Aug. 7, 2021 — South of Florence begins a peaceful three-mile kayak excursion paddling into the Siltcoos Lake, one of Oregon’s largest coastal lakes connected to the Pacific Ocean. The journey begins at the Siltcoos Lake Resort, 82855 Fir St. in Westlake, where a dock launches kayakers downstream of the Siltcoos River Canoe Trail. The scenic three-to-four-hour roundtrip takes people through Oregon’s popular dunes, rainforests, estuaries, the Pacific Ocean and back.
From the dock, the canoe trail encompasses the sounds of birds singing, smells of hydrangeas in bloom and the taste of fresh air from the Sitka Spruce trees during the summer months. Between towering trees and wild berry bushes, people paddle through, connecting with nature in a leisurely exploration.
The river reaches around eight feet deep, and the water temperature is warm. Below, trout and bass swim by.
For Gary Dimon, founder of the Siltcoos Lake Resort Yurt and Kayak Rentals, kayaking has brought him the freedom of the outdoors and days filled with tranquility.
Rafting and kayaking have been Dimon’s passions for nearly 40 years, and he wouldn’t have it any other way. It was about 20 years ago when he realized how much he adored the Siltcoos River and thought to himself, “Wow, I'd like it if my guests could come do this, too.”
Since then, he purchased a property in Westlake and transformed his kayaking goals into a reality.
“I had one dock, one kayak and a run-down motel,” he said.
Over the years, Dimon has remodeled the land into an Oregon coast getaway with a total of 30 bright kayaks with paddles, a yurt on the river, eight motel rooms and an RV park with 10 spaces, which are all frequently booked throughout the summer.
Meanwhile, for those who plan on a day trip, single kayaks are available to rent, with life jackets and paddles included. Rates range between $45 and $65.
According to Dimon, kayakers often “kayak all day and come back at dark,” while others “fly down and fly back.”
The route is inclusive to both beginners and experts, or anyone looking to kayak and paddleboard down the Siltcoos River.
After people rent a kayak from Siltcoos Lake Resort, a gravel road leads to a launching dock at the bottom of the hill. Li jackets must be worn.
After paddling away from the drop-off, head straight as the river welcomes you to panoramic views with lily pads, growing conks on trees, Kingfisher birds, dragonflies and an abundance of wildlife creatures.
Paddle right up and check out the Tyee Campground in the Siuslaw National Forest, about a half-mile South of the Westlake exit. On the right, it's hard to miss the Lodgepole Picnic Area along the river, which is a popular spot to picnic out on. As kayakers continue downstream, a reflection of the trees mirror the water, making picturesque views.
Before reaching the Dam Portage, which will signal an almost halfway point, paddlers will pass underneath the bridges on Highway 101 and will surge between canyons of sand, trees and pockets of wavy ivy.
“A part of the adventure is to have a big ocean route where you can navigate your way around and over into trees,” Dimon said.
Once kayakers are met with the dam, they'll need to lift their equipment across the dam platform and cruise down an elevated track to scoot themselves back into the river. After this passage, paddlers will ride through the dunes, which will carry into an estuary and further into a beach, which is a nesting area for endangered snowy plover birds.
Dimon suggests packing a picnic or two and stopping to hang out, eat and enjoy company before turning around and heading back upstream. In addition, he recommends stopping by later in the afternoon to paddle down and catch the sunset and paddling back amidst the twilight hours.
For many years now, the panoramic views of the Siltcoos River, lake and ocean have attracted visitors from all over.
For Dimon, his business has experienced continuous growth, around 10 percent each year. Since the pandemic hit, Siltcoos Lake Resort has continued to rise, with business up 25 percent compared to previous years.
“People want to go outside and enjoy a socially distanced activity,” he said.
For more information, visit www.siltcoosriver.com/kayak-rentals.