Oct. 12, 2022 — Local kayaker Patti Godwin knows anything can be accomplished, one day’s worth of paddling at a time.
When she lived near Spokane, Wash. she heard of a group that wanted to paddle the Spokane River, from Coeur d'Alene, Idaho, to the Columbia River.
“They did this thing for two or three summers where they’d do a leg of the Spokane River each day,” Godwin remembered. “I joined them. Then another year I decided I would paddle every Saturday. There were 50 lakes within an hour and a half of me then. Out of the blue I said, ‘Next year, I’m going to paddle the Columbia.’”
Paddle the Columbia she did, starting at the Canada border. Godwin completed the 400-mile journey, one leg at a time.
She moved to Florence a few years ago and started paddling the waterways in this area.
She started kayaking with her friend Linda Kreyeski last summer and this summer they started hosting “raft-ups.”
“I realized there’s 10 lakes here and thought to myself, ‘We can do that,’” Godwin said.
So, with groups ranging in size from a handful to up to 30 kayakers, Godwin and Kreyeski paddled 10 waterways around Florence in 10 days.
Godwin and Kreyeski were joined by Larry Deck, a kayaker from Eugene, as the only three to complete all 10 legs of this epic central Oregon coast paddling adventure. The 10-day journey is a primer for those who want to learn best spots for kayaking in the area.
Day 1, Sept. 22 — Sutton Lake
“Sutton was fun,” said Deck. “Linda took the lead.”
Kreyeski led the group around the perimeter and the group discovered Sutton is actually two lakes.
“I don’t know if people know in Sutton there’s a channel that connects the two lakes. When we came through the channel, there was a surprise,” said Godwin.
Two kayakers had managed to sneak out of the water and build an arch of balloons over the channel that the group passed under to celebrate completion of the first leg of the journey.
“That was a nice way to finish up our first day,” said Deck.
Day 2, Sept. 23 — Mercer Lake
To find enough room for the large group to park and launch their kayaks at Mercer, the paddlers had to take the “scenic route” to the far side of the lake.
“The public launches at Mercer are at the back of the lake,” said Godwin. “You have to go all the way through Enchanted Valley, which is a nice but a long journey.”
Mercer is a quiet lake that, according to Kreyeski, means odds are you’ll see some local fauna.
“It’s is a beautiful lake where there’s a good chance you’ll see ospreys and egrets,” she said.
Day 3, Sept. 24 — Munsel Lake
The group took a slightly different approach for Day 3.
“Patti says. ‘This is a beautiful lake with so many beautiful things to see. Let’s try paddling and not chatting so much, just to look and see what you can see,’” Deck said.
The group thought a silent paddle was a great idea — and it turned out they were right.
“The silence almost created a child-like wonder,” recalled Deck. “As I paddled alone, I noticed things like a branch from a tree hanging just above the water with little licorice ferns trying to live their life on that little branch. You could come up to nursery log poking up and see almost a whole Oregon forest living on that one log.”
Day 4, Sept. 25 — Cleawox Lake
“Everyone that comes to Florence does Honeyman [the park in which Cleawox is located],” said Godwin. “But I call it ‘little Hawaii,’ because if you go all the way to end of the arm, there’s a little island that someone has left a surprise on.”
Deck cleared up what the surprise was.
“There’s a nursery log with stuff growing off it and someone has put a little plastic palm tree with a hula girl there,” Deck said.
As they group emerged from the arm, they passed a group of Girl Scouts, most likely from Camp Cleawox.
“It was great,” Deck recalled. “First we had that corner of the lake to ourselves, then they did.”
Day 5, Sept. 26 — Woahink Lake
“Woahink is free to park and free to get in,” said Godwin. “It’s huge and has lots of arms.”
While on Woahink, the group continued a tradition they had started earlier in the adventure of naming notable landmarks they encountered, whether they already had names or not.
The island near the East Woahink Gazebo has been called many different names by locals: Nap Island, Cat Island or simply Woahink Island.
“We had a little contest about naming it,” said Deck. "It is now Kodiak Island."
Day 6, Sept. 27 — Siltcoos Lake
“Typically, people launch from Westlake to travel down the Siltcoos River Kayak Trail,” said Godwin. “Everybody should do that. It’s the area’s classic kayak trail, but we wanted to do something different.”
Instead, the group crossed Siltcoos Lake exploring the east side around Booth Island.
Godwin made an interesting observation at this leg of their journey.
“I noticed the lakes north of the bridge seem to be named after homesteaders, like Mercer and Munsel,” she explained. “When you cross to the other side of the bridge most of the lake, names tend to be Native American.”
Day 7, Sept. 28 — Carter Lake
An exception to that “naming rule” was Carter.
“Carter was the shortest and smallest lake we paddled,” said Deck. “We even started a little later because we knew it wouldn’t take that long.”
All three agreed they considered Carter the “local’s” lake.
“It was good to see a lot of families enjoying the weekend,” said Kreyeski.
Day 8, Sept. 29 — Tahkenitch Lake
The short trip at Carter gave the group a little extra time for this leg of the journey. They decided to camp at Tahkenitch Campground.
“We were able to stretch out a bit,” said Kreyeski. “We had a fire. Larry did his taco bar. I brought donuts in the morning.”
Up until that point, the weather had been very cooperative. Things changed that night.
“Of course, the night we camped it rained, but we were showed a lot of mercy because it only rained a little bit,” said Godwin.
Day 9, Sept. 30 — North Fork Siuslaw River
The last two legs of the journey were on the Siuslaw. The group started Day 9 at Bender’s Landing up the North Fork, where they continued upriver for a period.
“Our trip that day was tidally influenced,” recalled Deck. “We wandered up the river. We wandered down. Said ‘hi’ to some cows along the way.”
Day 10, Oct. 1 — Port of Siuslaw
For the final leg of the 10-day journey, the group launched from the Port of Siuslaw’s docks at the end of Harbor Street.
That last day was the largest group that assembled, as even more kayaks joined the group at Exploding Whale Park for their journey to U.S. Coast Guard Station Siuslaw River.
“People go from Bender’s Landing to the port,” Godwin explained. “That’s the normal paddle run. But not very many people do what we did — which was to go all the way to the Coast Guard. I finally said, ‘I want to go that way.’ Because it's a whole other way of looking at the park and looking at Greentrees [the housing development] and the sand dunes. I’ve gone as far as the pier, but I haven’t gone any further because I want to respect the mouth of the river.”
Godwin, Kreyeski and Deck will now rest … for a day or two. And then will get back out on the water.
The next big paddle from the Florence Area Kayakers (FAK) won’t be until next summer, but for pictures of the FAK in the water and to stay updated on the next raft-up, go to facebook.com/groups/1448357402139888/.
For more check out youtu.be/TPcjUSMzStY.