That Best Spots for Easy Paddling Near Medford

Head to these Southern Oregon standbys if you’re learning to run rivers or looking for a simple section or serene lake to paddle your touring kayak, canoe or SUP.

Everyone in Southern Oregon (and across the California border) knows that the Rogue River is the marquee option for paddling near Medford, Ore. And for good reason: It offers multiple sections that cater to paddlers of all types and skill levels, plus it boasts a Wild & Scenic Lower Section celebrated (and sought after) as one of world’s best multi-day, wilderness river trips. But you don’t have to put all your outing eggs in the Rogue basket when it comes to easy nearby paddling trips. Whether you’re looking for a relaxing flatwater tour by kayak, canoe or standup paddleboard, or a mellow downriver cruise in an inflatable kayak or raft, there are plenty of other scenic waterways to float your boat and hone your paddling skills. Here are a few local favorite spots to dip a blade and launch an easy paddling trip.  

Lake of the Woods 

Located near Klamath Falls in the Fremont-Winema National Forest, Lake of the Woods is a natural, 1,143-acre body near the crest of the Cascade Range in Southern Oregon. It’s a fitting name and great place to SUP or kayak for the day (or weekend) with both lakeside camping and lodging options. One favorite spot is Aspen Point, a recreational access hub with boat launch, picnic tables, and restrooms, plus a nice swimming area for cooling off (note: $7 day-use fee). Out on the crystal-clear water, you’ll be rewarded with expansive views of the surrounding Cascade Mountains, whose reflection will be rippled by your wake. Boat rentals are available at the Lake of the Woods Resort, as well as paddleboards, pontoon boats and kayaks. Want to stay longer? Rent one of their cabins or stay in their lakeside campground, complete with a 6.5-mile bike and walking trail that circles the lake. Hint: No matter how long you stay and paddle, hit the lodge afterward for a well-earned ice cream or award-winning bloody mary.  

Upper Klamath National Wildlife Refuge/Rocky Point 

The sprawling Upper Klamath National Wildlife Refuge, located on the shores of Upper Klamath Lake, contains nearly 15,000 acres of freshwater marshes, ponds, and lakes. This rich wetland world is an excellent spot for birdwatching with nearly 250 species. And one of the best ways to spot them is by paddlecraft (there’s local rentals at Rocky Point Resort). Start with the refuge’s 9.5-mile canoe trail, perfect for all flatwater-touring boards and boats, with four connected segments: Recreation Creek, Crystal Creek, Wocus Cut and Malone Springs (leading from the boat launch 2 miles south to the first junction). Paddle them separately or link them together for one long day. Each segment offers spectacular views of the marsh, mountains and forest. Note: Wocus Cut is best paddled in spring and early summer since it’s usually dry by August. Want to overnight? Rent a cabin or hotel room at Rocky Point Resort, which also has a restaurant with views overlooking the water.

Upper Klamath National Wildlife Refuge

Wood River 

With its headwaters emanating from a large natural spring located in Jackson F. Kimball State Recreation Site about 20 miles northwest of the east drainage of Crater Lake National Park, the Wood River drains 220 square miles of Cascade Mountains splendor. Part of the Klamath Basin drainage, the Wood River Valley runs 18 miles through the Fremont-Winema national forests, BLM land, and private property mixed among conifer forest and marshes down to its terminus in Agency Lake. The varied landscape and its aqua-marine water make Wood River a hotspot for paddling SUPs, kayaks and canoes. Favorite locations for day-paddles include Jackson Kimball State Park (which also offers primitive camping) as well as the Wood River Day Use Area, which accesses a popular 4-mile-long river section—extend your trip by paddling all the way to Agency Lake. With picnic tables, barbecue pedestals and vault toilets, the Day Use Area is located 20 minutes northwest of Chiloquin, Ore., and is surrounded by aspen and cottonwood trees for fall leaf peeping. While floating, keep your eyes peeled for predatory birds like bald eagles, ospreys and red-tailed hawks eyeing the river’s abundant trout. Beyond boat access, the Area also offers biking and fishing opportunities, with trails along the woodlands and river, and a panoramic view of the Cascades surrounding Crater Lake.

Willow and Applegate Lakes 

Located 7.5 miles east of Butte Falls, Willow Lake sits at the base of Mount McLoughlin, which means it’s set up well for a relaxing day on the water with sweeping views of the surrounding forest and mountains. Perfect for fishing, paddling and swimming, the 927-acre lake also includes 4.4 miles of lake-frontage trails for hiking. Want to make it an overnighter? Stay in one of four two-bedroom cabins or yurts available (reservations required), or camp in one of 32 tent sites or 31 hookup sites, all complete with campfire ring, picnic tables and communal restroom. 

Another Jackson County hotspot is 988-acre Applegate Lake in the heart of the Applegate Valley and Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest just north of the Red Buttes Wilderness Area, which offers a great swimming area as well as kayak and SUP rentals. Built in 1980 as part of a flood-control project, the lake’s 17.5-mile shoreline is ringed by mountain biking and hiking trails. And bring your rods; the lake hosts one of the state’s best trout habitats, not to mention its landlocked Chinook salmon, smallmouth and largemouth bass, and crappie (it’s stocked each year with approximately 120,000 rainbow trout and 50,000 Chinook). Want to overnight? Try one of the campsites at the waterside Hart-Tish Park campground. 

All articles are for general informational purposes.  Each individual’s needs, preferences, goals and abilities may vary.  Be sure to obtain all appropriate training, expert supervision and/or medical advice before engaging in strenuous or potentially hazardous activity.