Hailing from Oregon, guest contributor KM Collins is a geologist gone writer. Discovering she was a freshwater mermaid late in life, she started paddling 10 years ago and has been upping the ante ever since. First as a paddleboarder, then kayaker and finally, recently, buying her first raft. Roller skating, snowboarding and cycling rank among her favorite land-based activities.
Near the famed White Salmon River, Trout Creek is a tiny oasis perfect for the mellow paddler. A slow flowing, winding and overgrown passage, it could be navigated just as easily in an inner tube as on an inflatable kayak or paddleboard (though having a paddle for steering is handy).
My family’s history in the area started almost a century ago when my Great Grandmother and Grandfather Muender moved to Trout Lake. Soon after my Grandma Judy was born. Legend has it, she ran into a mountain lion with a quail in his mouth one morning on her walk to school. They stared each other down and the giant cat eventually acquiesced to my Grandmother’s bewitching gaze. There aren’t any anecdotes of her floating the creek but perhaps that’s because she was too busy taming the wildlife.
Although there may be other launch points, the section I suggest navigating starts from a quarter mile hike on a trail accessible at Elk Lake RV Park, just outside the hamlet of Trout Lake. From the launch, low overhanging vines and trees tunnel the first section. After several hundred yards, the waterway opens up into a pond or small lake where epic views of Mount Adams grace the skyline.
After some meandering, you may choose to conclude your trip with a modest and primitive walk up a ramp on creek right. The putin is about a mile hike back tracking on the creek side trail. If you choose to continue into the town of Trout Lake, the take-out is the only place in town where an overpass crosses the creek. Check your route on Google maps before launching. If floating into town, I recommend setting up a car or bike shuttle, rather than walking.
Any personal paddle vessel in the Aquaglide fleet works well on this stretch of water. Because the passage is narrow in several sections, I would take one of the ultralight kayaks for an optimal experience. A SUP would also be a good option – I made the trip on a Cascade 10’ paddleboard and loved it!
What I like most about this float
As waterways become popularized and crowded, sharing the road (as it were) is crucial. Being polite and helping others while on the water is always the best way to streamline acclimation with local folks. This being said, sometimes you’ll want to beat the crowds. And this cruisy and quiet vibes paddle excursion is still super under the radar and infrequently trafficked. Off the beaten path in a sleepy PNW town, you won’t regret spending a summer afternoon on this choice peaceful float. If you do make it up to Trout Lake, be sure to keep a look out for mountain lions and maybe pour one out for my Grandma Judy!
Other fun activities in the area
Stop by the Mount Adams Ranger District interpretive center on your way into town for adorable and kitschy gift store finds and maps. Explore the Sleeping Beauty Trail or Guler Ice Caves for a multisport day!