"Scappoose Bay is one of the country's largest freshwater bays," says Steve Gibons, coproprietor of Scappoose Bay Kayaking, "and no one knows it exists."
All the better for those of us who do. The outfitter is right on Scappoose Bay, off the Columbia River's Multnomah Channel ― rich with wildlife (it's adjacent to two refuges), threaded with enclosed, verdant sloughs appealing to beginners, and close to the Columbia's more challenging waters. And although it's just a half-hour's drive northwest of Portland, it's far enough to be entirely removed from city frenzy and boat traffic. You can take classes or expertly guided tours, or just rent a boat to paddle on your own. (Groups sometimes paddle the Salmon Dancer, a boat built on the traditional lines of canoes used by Northwest coastal tribes.)
Scappoose Bay Kayaking is at Scappoose Bay Marina, south of St. Helens on U.S. 30 between mileposts 25 and 26. www.scappoosebaykayaking.com or 503/397-2161.