and enjoy a peaceful paddle on the Willamette River, in Dundee, Ore. To Chehalem Park and Recreation District (CPRD), the launch provides a great example of a ground-level dream becoming a reality through the passion and dedication of volunteers. It also provides a modest source of revenue on a seasonal basis, which has been repeated during its first four years of operation.
This popular fee-based paddle launch met a need of the area: public recreation on the river. While motorcrafts have enjoyed easy access through a county launch, local kayakers and canoeists either held their own against the wake of water motorists, or found access to quieter spots through private landowners.
The stretch of Willamette River, where the paddle launch is situated, is rimmed with alder, cottonwood, dogwood, and a native understory filled with birdlife. This water trail is on a slow-moving channel formerly used as a log-raft site. Remnants of the partitioning structures—wing dam pilings—provide aesthetic character and deter motorboats, making the spot ideal for paddlers. The channel divides into a faster-moving main channel and a slower-moving shallow channel around small, uninhabited Ash Island. Experienced paddlers can circumnavigate the island in about an hour. Those who are new to the activity, families with children, and people who like to take an easy pace should plan on about 1½ hours. Paddlers looking for a shorter excursion can explore the mouth of Chehalem Creek in a comfortable half hour. Either way, paddlers experience calm water, varied plant life, and dozens of bird species, including ospreys, red-tailed hawks, bald eagles, and herons. Blue Heron Rookery is located on the entrance to Chehalem Creek.
The launch has 14 Current Designs recreational kayaks, four We-no-nah Royalex canoes, and six stand-up paddleboards available for rental. Lifejackets, dry bags, and safety whistles are provided, as well as a brief, general instruction by one of four staff members.
The launch is open weekends from mid-June (the Saturday after the last day of school) through Labor Day.
Hours are 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. Rentals can be done either on a drop-in basis or reserved in advance.
When the launch opened in 2010, rental fees were set at $20 for two hours, $25 for four hours, and $40 for eight hours. These prices were per craft, regardless of how many people were aboard, which made the canoes a good value. After four years of experience, rates per person were increased to $22 for two hours of kayak or paddleboard, and $30 for two hours of canoe or tandem kayak. This increased revenue slightly.
If you are going to organize a launch spot, it is important to be mindful of access for various skill and fitness levels. Ideally, operations should include a solid, permanent, floating dock. Because this operation is situated on private property, there is no option to construct a permanent dock, and the volatile nature of the orchard-cum-riverbank terrain is too challenging to situate a dock. We began with a simple, cleared, and well-graveled spot of bank for people to launch from and dock in. The bank was steep, so temporary stairs with a rail were built. This helped, but the rise and fall of the river level over the course of the year, and the dirt and debris it moves, do pose maintenance challenges to the stairway, especially after the winter’s heavy rains.
Another consideration is wireless communication. Because this spot is remote, there was no wireless accessibility. Initially, rental business was conducted via cash or check only, or in advance off-site through our registration desk. After a few years, because we needed to be able to conduct on-site online registration through regular web-based software, we added our own Wi-Fi hotspot, which was an additional cost that was not foreseen, and a learning process in itself.
The launch was built because of volunteers who initiated the idea, developed it, and created it in cooperation with CPRD under the guidance of the Ford Family Foundation Leadership Institute. It is located on private farmland and operates on a recreational-use easement.
More than 30 people—including high school, faith-based, elected, business, service, and philanthropic leaders—came together in the spirit of volunteerism and community development. Without initial coaching and financial support from The Ford Family Foundation, there would be no rental facility and park on the banks of the Willamette River today.
Chehalem Park and Recreation District superintendent Don Clements and the CPRD Board of Directors recognized the early and enthusiastic support from the ambitious core group of volunteers. The support continued from the superintendent and staff of the Newberg School District. The wave swelled to include leaders and organizations throughout the county. Early funding also came from Newberg City Council, Dundee Tourism Fund, and Dundee Parks Committee, approved by the Dundee City Council.
Representatives from George Fox University, Portland Community College, Chehalem Cultural Center, Newberg Providence Medical Center, Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde, and other community organizations were also supportive of the project. Newberg Area Habitat for Humanity donated an unused semitrailer that eventually housed the rental-facility operations. Local businesses provided materials, engineering work, and other support, while the Newberg Early Morning Rotary was an important grantor of funds to CPL.
A key point in the evolution of the launch operation came when local landowners graciously agreed to site it on their property. A land-use agreement was drawn up and approved unanimously by the Dundee Planning Commission. Tom and Kay Edwards’ vision and generosity added momentum to the project.
A significant grant from the Yamhill County Economic Development fund assured the eventual opening of the facility. With high-quality canoes and kayaks in hand, a record-breaking, wet spring allowed time to finalize the work on the mobile rental-facility trailer. Site preparation included many volunteers, the valued assistance of the Yamhill County Sheriff’s Work Crew, and, notably, TDP Landscaping.
In June 2011, less than nine months after an idea bubbled through the varied ranks of a volunteer community-development group, Chehalem Paddle Launch opened, and people of all ages began venturing out on the Willamette River for recreation, relaxation, and exploration.
Kat Ricker is the Public Information Coordinator for the Chehalem Park and Recreation District in Dundee, Ore. Reach her at email@example.com.
Is there an age minimum or size minimum?
Children six years and up are permitted in canoes with an adult.
Children 12 and up are permitted in kayaks.
In any case, each child must fit into the provided lifejacket.
Are there discounts for the number of boats rented?
Not usually, unless it is a special arrangement, which typically consists of large groups for extended excursions.
Are there group rates?
Special group rates and hours are available by special arrangement, as staffing permits.
How long can I rent a canoe or kayak for?
Rentals are in two-hour increments and within business hours during weekends. The maximum time is eight hours. Crafts must be returned by 7 p.m. Times are flexible for any specially arranged weekday excursions.
Are animals allowed on the canoes?
Yes, as long as they are licensed. Owners must sign a waiver and are responsible for cleaning up after their animals.
Is assistance available if I become stuck in the water or find myself in danger?
Paddling is at one’s own risk; however, CPRD provides a safety whistle and waterproof containers for cell phones. Cell-phone service is available. In case of emergency, dial 9-1-1. Responders are Yamhill County Sheriff Patrol and/or Newberg Fire Department.
Is alcohol permitted on the boats?
Is there a parking fee?
Are there restrooms?
Is overnight camping allowed?
Is there access to Ash Island?
Not at this time.
Can people launch their personal paddle boats from the launch?
Yes, during normal hours of operation, watercrafts that are not motorized may be launched from the site; however, CPRD assumes no responsibility in this case.
Is there a fee for launching a private watercraft?