Rowing the Columbia River is a chance that few get, and it can offer a whole new view of the spectacular waterway and its shoreline scenery.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service launched its series of interpretive kayak trips to the Hanford Reach and McNary National Wildlife Refuge early this summer, and the last three dates of the year have just been added.
The Hanford Reach trips are Aug. 21 and Sept. 25, and the McNary trip is Sept. 11.
Kayakers are treated to the river’s shrub-steppe scenery, and they spot deer, herons, pelicans and coyotes along the route.
“Very few people experience McNary from the water,” said Denise McInturff, from the refuge’s visitor service. “This is an opportunity to experience the refuge through a different perspective.”
The guides, all trained U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service employees, take groups of 17 kayakers out at a time. As they paddle down the river, the guides talk about the area, stopping the trip only once to talk about the B-Reactor on the Hanford trip.
But for the most part, participants get to design their own trips.
Since everyone is in individual kayaks, they can stay close and listen to the guide or they can go out more on their own. According to Fish and Wildlife, the trips can be whatever you make them.
On the McNary tour, participants row along the shoreline of the refuge for two hours, making it an easy trip for novices.
The Hanford Reach tour is a bit more intensive. Going from Vernita Bridge to the White Bluffs Boat Launch, it’s 20 miles long and takes four to six hours to complete.
Organizers are already planning to run trips next year, and they hope to start the tours in the spring.
The trips cost $15 per person. Register by phone at (509) 546-8330. Registration opens at 8 a.m. on Monday, Aug. 12.