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Day Trippiní ó On the Siuslaw

Modified: Wednesday, Jun 8th, 2011

Slow and easy, just riding the tide from the portís launch to Benderís Landing

At first it may seem intimidating. Sitting in a narrow plastic boat, propelling yourself across cold and murky water may not be high on your list of things to do. In the middle of the Siuslaw River, who knows how deep the murky water is? Or how cold? And the only thing protecting you is a life jacket and a safety whistle?

Letís face it. Not all of us crave the adrenaline rush that comes from most sports. These days, even some of the more mundane activities have been ratcheted up to extreme proportions. After a long week, the last thing some of us want is more adrenaline pumping through our systems. For us, we crave relaxation.

Very few recreational activities are as relaxing or refreshing as riding in a kayak over slow or still water. Many land-based activities are relaxing, but there is something special about being on the water, away from roads and cars, propelling yourself along almost silently, almost effortlessly.

Slow-water kayaking requires nothing more than a kayak, a paddle, a life jacket, a safety whistle, the desire to give it a try and a body of water to explore. It is one activity that should intimidate no one.

Not even when that body of water happens to be the Siuslaw River.

Interesting thing about rivers on the coast: they actually change directions based on the fluctuations of the tides. Funny thing about us landlubbers: how many of us actually knew this?

Putting in a kayak at the Port of Siuslawís public boat launch when the tide is coming in means you can easily ride the upstream current.

Of course, now all you need is a kayak. Donít have one at home? No problem. Head over to Central Coast Watersports at 1901 Highway 101 in Florence. Talk to Vanessa Buss or Sean Johnson. For less money than you would think, you can rent either a single or a double-seater kayak, one that is propelled by pedals or paddles, and in minutes you will be on your way.

In the rental fee, they even provide a life jacket and a safety whistle.

Not sure about making the trip by yourself? Buss and Johnson provide private instruction to help you get started. They also organize group trips for children, women, men and couples.

On this day trip, from the Port of Siuslawís public boat launch we will follow the tide upriver and then turn left and continue along the North Fork of the Siuslaw River to Benderís Landing.

Almost immediately after clearing the portís docks, the view of the Siuslaw River Bridge will stun you. Granted, you have seen this bridge a million times ó but ever from this vantage point?

Heading upstream, other sights only seen from the river are visible. The old shipwreck. The seals sunning themselves on a small island.

Venture closer to the seals. Chances are they will hop in the water and swim toward you for a closer look.

Crossing under Highway 126 and continuing up the north fork of the river, cranes, ospreys, bald eagles and other large birds keep an eye on you even as they watch for fish. Songbirds flit and play along the waterís edge. Cows chew their cud in their fields, turning their heads to cast long gazes your way.

It is so quiet on the water. The breeze lightly ruffles the leaves on the trees.

Considering your preference, you are cruising along either by pedaling or paddling. Though paddling is the most familiar way to go, pedaling is becoming more popular.

Reclining gently, legs comfortably outstretched, feet securely in the pedals, you will feel as if the kayak fits your body perfectly. Pedaling a kayak requires a fraction of the energy required when pedaling a bicycle. In a kayak, only a gentle back-and-forth motion with the feet is needed.

Steering is almost an effortless thing. Just a few slight adjustments with your left hand ó thumb and forefinger, mainly ó will turn the rudder, turning the kayak.

Of course, with the rudder and the action of the propulsion system below the pedals, you must retract both when gliding into shallow areas. Every pedal kayak carries a paddle as well. The best of both worlds.

As you wind around North Fork, you will eventually notice Benderís Landing on the riverís north shore. This public boat launch offers a rest room, plenty of parking, and a few picnic tables overlooking the river.

Meandering along with the tide, taking time to gawk at wildlife, the trip from the port to Benderís takes about two hours.

If you crave more adventure, continue upriver to that place where the incoming tide meets the outgoing flow. At this mysterious and ever-changing point, fresh water clashes with salty ocean. The currents suspend each other.

As the tide slowly tugs the water back out to the sea, ride the outgoing current back to Benderís, or back to the port if you feel up to it.

One thing is certain: it will be a day to remember.

As always, keep in mind that most public parks with boat launches have day-use fees.

For more information about kayaking ó or diving, surfing, boarding or group trips, Stecher and Vanessa Buss at Central Coast Watersports are a good resource in town. Give them a call at 997-1812 and ask about being added to their e-mail notification list for group trips. You can find them online at www. centralcoastwatersports.com.

For the complete article see the 08-20-2008 issue.

Click here to purchase an electronic version of the 08-20-2008 paper.

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