Paddlers out for a fun Labor Day weekend float on the Cowlitz River in Castle Rock, Washington
If you live in or plan to visit the Pacific Northwest in the US and love to kayak, you need to know about the 11,000-member Northwest Kayaking community.
Northwest Kayaking was founded and is run by Mike Hedges. We connected with Mike recently to learn more about this fabulous resource for kayakers.
Mike grew up canoeing here and there, but really got into kayaking in the last 7-8 years and became a more serious paddler. Serious enough that he began to make travel plans around kayaking.
He’s enjoyed it so much he decided to start a website in 2016 as a resource for other kayakers in his area and Northwest Kayaking was born. He also began a Facebook group which is now 11,000 strong, including several hundred active members.
How many of us have lived nearby lakes and rivers for years and never paddled them? Mike loves opening the eyes of kayakers and other paddlers to the waterways around them, whether they’re beginners or long-time paddlers. He wants to get them on those waterways, enjoying these incredible natural resources the Pacific Northwest is known for.
Northwest Kayaking founder, Mike Hedges
Mike has not only been helping others get on established waterways, he’s helped local organizations develop new local spots for kayakers.
Resources on the Northwest Kayaking Website
Mike’s main goals through Northwest Kayaking are to be a resource for new kayakers, to create more interest in paddle sports in the Pacific Northwest and to connect paddlers with each other.
The first way he accomplishes his goals is with loads of helpful information. Some of the value you’ll find on the website include:
- The “Getting Started in Kayaking” page has tips and links about hooking up with local kayak groups, using an outfitter, what gear is most useful, types of kayaks and how to buy one (new and used), PFDs (life jackets) and kayak courses. The page also gives an overview of the types of kayaks available and the intended use for each.
- “NW Kayak Tours Rentals” page lists dozens of outfitters and touring companies in Washington and Oregon with direct links to their websites. You can find kayak tours and outfitters for rivers, lakes, oceans and whale watching. There’s also a list of paddlesport retailers.
- Mike’s “Kayak and Equipment” page suggests several local kayak shops and more detailed gear suggestions, including paddles (Mike uses Aqua Bound’s Sting Ray Hybrid kayak paddle). He shows several types of PFDs, spray skirts, drysuits and dry bags, then goes into more details about the types of kayaks available with links to the major brands.
- Then he has a “Great Places to Paddle” page which lists a ton of places on both moving and flat water, including the San Juan Islands. Most of these are beginner-friendly and there are links to landings, lakes, rivers, parks and more all over Washington and Oregon.
- And there’s more…you’ll just have to check it out for yourself!
Kayakers enjoying an in-person event through Northwest Kayaking
In-Person Events through Northwest Kayaking
The second way Mike accomplishes his goals through Northwest Kayaking is by organizing in-person events in the Pacific Northwest throughout the year.
The best way to find out about these events and participate in them is to become a member of the Facebook group. You can request membership in this private group by clicking here.
Kayaking the Cowlitz River
One popular annual event Mike created is kayaking a section of the Cowlitz River near Toledo, Washington on the Sunday of Labor Day weekend. This very scenic paddle gives you great views of Mount Rainier. It includes a few small waves near the beginning but then a relaxing river float.
He’s had up to 200 people participate in this event, now in its fifth year. People come from around the area, including from several hours away. It’s a super family event—the last hurrah of the summer before school starts.
Mount St. Helens Trips
Another event that’s unique to the area there is a Mount St. Helens anniversary paddle. Mike also likes to plan a July fireworks paddle trip with Mount St. Helens in the background.
Kayakers with Mount St. Helens in the background
Then there’s some fun kayaking on the Yakima River in Prosser, Washington in September during the Great Prosser Balloon Rally. Hot air balloons go right down on the water for an up-close “hello”!
Mike loves to tie kayaking into these area events and others to open peoples’ minds to how they can enjoy these events in new ways.
Cheese Days Float on the Cowlitz River near Toledo, Washington
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