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Paddling on the Tualatin River | Grant's Getaways

The slow-moving stream is flanked by towering trees that puts on a colorful show each fall.

TUALATIN, Ore. — There’s a tendency to think that great adventures often require travel to distant, exotic locations. I recently discovered that you don’t have to travel far to discover something new. 

I joined a unique hiking trip into a rugged and remote location that’s surprisingly not far from our own backyards. It was a getaway that took effort, planning and persistence. 

The Tualatin River meanders through neighborhoods and industry on the western edge of the Portland metro area. 

It is a slow-moving stream flanked by towering trees that puts on quite a colorful show each fall.  

Yet, natural drama is only part of the Tualatin River’s story on a getaway that takes effort, planning and persistence according to a small platoon of adventurers from the Tualatin Riverkeepers, a local conservation group. 

The group had gathered at Menefee Park in Yamhill County to compare notes and prepare their gear for a day long hike into one of the most stunning and surprising sites of the Tualatin River watershed. 

"It’s rugged, it’s treacherous and you need a good topo map, a compass and a GPS would help you find it," noted longtime Tualatin Riverkeeper Paul Whitney. 

Tarri Christopher, a TRK member agreed, "Not everyone can do this. This isn’t ‘take your entire family and go on a stroll’ hike. You have to be prepared – you have to be fit."

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Fit enough to tackle steep, relentless and unforgiving terrain along the upper Tualatin River in the Oregon Coast Range Mountains to reach Ki-A-Kuts Falls. 

Flanked by basalt columns and cliffs, Ki-A-Kuts Falls is a timeless and serene moment. 

But thirty mile to the east, the Tualatin River slows and invites visitors to enjoy something far more peaceful and relaxing at the Farmington Paddle Launch

"It’s kind of a central point between Beaverton and Hillsboro," noted TRK member Mike Skuja. "The launch is right on the river – lots of elbow room for getting your boat of the vehicle and into the water. The folks at Clean Water Services have been doing some habitat restoration and we’ve been involved with that as well. We’ve planted scores of trees; trying to restore some of the natural ecology to the area."

"If you look around the site you’ll find picnic tables where people can enjoy an outdoor lunch," added METRO Planner, Tannen Printz. "We also have benches where you stop and enjoy the scenery and the wildlife – there are all kinds of bird species that visit the site."

The Farmington Paddle Launch was built through a partnership between METRO and Clean Water Services.  

The launch provides a safe and accessible location to set out on the Tualatin River water trail.

"It only drops about three feet over 40 miles," added Bill Gaffi, of Clean Water Services. In the summer, you can just put in your canoe or kayak at this location and paddle upstream for an hour, then turn around and paddle downstream.” 

The Tualatin River Trail is forty miles long and is perfect for flat water paddling from reaching from Hillsboro to West Linn. 

Sandra Amolo and her friend, Jessica Bucciarelli, were having a ball. 

"It’s all so beautiful," noted Amolo. "It is so lovely and so relaxing on the water." 

Bucciarelli agreed and added, "It’s not very difficult for us newcomers. In fact, beginner paddlers will feel right at home."

Amolo added, "A lot of people don’t know that the Tualatin is right in their backyards. You can easily drive to the seven-acre parkland and have immediate access to the river. I believe it’s under-valued resource that more people will enjoy once they visit."

"The Farmington Launch site in particular is the first new site on the water trail in close to a decade," said Skuja. "So for us, it’s a way to open up more community engagement on the west side of the watershed."

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Be sure to follow my Oregon adventures via the Grant’s Getaways podcast. Each segment is a story-telling session where I relate behind the scenes stories from four decades of travel and television reporting. 

You can also learn more about many of my favorite Oregon travels and adventures in the Grant’s Getaways book series, including:  

"Grants Getaways I," Photography by Steve Terrill 

"Grant's Getaways II," Photography by Steve Terrill 

"Grant’s Getaways: 101 Oregon Adventures," Photography by Jeff Kastner 

"Grant’s Getaways: Guide to Wildlife Watching in Oregon," Photography by Jeff Kastner 

"Grant’s Getaways: Oregon Adventures with the Kids," Photography by Jeff Kastner 

The collection offers hundreds of outdoor activities across Oregon and promises to engage a kid of any age. 

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