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Let's Get Out There: Rafting the Clackamas River

Looking for a mellow river float? This week, KGW's Jon Goodwin goes on a beginner-friendly rafting tour down the lower Clackamas River.

ESTACADA, Ore. — On its way out to feed the Willamette River, the Clackamas River rubs elbows with Milo McIver State Park in Estacada.

“I love the river. I mean, I just love the river,” said Pete Giordano, staring out at the rushing water.

He’s quick to point out, this area is not as well-known as the Columbia River Gorge, but it’s still exceptional.

“We're actually pretty proud that it's not the gorge,” he said.

Pete owns Blue Sky Rafting and his niece Amanda Giordano moved from Utah last year to help him run it.

“We’d like to think that we're off the beaten track a little bit, and that's nice. We’re happy,” he said.

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“I kind of know this river like the back my hand,” Amanda said. “Every rock, I've hit it probably,” she smiled.

Credit: Jon Goodwin, KGW

Since 1998, Blue Sky Rafting has offered guided rafting tours down the lower Clackamas River. Pete says it’s a perfect place for beginners to dip their toes into rafting.

After a safety briefing and the life jackets were on, our two rafts took off from a Milo McIver State Park boat ramp. The river alternates between scenic sections and small, fun rapids. “I think the big thing is, don’t be afraid to try new things,” said Pete. 

For years, he’s enjoyed guiding smaller groups, not packed rafts.

“We like to spread people out in boats,” Amanda said. “So that they're not crammed in there, get a little bit more of a personal experience. And then each guide kind of does their own little paddle talk and we're on the river.”

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Credit: Jon Goodwin, KGW

Pete learned to guide in Colorado on the Arkansas River. He moved back to Oregon because he couldn’t ignore the call of the area. He started Blue Sky Rafting with two rafts, one van and one other part-time guide. Pete was the editor and a contributing author for Soggy Sneakers, the primary guidebook to the rivers of Oregon. If he’s not on the water, you can bet he’s thinking about it.

“I’ve been ruined for any other job really. When this is your job, it’s hard to go back to any other real job,” he laughed.

Blue Sky Rafting also leads trips down the North Santiam River. You can book on their website and check availability for full-day or half-day outings. Pete and Amanda love watching people experience the river and take it all in.

Credit: Jon Goodwin, KGW

“It's not about being extreme,” he said. “It's about getting out there and enjoying the day and enjoying the people you're with … Providing some memories for folks, though it's not just what we've all been through, we have this memory of being out on this great trip as a family outside enjoying spending time with each other. That's kind of what brings me back every year.”

Let's Get Out There airs on Thursdays on KGW's 4 p.m. newscast and The Good Stuff, which airs at 7 p.m. We're including viewers' photos for this series. You can text your photos to 503-226-5088 or post them on the KGW Facebook page.  

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