Tourism

The perfect place for paddle boarding

Paddle boards and the Wenatchee area are a natural fit: the city sits at the confluence of two rivers, namely the Wenatchee and Columbia rivers, offering plenty of watersport opportunities.

Stand-up paddle boards (SUP’s) have become increasingly popular as recreational equipment. They are easy to transport and handle. The inflatable boards take up very little space and can even be taken along on hiking trips.

A flotation and a sounding device are legal requirements for paddlers.

When in Wenatchee, it isn’t necessary to purchase a paddle board to enjoy the fun it offers – there are two places that will rent them out.

Riverfront Rock Gym

Riverfront Rock Gym (www.riverfrontrockgym.com) at 1319 Walla Walla Avenue rents them out for $40 for a full day or $30 for a half day (4 hrs). Members can rent paddle boards for $30 or $25 respectively. The paddle and a life vest are included.

A paddler greeting Canadian geese

Their boards are inflatable and easy to transport. The customer is responsible for transportation.

The Riverfront Rock Gym is conveniently located at the entrance to Walla Walla Point Park, a large recreation and picnic spot free for anyone to use. From the parking area by the playground access to water is easy: the swimming lagoon right next to it is shallow and offers a gateway to the river or one can haul the board across the Loop Trail to the north and enter the water from there.

A paddle boarder on the east side of the Columbia River

Arlberg Sports

The other business offering paddle board and other sports equipment rentals and sales is Arlberg Sports downtown (www.arlbergsports.com) at 25 North Wenatchee Avenue.

Standing and sitting paddlers

They rent out the boards for a full day for $50. Paddle and vest are included, but the vest does not come with a whistle – they can be purchased at Arlberg’s. The store finds cleaning rental whistles would be too much of a hygiene hazard.

Arlberg Sports is about a couple of blocks from the river, but centrally located for easily reaching many water access points.

Access to the river

Getting the paddle board into water is easy in Wenatchee. There are several spots with shallow beaches or well-used pathways to get to the river’s edge.

Paddling from the lagoon toward the river

Starting from the south end of the Walla Walla Point Park area, the Linden Tree parking area offers two ways to reach the river: from the pier by the boathouse or off the small sandy beach below the Riverside apartment complex. Both are within an easy walk from the parking area.

There is another good entry point about a half-a-mile north of the Linden Tree parking area, again a sandy beach with a sandpit a short distance farther. The currents may be fairly strong at this location as it is close to the two rivers’ confluence.

A little farther north again, there is a lagoon area close to the playground. Due to the lagoon’s shallowness and calm waters, it is the perfect spot for a beginner to test their skills or to paddle out to the river from one end of the lagoon. A word of warning: immediately upon exiting the lagoon, the currents are strong and swirling; it is hard work even in a kayak, and a paddle board will certainly need a strong arm to get anywhere through this spot.

It is easier to enter the water from the very north edge of the Walla Walla Park, past the ballfield area. Descending the slope off the Loop Trail, there are a couple of small pebbly peaches where it is easy to push the board afloat and head for the Horan estuary to the left. https://wenatcheeoutdoors.org/2016/05/04/horan-natural-area/?sf_action=get_data&sf_data=all&_sfm_activity_type=Hiking-Backpacking&_sfm_location=Wenatchee 

The Horan area offers several options with winding, calm waterways throughout. The birds and deer seem to care very little about paddlers, as opposed to hikers on the walkways who are sure to alarm them. Gulls may come within arm’s reach of the paddle board and keep company.

While standing on the board, it’s possible to see the plentiful fish darting back and forth underneath it and spot wildlife in the riparian growth along the river. The Horan nature area is a popular birding spot for people even as far away as Seattle.

Once through the estuary, the waterway opens to the mouth of the Wenatchee River, right at the junction with the Columbia River. The currents will be noticeable, so think twice before embarking on a long paddling excursion farther out on the river.

It is also possible to go on a paddling tour on the east side of the river, from the beaches near the 19th Street Loop Trail parking area in East Wenatchee. The currents are gentler on that side and the water is deep, thus reducing the hazard of running into large pieces of driftwood or rocks close to the surface. The area is also rich with birds, adding fun to the outing.

Safety should always be a consideration while out paddling. As many different types of boats occupy the river, there are occasional waves that come from speeding vessels. They may sway the board considerably. It is best to kneel or to sit down on it until the waves have passed.

A stand-up paddle board is considered a vessel, and it is a requirement by law for anyone on a vessel to wear a life-vest, a sounding device as well as the appropriate lights in dim conditions. Please refer to www.parks.state.wa.us  and click on “paddle sports” for more specific regulations.

Jaana Hatton