2020 Virtual Big Paddle Challenge

This year, we want to challenge you to explore 5 miles of the Lewis River to Vancouver Lake Water Trail anytime in August 2020.

Participating in the challenge is easy and fun!

1. Join the challenge anytime for FREE, registration is not necessary. 

2. Pick up a FREE Ridgefield Big Paddle Swag Bag on Friday, July 31 at Ridgefield City Hall (8am-5pm) or Saturday, August 1 at Overlook Park from 10AM-Noon.

3. Use the Lewis River to Vancouver Lake Water Trail paddle guide and/or the suggestions below and plot your 5 mile route!

4. Grab your life jacket and PADDLE!

5. Snap a picture and share it with #RidgefieldBigPaddle

Don't have a kayak or want to go on a guided tour? Alder Creek Kayak's Ridgefield location is conveniently located on Lake River and they offer guided paddles all along the water trail. 


The 32 river miles in this water trail include Vancouver Lake (more than 5 miles to circumnavigate), the full extent of Lake River (~11.5 miles), a section of the Columbia River along the west side of Bachelor Island (~4 miles), the Bachelor Island Slough and the confluences of the Lewis and Lake Rivers (2.6 miles), upriver on the East Fork of the Lewis River to La Center (~3.25 miles), and upriver on the North Fork of the Lewis River to Woodland (6.5 miles).

The Water Trail was established in 2012 and was the impetus for the first Ridgefield Big Paddle. 

The unique feature of a water trail is you can float along the trail, and you will not have changed that trail. Its a sustainable form of use. 

Video: Clark County, WA

Video: Casey Evans Media


The Ridgefield Big Paddle began in 2012 to celebrate the efforts of many to create this water trail resource.

The first Big Paddle was June 2nd, 2012. Big Paddle is traditionally held on the first Saturday in June as part of National Trails Day.

The flotilla travels 2.5 miles North on Lake River, past the wildlife refuge, to the Columbia River and back to the Port of Ridgefield launch for a 5 mile round trip. This year, we are challenging you to complete a 5 mile round trip somewhere new along the Water Trail. 

Chinook Blessing

Each year, we begin Big Paddle with a Chinook Blessing at our Opening Ceremony.


This recording from 2019 will have to do for this year. 

Before you head out to paddle, please take a moment to recognize the history of the land and the water you will be traveling on. Since time immemorial, the Chinook Peoples cared for this land. 

Explore the Water Trail, Complete the Challenge!


Zoom and click on the blue routes for additional details on each suggestion. Open the map in a new window by clicking the box in the top right corner. Or, find the information for suggested paddles below.

Soundtrack to Big Paddle

Chicamarimba has been part of the Big Paddle tradition for several years. The 8-woman marimba group adds energy and movement on the land and on the water at the festival. Take the sound of Big Paddle with you by connecting to their music on Soundcloud, or enjoy it now on this page. 

5 Mile Paddling Routes on the Lewis River to Vancouver Lake Water Trail
There are many many options for paddling 5 miles along the Lewis River to Vancouver Lake Water Trail. Here, we have rounded up 5 options that are loops or out and back and do not require shuttling. We encourage you to create your own 5 mile (or longer) route and explore the water trail during this Big Paddle Challenge!
When planning your trip, please be sure to take weather, tides, and water levels into consideration. Study your route and be prepared. 
1. Lake River: Ridgefield Big Paddle Route - Port of Ridgefield
Travel along Lake River on the traditional Big Paddle route from the Port of Ridgefield Boat Launch to the confluence with the Columbia River. An interpretive guide is available if you want to learn more about your surroundings as you paddle. View the Interpretive MapRead the Interpretive Guide.

Launch: You can launch from the Ridgefield Boat Ramp on Mill Street (launch fee required) or from the Division Street Shore Launch (launch fee required, pay at Boat Ramp). The Shore Launch offers easy access away from motorized boats.

*NOTE: There is currently a CAUTION level advisory for algae bloom at McCuddy's Ridgefield Marina. This means: Do not swim or water ski in areas of scum; Do not drink lake water; Keep pets and livestock away; Clean fish well and discard guts; Avoid areas of scum when boating. Learn more from Clark County Public Health
*These launches are very close the Ridgefield National Wildlife Refuge. Entering the refuge from a boat is strictly prohibited. Please respect all wildlife and give a wide berth. 
*Lake River can be extremely busy with motorized boats. Be aware and careful of wakes.
2. Lewis River to Columbia Confluence - Pekin Ferry
Explore the Lewis River as it comes to its confluence with the Columbia River. 
Launch: Launch from Pekin Ferry RV Park ($5 Day Use) and paddle 2.5 miles down the Lewis River to its confluence with the Columbia. Paddle back for a 5 mile out and back.

*Pekin Ferry is sometimes closed for special events. Check the website before you go.
3. North Fork Lewis River - Georig Park
Explore the North Fork of the Lewis River!
Launch: Launch from Goerig Park, a City of Woodland Park. Parking and launching is free. Parking is on gravel, porta potty on site. The launch is a shore launch and get get a little muddy. 

