While most of Lewis County’s waterways are open to boats, there are a few that provide a unique experience to those wishing to bring watercraft propelled by paddling.
Rivers like the Skookumchuck, Tilton and even calm stretches of the Cowlitz are perfect for canoes and kayaks, and Lewis County’s two largest lakes — Mayfield and Riffe — offer a playground that you can navigate at will.
Some of the county’s best kayaking and canoeing is available in the Tilton River, with Ike Kinswa State Park near Mossyrock serving as a perfect access point. Utilize the boat launch at Ike Kinswa State Park and orient yourself to the right, following the channel under the state Route 122 bridge to the Tilton River. The river narrows out until reaching some rapids, and the ride is generally peaceful and scenic since most of the Tilton is a no-wake zone. Enjoy the views of large stands of forest, hear the birds call out and just relax among nature’s offerings.
The Tilton is also excellent for whitewater kayakers, with American Whitewater rating an 8.5-mile stretch of the river as a class II or III kayaking spot. Put in near Morton's Gust Backstrom City Park just off state Route 508 and head down. As this section of the river is a moderately difficult haul, make sure you’re properly outfitted and know what you’re doing before you go. Sections of rapids throughout the river make this gem a must-do.
For even more advanced kayakers, check out the North Fork Tilton River. Getting there is an adventure in and of itself, as you’ll have to take SR 508 west from Morton to Butts Road, where you’ll hang a right and follow the road until it turns into Forest Road 73 in the Snoqualmie National Forest. Follow FR 73 then turn left on 7304, and the spot to put in from will be on your right about a mile down.
When you launch, be mindful of the terrain and the river’s flow; maintain situational awareness at all times. When you do, you’ll enjoy one of the premier whitewater rafting/kayaking spots Lewis County has to offer.
The Chehalis River is another excellent spot for kayaking and canoeing, especially in the reaches of West Lewis County where the water in summertime especially us calm. A popular spot to put in is the bridge over Highway 6 at Pe Ell, ending at Rainbow Falls State Park. The scenery of farms, mountains and trees nearby make this stretch one to try. Be cautious, however, as river conditions can change rapidly.
Another leisurely spot is the Skookumchuck River, with plenty of spots to put in from Centralia and ending at Fort Borst Park’s boat launch. Head up to Thurston County and launch from the park in Bucoda, floating all the way into Lewis County and seeing much of Centralia from the river. It’s quite the experience to float under bridges you normally drive over routinely!
Know any other good kayaking or canoeing spots? Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org and let us know!