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Launch points The Dalles

Rowena launch Taylor Lake Klindts Cove Dallesport East The Dalles Marina Riverfront Park Seufort Recreational area The Dalles Dam Locks launch Taylor Lakes Horsethief launches

Any of the launch points listed may or may not be safe for any given boater at any given time. Anyone using the river must ensure their own safety: The Columbia is a large and potentialy dangerous river, and conditions can change rapidly.

Launch points on the mid-Columbia are numerous, especially if you are willing to portage short distances. I will add new points as I explore them: They are organized east to west, or downstream. Navigation charts are from a series of “booklet charts” available free online from The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Adminstration (NOAA).

Avery Park

Sunset behind Mount Hood

Mount Hood throws its shadow over the Columbia River east of The Dalles. Copyright Mark B. Gibson

Located on Washington Highway 14, east of Columbia Hills State Park and west of the town of Wishram. Park is an “in lieu” fishing site for Native American gill netters. Gravel road turns right, away from paved parking area, and provides portage access at several points. Offshore island is Browns Island.

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Horsethief Lake

Columbia Hills State Park, located on Washington’s Highway 14 just East of The Dalles, provides access to Horsethief Lake and the Columbia River with two separate launches. Closed in winter. Park offers picnic area, camping area, restrooms and showers. A large display of petroglyphs, rescued from Petroglyph Canyon during the construction of The Dalles dam. Other petroglyphs and pictographs on nearby cliffs can be visitied on scheduled tours.

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Spearfish Lake

Sheep water at Spearfish Lake

Sheep water at Spearfish Lake. Copyright Mark B. Gibson

This park, in Washington State, is maintained by the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers and does not provide direct access to the river. Two small lakes are easily accessed, however. Portage over steep railroad grade for access to the Columbia is possible but not recommended, as you enter the river just east of The Dalles Dam and Locks boat ramp. Pit toilets available, dumpster in summer. Sadly, camping was recently (2009) prohibited after many years use as a free camping area with a 14-day stay limit. Accessed from Highway 197, through the Dallesport Industrial Park.

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The Dalles Dam Locks boat launch

Barge on Columbia

A tug pushes barges downstream to The Dalles Dam Locks, located on the Washington shore. Copyright Mark B. Gibson

Located on the Washington side of The Dalles Dam, launching above the dam into Lake Celilo. Cross The Dalles Bridge on Highway 197, take the first right. A viewpoint immediatly to the right looks out over the downstream side of the dam and locks. Turn left at Homeland Security gate, launch is at end of road. Boat launch with small dock, pit toilets and a gravel parking area. Hug the Washington shore, barges come very close as they navigate into the locks. The powerhouse across the river creates a vibration that causes the canoe to buzz, a rather odd phenomena.
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Seufort Recreation Area

The Dalles Dam

A fishing platform across from The Dalles dam powerhouse. Copyright Mark B. Gibson

NOTE: ALL WATERCRAFT ARE RESTRICTED ABOVE THE DALLES BRIDGE. THIS IS NOT A LAUNCH POINT. The Seufert Recreation Area includes property along the river near The Dalles Dam visitor center. It is the site of the Seufert family fish processing facility prior to fish wheels being outlawed in the river. Area is now extensively used as a subsistance fishery by Native American fisherman, who camp and fish within the recreation area. Many fishing platforms line the shore. The river is a rather narrow channel into which the dam powerhouse discharges. Current can be strong and confused. Fifteen-Mile Creek enters the river here. Corp of Engineers signs identify the park as accessing “Lake Celilo,” but that is actually the impoundment upstream of the dam. This was once the beginning of the “Long Narrows,” a historical portage noted by Lewis and Clark. Eventually locks began here that allowed riverboat access to the upper river, exiting near the Celilo Indian Village. Locks were filled in when the dam was created and new locks built on the Washington shore.

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Riverfront Park

A bouey warns of shallow rocks

A bouey warns of rocks as evening light strikes portions of The Dalles bridge across the Columbia River near Riverfront Park in The Dalles. Copyright Mark B. Gibson

Closed Labor Day to Memorial Day by order of the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife to protect local Canada goose population. A popular summer launch for windsurfers, with short portage launch off a stone beach. Fifty acre park with restrooms, outdoor shower, playground, picnic shelter and tables, volleyball court and access to paved riverfront trail heading east. Currently, the Northern Wasco County Park and Recreation District offers kayak and bicycle rentals from the Kayak Shack during the summer. Located off Brewery Overpass Road at the east end of downtown The Dalles, Interstate 84, exit #85.

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The Dalles Marina

Boat ramp, with significant docks for loading and unloading, left and right of ramp. Left ramp includes several floating docks in downstream “L” shape. Visitor docks also available in the marina bay, just downstream side of launch. The ramp is owned and maintained by The Port of The Dalles.

A sandy beach to the right of the launch ramp makes a great portage launch and landing site when windy or when the ramps are crowded. Ramp, marina and restrooms open year-round. No fee. Located off Brewery Overpass Road at the east end of downtown The Dalles, Interstate 84 Exit #85.

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Dallesport East

Portage launch at Dallesport

Portage launch at Dallesport at the end of the day. Copyright Mark B. Gibson

Unofficial, undeveloped access for the brave at heart. Gravel road ramps down to river. Rocky, undefined portage to river requires a bit of tricky footwork, but could easily be improved with a little rock adjustment. Gravel barges are loaded from this site. Access is off Old Ferry Road, which connects with Dallesport Road. Very high cliffs make this a worthwhile place to launch and explore.

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Klindt’s Cove pocket park

Cliffs near Klindts Cove

Cliff rocks upstream from Klindts Cove form a sillouette against the hills of Klickitat County. Copyright Mark B. Gibson

Located in The Dalles Industrial Park, west of downtown, off Klindts Drive. Easy portage access to natural cove with sand beach. Restrooms in summer, portable toilets in winter. This is a pocket park with limited parking, and provides access to paved Riverfront Trail, which runs west to the Columbia Gorge Discovery Center and east to The Dalles Marina. Back to top

Mayer State Park west

The Mayer State Park boat launch is currently a free day use area west of the fee area upstream. The launch accesses the Salisbury Slough, a large slough that is great for canoe and kayaks. Motorboats must use channel to access main river due to shallow water. Even on windy days, much of the slough remains protected by surrounding vegitation. Launch at the ramp, or portage over a gravel beach. Picnic tables, restrooms and garbage disposal. Day use only.
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4 Comments leave one →
  1. March 3, 2010 20:27

    Exquisite photography. I especially loved the one with Mt. Hood’s shadow thrown up into the Sunrise.

    The descriptions of these launching places is really great, too.

  2. February 1, 2011 18:03

    great stuff….glad i found this blog

  3. annonomuse permalink
    January 31, 2012 04:56

    is it true native americans dont have to pay to enter any recreational parks? Also is it true that only native americans can camp at all inlieu-sites along the columbia river?

    • February 6, 2012 22:52

      This is a good question, and no simple answers. First, the inlieu sites. These facilities are for the exclusive use of the tribes, and replace traditional fishing sites that were flooded by the federal dams. The are, in practice, private property and should be respected as such.

      The second question is more complicated: Treaties allow Native Americans to fish, hunt and camp in their accustomed places. Camps have to be temporary. I know they can camp on land managed by Corp of Engineers and The Dalles city property. In the case of the city, they have to follow park regulations in terms of other uses, like pet leash laws etc. In some of these areas camping is otherwise prohibited, but not all. I don’t think this treaty right allows them to camp in a developed fee camping area without paying, but I will check.

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