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Canoeing at Browns Ferry Park
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Rhys in our canoe - Browns Ferry Park DockWhat’s to Love:  Browns Ferry Park is a 28 acre park located near Tualatin.  The main attraction here is the Willowbrook Summer Arts Program, which occupies a good amount of space near the parking area.  I don’t know much about the program, but an outdoor art camp seems like a pretty cool idea to me.  The entire camp is fenced in by some unsightly wire fence, but they do have to protect all their tables, chairs, art supplies, etc.  Browns Ferry Park also has some paths for hiking and biking; however, we came to Browns Ferry to rent a canoe from Alder Creek Kayak and Canoe Rentals (ACKCR)

Alder Creek Canoe and Kayak RentalACKCR rents canoes and kayaks right next to a public boat launch.  Once they get you setup, their friendly staff members will help you get your boat down to the river, which is only about 100 yards or so.  Unfortunately, ACKCR does not do drop-off and/or pick-ups in this location.  Thus, your crew will have to paddle upstream and/or downstream during your voyage.  Luckily, this section of the Tualatin River is very slow – it’s like paddling on a lake.  There is no problem whatsoever paddling upstream here.

Tualatin River - Browns Ferry ParkI’ve always been a bit scared to bring my kids out on the water.  I asked the staff members at ACKCR about bringing our 1-year-old, and they were all for it!  Their exact words were, “We just want to get families out on the river.”  ACKCR has plenty of lifejackets, but I still am a bit hesitant to bring a child that small.  So, our 1-year-old stayed at home, and I just went out with our 5-year-old who is a decent swimmer.

I’ve heard that the river has been cleaned-up significantly, and it’s safe to swim.  I wish we would have brought our swimming gear, because it was a hot day and the water felt great.  There were plenty of families jumping out of their boats into the water for a swim.  The other option is to just take out the canoe and wade in from the shore.  Overall, we had a great time exploring the river and developing our paddling skills.  Here is a short video clip:

Boat ramp and dock at Browns Ferry ParkCaveats:  There is not much shade, so be prepared on a sunny day.  You will bake inside a canoe or kayak.  Therefore, it might be a good idea to take a dip every now and then.

The ramp down to the water is STEEP!  Luckily it’s grated with metal handrails.  There were a couple of times I thought I was going to slip, but the handrails saved me.  Please keep your kids out of the way when you’re bringing the boat up or down the ramp.

The picnic/biking area is pretty close to a busy street, so don’t plan on a peaceful meal.  If it bugs you, just don’t face the street!

WebsiteBrowns Ferry Park

Distance from Portland:  The park is within 15 miles of downtown Portland off I-5.  Here is a Google Map of the area.

Recommended Ages:  All ages, especially great for young kids who want to get out on the river!  Teens will enjoy swimming in the river – just make sure everyone has lifejackets.

Parental Stress Factor:  Mildly stressful.  Anytime my kids are around water it’s stressful for me.  I guess I’m a bit over-neurotic when it comes to watersports, but a little stress can help prevent total apathy about safety.  Plus, I wanted my son to realize the potential for dangerous situations that can happen while in a canoe.  I know I had many near disasters in canoes when I was a kid.

Physical Difficulty:  This is a very mellow boat ride; however, canoeing, even on a lake, is hard work if you’re not used to it.  Hopefully, your kid/s will be old enough to assist with the paddling.  If you’re concerned about being able to get the canoe down to the water safely, just ask someone with ACKCR to help you with the launch.  They are friendly folks, but you may need to ask for help.

Family Fun Factor:  Not super high, not super low.  It’s sort of a wash on this one.  I did it mainly because I think canoeing is pretty cool, and I used to do it quite often with my own father.  If you get your whole family out on boats, introduce some swimming, biking, and a picnic, you have potentially raised the fun factor significantly.

Pet Friendly:  Dogs are okay on leashes in the park.  For bringing along dogs on boat rentals, you’ll need to contact ACKCR.  I did not even see a dog while we were at the park or out on the boat.

Weather Considerations:  Because of the heat, this trip would probably be best during September.  Here is more information from their site:

The first day of the 2009 Paddling Season for us is Memorial Weekend and we will be open Saturday – Monday. We will operate weekends only until June 14th. Beginning on June 17th we will operate Wednesday through Sunday until the end of August. We will be open 4th of July. In September we are open weekends and Labor Day. We close for the season on September 20th.

Insider Info:  ACKCR is first-come-first served with reasonable rates.  I don’t like listing rates, because they are subject to change.  I recommend giving them a call before you leave the house.  Ask them about their rates and check the availablilty of boats.  Due to the fact that most trips are pretty short, your family will probably not have to wait too long even if the boats are all out.

Lifejackets and other gearYour boat rental includes lifejackets, so there is no need to bring your own.  They even have infant sizes.   If you have your own boat, this is a good spot for a launch.  The parking area is within 200 yards of the the boat launch.  If you have wheels that assist the transport, you’ll probably want to bring them, even thought the appoach is pretty short.

My recommendation is to paddle upstream from the dock until the second bridge-underpass.  On the way upstream, take out in a couple of different areas so your kids get the opportunity to throw some stones and look for water creatures.

Rocky landing on the Tualatin RiverFamily Tips:  To increase the Family Fun Factor, bring along a picnic and your bikes.  We did not ride the trails, but they look pretty fun for beginning riders.  With proper licenses, it is also possible to do some fishing in the river.

There may be some nice beach spots for a picnic, but I didn’t see any.  Therefore, I recommend picnicing up near the parking area where you can sit and watch for wildlife in the surrounding prairie.

Technorati Tags: Browns, Ferry, Park, Tualatin, canoe, bike, trail, prairie, picnic, kayak, Alder Creek, river

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  1. Wow, that sounds like fun! Thanks for the video and all the info. 🙂

  2. For all you water enthusiast we wanted to let you know about a FUN day on the Willamette River on Aug 12th . The salen Exchange club is sponsering a fun float from Independence to Wallace Park in West Salem. Any thing that floats and is not powered with a motor. check it out at You can also call Gale Francis @ 503-580-0425

  3. The greener garden, the lovelier scene I experience. Fond of looking at.

  4. Overall, we had a best time exploring an RV to Ferry Park. Smith park has campground. let’s just a day trip via ferry. lf you pass on to either now, you'd be eaten alive by our paddling skills.

  5. Nothing like starting off my day reading and learning about something cool. Your blog post accentuated my breakfast perfectly! Thank you 🙂

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