Paddle under the bridge downstream. About a mile downstream, you will pass under I5. About 3 miles from the launch the North Fork converges with the East Fork of the Lewis River. If you want to keep your paddle to 5 miles, turn around before the river turns. The current paddling back upstream is not too strong but can be difficult. Know your limits. 
4. East Fork Lewis River - John Pollock Water Trail Park
Paddle along the East Fork of the Lewis River.
Launch: Launch from John Pollock Water Trail Park, located at the end of Pollock Road in La Center. No parking or launch fees. Gravel parking lot and a nice shore launch. 

After launching, paddle up the river (SE) for 2.5 miles. Head back down river around Mason Creek for a total paddle distance of 5 miles. 
5. Vancouver Lake - Vancouver Lake Regional Park
The end of the water trail, check out Vancouver Lake. 
Launch: Shore launch from Vancouver Lake Regional Park. You may need to carry boats far from the parking lot to the sandy beach, especially on crowded summer days. 

Route: This 5-mile loop on Vancouver Lake circles the small island on the north end of the lake, then circles back to the beach at Vancouver Lake Regional Park. Paddling on the open water can be difficult depending on wind and other weather factors. 
*NOTE: There is currently a CAUTION level advisory for algae bloom at Vancouver Lake. This means: Do not swim or water ski in areas of scum; Do not drink lake water; Keep pets and livestock away; Clean fish well and discard guts; Avoid areas of scum when boating. Learn more from Clark County Public Health.

Recreate Responsibly

There is a whole new meaning to responsible recreation in these days. Not only are you responsible to respect and take care of the environment you are recreating in, but also you must be responsible about minimizing the spread of COVID-19. Paddling is an excellent sustainable form of recreation - as you  paddle on top of the water you don't change the environment permanently. A couple things to keep in mind while out paddling away:
  • Know Before You Go: Check the status of the place you want to visit. If it is closed, don't go. If it's crowded, have a back up plan.
  • Practice Physical Distancing: Paddling is an excellent distanced activity! Keep your group size small and be prepared to cover your nose and mouth and give others space at launch sites. If you are sick, stay home.
  • Plan Ahead: Prepare for facilities to be closed, pack lunch, and bring essentials like hand sanitizer and a face covering.
  • Leave No Trace: Respect public lands and waters, as well as local communities. Take all your garbage with you.
Learn more about the Recreate Responsibly movement.

After You Paddle

After a day on the water at Big Paddle, we usually enjoy some time in the waterside beer garden, wear the kids out on the obstacle course, or check out the local Farmers Market. With the event going virtual this year, we've listed a couple breweries and taphouses, a couple DIY Obstacle Courses, as well as our local Farmers Market vendors for you to check out!
Ridgefield Breweries and Tap Houses
Several breweries have chosen to make the Ridgefield Community their home. Check one out after you complete the Big Paddle Challenge!
Ridgefield Craft Brewing Co.
120 N 3rd Avenue, Downtown Ridgefield
The newly opened Taphouse for Ridgefield Craft Brewing is located in the heart of downtown, minutes from the Port of Ridgefield kayak launch. With a spacious patio, food options from neighboring restaurants, and an excellent selection of craft beers, its a great place to be after a fun day of paddling.
Zebrun's Starliner Taproom
320 Pioneer St, Downtown Ridgefield
Zebrun's is conveniently located in downtown Ridgefield, minutes from the Port of Ridgefield kayak launch.Find their tap list on their Facebook page. Outdoor patio seating is available.
Taps Beer Reserve
201 S 47th Ave, Suite 123, Ridgefield
Another newly opened location, Taps Beer Reserve is a locally owned tap house conveniently located 2 minutes from I5. You can find their tap list on the DigitalPour app.  
DIY At Home Obstacle Course
An obstacle course is definitely a great way for your kids to get outside and burn off some energy! Your kids will have a blast no matter what items you use. Time each other to see who could run the fastest, then encourage your children to time themselves to beat their own times! Think it looks easy? Go ahead and give it a try. Have fun!
Obstacle Course for Toddlers and Young Children
This obstacle course, specifically designed for toddlers and young children, is easy and inexpensive to recreate at home. Follow it as is or improvise with items you already have right there at home. The possibilities are endless!
Tweens and Above
Have some older kiddos looking to get in on the fun? This obstacle will challenge kids coordination and endurance, and can make for hours of play time. If you don't have some of the items used, be creative! Take a look around the house and see what challenges you can create from what you have. 
Ridgefield Farmers Market
Supporting local is important to us at Ridgefield Big Paddle. Below is our collection of local farms and Ridgefield Farmers Market Vendors that you can still support while the market is closed. 
Local Farms Offering CSA (Community Supported Agriculture)
Local Farms Currently Operating a Farm Store
Ridgefield Farmers Market Vendors
  • Grampa in the Dell - offering hand made items from repurposed wood by John Knoten; also original works from bonafide artist Ed Gedrose. Pick up and shipping available.
  • Jacki's Heirloom Garden - Backyard garden in Ridgefield featuring garden starts, heirloom perennials, vines & bushes.
  • McPhee Family Farms - Specializing in grass fed beef, lamb, pork and fresh produce.
  • LulaRoe MollyMae - Lula Roe retailer.
  • George Hoffman Farms - Local family owned farm where you can find an assortment of berries.
  • Stoney Goat Ag. Collective - Five acre farm featuring seasonal local produce.
  • Spudder's Crest Farm, 4012 S 15th St., Ridgefield, WA. Open Thursdays Noon-5PM, and First Saturdays 10AM-2PM. Currently has: lettuce, arugula, potatoes, garlic, in season berries, snap peas, radishes, and herbs.
Kids Activities and Water Resource Education
On a normal Big Paddle, we fill the waterfront with activities and vendors for kids of all ages! Check out this collection of activities and water resource education to enhance your "at home" Big Paddle experience!
Lower Columbia Estuary Partnership
The Lower Columbia Estuary Partnership is usually at Big Paddle running the Big Canoe tours and bringing some great science and nature learning opportunities in the Paddlers Village. Their website has a collection of activity videos to learn about science and nature in and around your home. Click here to check it out!
What Steps Can YOU Take to Protect Water
There is so much you can do to help protect our streams, rivers, and lakes!
- Wash your car on the grass or visit an eco-friendly car wash
- Pick up pet waste and be sure to know how to properly dispose of human waste outdoors
- Reduce or eliminate lawn and garden fertilizer and pesticides
- Pick up litter (especially along streams and rivers!)
- Follow organizations like the Lower Columbia Estuary Partnership and Watershed Alliance of SW Washington to learn more and keep up on future volunteer opportunities.
Paddle for Life and the Ridgefield Dragon Boats
Paddle for Life was set to join us on Saturday, August 1st for their annual dragon boat racing event fundraiser in support of local non-profits. This year, they were set to support FISH of Vancouver and Food with Friends. Thankfully, we are exvited to welcome them back to Lake River next year on Saturday, August 7th, 2021, and they will be joined by the newly restored Ridgefield Dragon Boats!
Ridgefield Dragon Boats
Did you know that Ridgefield has a couple of Dragon Boats?
Two Dragon Boats are currently in the process of being restored to be used at events such as Big Paddle and the Paddle For LIfe Dragon Boat Races. One of the boats is about to be painted - check it out primed and ready and the design soon to be added!
Feeling Creative? Design your own Dragon Boat with this coloring sheet!

