Salmon River Estuary

Paddling The Salmon River Estuary


The Salmon River Estuary is a beautiful place for a day paddle or an overnight or weekend kayak camping trip. While not exactly adventure kayaking, it has a unique and rugged charm all its own and is one of my favorite places to paddle in Oregon.

The Salmon River Estuary lies within the historic Cascade Head Scenic-Research Area, the first Scenic-Research Area designated in the United States. Congress created the Cascade Head Scenic-Research Area in 1974 to maintain and enhance the scenic and ecological qualities of the areas.


In 1975 the area of the Cascade Head Experimental Forest and Scenic-Research Area was designated by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization as a Biosphere Reserve. Such areas are regarded as essential for studies of ecosystems of various kinds, since they represent baselines or standards against which change can be measured and the performance of other ecosystems judged.

In 1976 the Final Environmental Impact Statement for the Management of the Cascade Head Scenic-Research Area was completed. Among other things, it established a long-term goal of “restoring the Salmon River estuary and its associated wetlands to a natural estuarine system free from man’s developments.”

Restoration in the Salmon River Estuary has been ongoing since the late 1970’s and today it is hidden gem that most folks fly past on their way to the sandy beaches and kitschy shops of Lincoln City.

cascasde-head-smallAccess to the estuary begins at Knight Park and you are faced with two options, paddle upstream into the estuary or downstream towards the mouth of the Salmon River as it enters the Pacific. Both are easily doable in a day and highly recommended.  Tides in the area are close to 8 feet so be cautious about getting stranded on a mud flat.

The estuary itself is teeming with wildlife. Waterfowl are everywhere and herons are frequently seen. The salt marsh has huge trees washed up and beached on the mud flats, testament to just how much power nature posses. This can be a popular fishing area during salmon runs, but is only accessible by boat. There are also decent runs of sea-run cutthroat.

Heading downriver towards the mouth brings you in contact with an amazing view. You are greeted with a sheer rock wall on one side, and a private lace of sandy beach on the other side. This area is frequented by seals and if you have a crab pot and drop it in the area, you might just walk away with dinner.

Directly off the mouth are sea stacks and if you take a hike South down the beach, you are greeted with cuts in the headland, Cascade Head, that you can explore at low tide.  The beach is available to camp on and makes for a great place to get away for a weekend on the coast, complete with bon fire.

For more photos of paddling the Salmon River Estuary CLICK HERE

2 Responses to Salmon River Estuary

  1. Julie McEvoy says:

    Hi, I’m wanting to put my kayak in at Knight Park and head down stream and time it so I can head back with incoming tide. Can you tell me approximately how long it takes to paddle from the park to the end of the Salmon River?

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