Despite recent rough weather, fall and winter kayaking in the county is a great recreational prospect, with the right conditions. There are many balmy days when Mother Nature calms down and takes a break before returning to tumultuous storms. In between, consider grabbing a paddle and sliding into a kayak.
Julie Chick’s life revolved around kayaking: she is the former owner of Nehalem Bay Outdoor Company. She also previously worked as the Outdoor Education and Outreach Coordinator with Tillamook Estuaries Partnership (TEP) and is still an avid Nehalem paddler. While she encourages kayakers to explore our waterways during the winter months, she emphasizes that safety is paramount on any trip, regardless of the date on the calendar. The first order of business is to wear a personal flotation device, or PFD. âFind a good one and wear it,â Chick said. âIf you don’t want to wear it, you don’t have the right PFD because you should like your PFD. “
Being safe also involves knowing what the wind and tide can do on a given day, which means paddlers should check local tide tables and weather conditions before setting out. âIn our region, you have to be careful of the tide and the wind,â she says. âYou can have a November day with extremely high tides and high winds, or a November day with relatively typical tides, sunny, clear and perfectly ‘kayakable’. waterway as you paddle is the key to a safe and fun experience.
Discussing the differences between summer and winter paddling, Chick notes that conditions for each season on the Oregon coast can often be very similar. This is especially true when it comes to water temperature. You might have picked a hot, sunny day for paddling, but the water is generally freezing cold. In this regard, Chick emphasizes that dressing with the water temperature in mind is a top priority. Cotton shirts and denim jeans will not be enough.
âIf you find yourself in the water and you can’t get back into your boat or get back to shore, you better dress for forty-degree water,â she said. “Hypothermia happens quickly.” Chick adds that a good drysuit not only keeps kayakers warm and warm, but gives them the peace of mind knowing it will save them a lot of time if they find themselves in the water.
The royal tides in November and the flooding this year also highlight the need to be aware of debris and obstacles in the water after such storms have passed. For the sake of safety, kayakers have a multitude of reasons to enjoy winter paddling.
Recent bad weather aside, Chick says most winter days offer fuller rivers with flat, glassy paddle surfaces. These conditions combine to give kayakers a feeling of serenity and solitude that is hard to replicate during the busy summer months. âIt’s a lot quieter and a lot less crowded,â Chick says. She adds that with the end of the salmon season, there is no risk of conflict between kayakers and fishing boats, which can be a problem in late summer and early fall. . Photographers find plenty of reasons to aim and shoot, and winter provides the opportunity to take great photos.
âThe light at this time of year is at a lower angle, so you get sharper, cleaner images, especially if you go out a bit earlier,â Chick explains.
There are many places to paddle all year round that offer a plethora of options. Overall, there are five estuaries in Tillamook County: Nehalem, Tillamook Bay, Nestucca, Sand Lake, and Netarts. They have distinct characteristics and TEP has published âwater trailâ guides for each. With so many options for paddlers to consider, winter kayaking is the perfect way to get out, get rid of winter woes, and see coastal waterways from a different perspective.
For more local health and wellness information, visit www.tillamookcountywellness.org or follow Tillamook County Wellness on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.