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.