For Portland-area outings, the Wild on the Willamette: Exploring the Lower Willamette River map and guide offers detailed information for hikers, cyclists, and paddlers ($6.95; order from www.audubonportland.org or purchase at Audubon Society of Portland Nature Store, 503/292-9453). Ferries carrying four to nine cars each cross the Willamette at Canby, north of Keizer (Wheatland Ferry), and at Independence (Buena Vista Ferry) ― the five-minute crossing is free to pedestrians and cyclists ( http://publicworks.co.marion.or.us or 503/588-7979). Otherwise rent a boat, go with a guide, or hop on a tour boat.
The following excursions are listed south to north.
Paddle Oregon. Willamette Riverkeeper ( www.willamette-riverkeeper.org) offers a guided, fully catered, five-day paddle on the river. Sep 7-Sep 11; $535 (reservations required). www.paddleoregon.org or 503/223-6418.
Willamette Queen. This stern-wheeler offers short excursions and brunch, lunch, and dinner cruises from downtown Salem. Trips from $10, meal cruises from $15 (reservations required). www.willamettequeen.com or 503/371-1103.
Sportcraft Marina. Canoe and kayak rentals (from $20), lessons (from $55), and guided tours (free). Closed Sun-Mon. 1701 Clackamette Dr., Oregon City; www.sportcraftmarina.com or 503/656-6484.
Ebb & Flow Paddlesports. Rent a kayak or canoe (from $25). Closed Mon. 0604 S.W. Nebraska St., Portland; 503/245-1756.
Portland River Company. Rent a kayak (from $20) or take a guided half-day tour ($60) or evening paddle ($43) from RiverPlace Marina. 0315 S.W. Montgomery St., Ste. 330, Portland; www.portlandrivercompany.com, 888/238-2059, or 503/229-0551.
Willamette Jetboat Excursions. One-hour tours ($18) take in the bridges of Portland; two-hour trips ($28) go to the base of Oregon City's thundering Willamette Falls. Daily, May-early Oct. www.willamettejet.com, 888/538-2628, or 503/231-1532.
Sternwheeler Rose. Two-hour brunch ($28) and dinner ($38) cruises aboard a 130-passenger paddle-wheeler cover the lower river. Reservations required. www.sternwheelerrose.com or 503/286-7673.
Portland Spirit. Sightseeing trips aboard a 150-foot yacht, ships, or a jetboat. Brunch ($38), lunch ($32), and dinner ($58) cruises also available. Trips from $16. www.portlandspirit.com or 800/224-3901.
Dining and lodging south of Portland
McMenamins North Bank. Outdoor tables fill fast. Don't miss the chain's signature ales. $$. 22 Club Rd., Eugene; 541/343-5622.
Valley River Inn. Elegant, low-profile 257-room hotel, with memorable riverside dining in the inn's SweetWaters restaurant ($$$$). From $129. 1000 Valley River Way, Eugene; www.valleyriverinn.com, 800/543-8266, or 541/743-1000.
Willamette Gables Riverside Estate. This 5-room inn looks like a Southern mansion on a bluff above the Willamette, bordered by Champoeg State Park. From $135 (includes breakfast). 10323 Schuler Rd., Aurora; www.willamettegables.com or 503/678-2195.
Dining and lodging in Portland
Avalon Hotel & Spa. A 99-room boutique hotel on the Willamette Greenway bike path south of downtown. Next door, Rivers restaurant ($$$; 503/802-5850) offers French-inspired cuisine and stunning views. Rooms from $205. 0455 S.W. Hamilton Court; www.avalonhotelandspa.com or 503/802-5800.
McCormick & Schmick's Harborside at the Marina. Well-prepared, fresh seafood dishes and three levels of river views. $$$. 0309 S.W. Montgomery; 503/220-1865.
Newport Bay at RiverPlace. Walk down the ramp or sail over and tie up at this floating, seafood-centric restaurant. $$$$. 0425 S.W. Montgomery; 503/227-3474.
RiverPlace Hotel. This 84-room hotel anchors the north end of the RiverPlace development. Half the rooms offer river views. Dine indoors or outside on the terrace at Three Degrees ($$$; 503/295-6166). Rooms from $189. 1510 S.W. Harbor Way; www.riverplacehotel.com, 800/227-1333, or 503/228-3233.