Explore the Water Trail From Home

Staying at home this August? We've got you covered with exploration and education along the Lewis River to Vancouver Lake Water Trail, all without leaving where you are. 
Learn a bit more about the water trail, and find yourself more prepared the next time you join us for Big Paddle.
Wildlife Viewing

There are numerous opportunities for wildlife viewing along the Lewis River to Vancouver Lake Trail. The Ridgefield National Wildlife Refuge is situated along Lake River at the Confluence with the Columbia and boasts. Learn more about the Habitat and Wildlife on the Refuge here.

This video, from Alder Creek Kayak, gives a little taste of the wildlife you may see while paddling along the water trail.


There is rich history all along the Lewis River to Vancouver Lake Water Trail. 

Indigenous Land

Since time immemorial Chinookan Peoples of the Lower Columbia River have called the land along the Columbia River home. The village of Cathlapotle, located on what is now the Carty Unit of the Ridgefield National Wildlife Refuge, was one of the largest on the river. The village was excavated in 1990s, and a replica Plankhouse built on the Refuge as an education and interpretive center.

Learn more about the archaeological site. Learn more about the Plankhouse.

Paddling Safety

Plan ahead and be prepared to safely enjoy your paddling experience.

  • Prepare a float plan. Inform others of your trip and expected return time. 

  • Always wear a properly fitted personal flotation device. 

  • Do not paddle alone.

  • Learn about your route in advance, especially potential hazards and emergency access. 

  • Know the weather forecast. If you experience sudden temperature drops, increasing and volatile winds or darkening clouds, get off the water. 

  • Carry food and water adequate for your trip length. 

  • Maintain distance between your boat and objects in the water, including motor boats, which may cause waves that could capsize a canoe or kayak.

  • Position your boat perpendicular to an approaching wake. 

  • Never float or paddle over a fallen tree or other obstruction.

  • Learn how to self-rescue in the event of capsize. 

Padding Etiquette

Appropriate, low-impact use of the water trail is the responsibility of all who use this natural resource and will ensure the waterways stay beautiful and healthy. Keep the following in mind while you travel:

  • Leave No Trace - Do not alter your surroundings. Leave natural objects as you found them. 

  • Quietly view wildlife. Give a wide berth to any birds or animals you encounter.

  • Respect Private Property - The river is open for recreation but lands along the shore may be private or restricted wildlife refuge lands. Respect private property and posted lands and do not trespass.


Learning to Paddle 

Haven't made your way into the world of paddling yet? Or maybe you want to brush up on your skills? Check out the below videos for some quick tips, or visit Paddling.com for even more expert advice!


August 2020

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