7 Cool Places to Paddle in 2016

©istockphoto/thinair28It’s only the begin­ning of 2016. The snow is deep. But when that snow melts in a few months, it will come flow­ing into the rivers and rush its way out to sea. Now’s the time to use those long win­ter nights to plan some pad­dle trips. From white­wa­ter to flat water, to play­ing in Poseidon’s den, here are some places to dip a pad­dle in the com­ing year.

 Green Riv­er, Utah
Still­wa­ter Canyon, despite the still water, is far from bor­ing. It winds through 60 miles of inde­scrib­able rock for­ma­tions in Canyon­lands Nation­al Park. Dip your blade in Utah’s Green Riv­er and pad­dle past its con­flu­ence with the mighty Col­orado. Still­wa­ter can be many things: a pleas­ant relaxed pad­dle, a way of access­ing dif­fi­cult-to-reach back­pack­ing routes into the maze dis­trict, a photographer’s par­adise, and a side-hike and rock-scram­ble Olympics.

Put in: Min­er­al Bot­tom (Green River)
Take out: Span­ish Bot­tom (Col­orado Riv­er) via jetboat
Per­mits: Required but usu­al­ly easy to get. Plan­ning the shut­tle is the tricky part.
The Pad­dler: Suit­able for begin­ners as long as you avoid upriv­er winds.

Nuchatlitz Inlet, British Columbia
One sec­tion of the end­less immen­si­ty of British Columbia’s coast, Nuchatlitz Inlet, is a series of islands and inlets on the north end of Noot­ka Island. The dif­fi­cul­ty of get­ting there means you won’t have crowds on the many islands that offer spec­tac­u­lar camp­ing and great pad­dling (con­di­tions per­mit­ting) for expe­ri­enced sea pad­dlers. Adorable sea otters float in big rafts (they were rein­tro­duced to this sec­tion of the B.C. coast years ago). Spend as long as you can explor­ing the intri­cate rocky coastline.

Put in: Lit­tle Espinosa Inlet, accessed via rough log­ging roads across Van­cou­ver Island.
Take out: Same, or the small down of Zeballos
Per­mits: None
The Pad­dler: Out­er coast routes require ocean pad­dling skills, nav­i­ga­tion and good judge­ment. Inter­me­di­ate pad­dlers should stick to the exten­sive glacial inlets that are more pro­tect­ed from ocean swell, but can still be quite windy.

The Colum­bia River
Fol­low Lewis and Clark—and the route of a water molecule—from the Colum­bia Gorge 144 miles to the Pacif­ic Ocean. Start in the cliffs of the Colum­bia Gorge, pad­dle through the urban metrop­o­lis of Port­land and the island refuges of the wide low­er riv­er. Then start to feel the sea’s influ­ence, end­ing at either Astoria’s salty piers or the cliffs of Cape Disappointment.

Put in: Hamil­ton Island near Bon­neville Dam
Take out: Either the West Moor­ing Basin in Asto­ria, Fort Clat­sop in War­ran­ton, OR or Fort Can­by, WA
Per­mits: None
The Pad­dler: Able to han­dle con­sid­er­able mileage and fick­le con­di­tions, espe­cial­ly in sum­mer when west winds can pick up.

The Salmon River
Pad­dlers flock to The Mid­dle Fork of Idaho’s Salmon Riv­er, but the Main Salmon, just below, packs its own charm: deep canyons through the wilder­ness, old home­steads and great camp­ing. You’ll pad­dle across a chunk of the largest con­tigu­ous wilder­ness in the low­er 48, and it will feel like you’re away from the world. The rapids, scenery and an added hot spring are a potent combo.

Put in: Corn Creek, Idaho
Take out: Vine­gar Creek
Per­mits: Lot­tery from June 20 to Sep­tem­ber 7.
The Pad­dler: Able to nav­i­gate class 4 rapids in a wilder­ness environment.

Three Arch Rocks, Oregon
Three Arch Rocks—a short dis­tance off Oregon’s Cape Meares—is one of the most stun­ning places to pad­dle on earth. Mas­sive cliffs and arch­es to pad­dle through, sea caves, pel­i­cans and water­falls cas­cad­ing into the sea line between Ocean­side, Maxwell Point and Cape Mear­es. It doesn’t get much more dramatic—or exposed to the full brunt of the Pacific—than this.

Put in: Ocean­side, Oregon
Take out: The same
Per­mits: Kayak­ing with­in 500 feet of Three Arch Rocks is closed dur­ing the sum­mer months to pro­tect marine life. Maxwell Point to Cape Mear­es is open year-round.
The Pad­dler: Skilled ocean pad­dlers in good con­di­tions only.

The Grand Canyon
The short­est pos­si­ble trip on the Grand Canyon winds 225 miles through some of the most famous and spec­tac­u­lar land­scapes on earth. It’s a jour­ney that’s often life chang­ing: mas­sive rapids, bil­lion-year-old rocks, an infi­nite set of trea­sures to be dis­cov­ered down each side canyon and a deep dive into riv­er time, where the rest of the world falls away amidst evenings watch­ing light play on the canyon walls. A lot of plan­ning, skill-build­ing, and group effort goes into this trip. You won’t for­get it any time soon.

Put in: Lee’s Fer­ry, Arizona
Take out: Dia­mond Creek
Per­mits: Year-round weight­ed lot­tery, and very hard to come by.
The Pad­dler: Knows what they’re get­ting into. The names Crys­tal, Lava Falls, Horn Creek and Gran­ite are leg­endary for a rea­son. The water’s mas­sive, and you’re in a very, very remote place.

Your Back Yard
It’s not all dream­ing about the ide­al pad­dling trips in dra­mat­ic land­scapes. Love for mov­ing water and the skills to nav­i­gate it are built on what­ev­er water you have near­by, even when you can only get in your boat for a few hours.

Put in: The clos­est you can find.
Take Out: The same.
Per­mits: Nope
The Pad­dler: You