Exploring Oregon's Wildlife from a Paddle Board: 12 Scenic Locations

Oregon is a haven for wildlife enthusiasts, offering diverse ecosystems and breathtaking landscapes that provide the perfect backdrop for wildlife viewing from a paddle board. Whether you're an avid bird watcher or a nature lover seeking close encounters with marine creatures, Oregon's waterways present a myriad of opportunities to observe fascinating wildlife in their natural habitats. In this article, we will guide you through 12 scenic locations in Oregon where you can enjoy the thrill of viewing wildlife from the serenity of a paddle board. In this article we look at some of the best places to view wildlife from a paddle board in Oregon, this is just a start so keep an eye out on our blog.

Key Highlights

  1. Diverse Ecosystems: Experience Oregon's wide range of ecosystems, from rivers and lakes to coastal bays, each offering unique wildlife viewing opportunities.
  2. Bird Watching Paradises: Locations like Sauvie Island and Upper Klamath Lake are bird watchers' havens, ideal for spotting migratory and resident bird species.
  3. Marine Life Encounters: Coastal spots like Netarts Bay provide close encounters with marine creatures, including harbor seals and possibly whales.
  4. Scenic Backdrops: Each recommended spot not only offers wildlife viewing but is also set against stunning natural backdrops, enhancing the paddle boarding experience.
  5. Accessibility for All Levels: Whether you're new to paddle boarding or an experienced paddler, these locations cater to all skill levels.
  6. Conservation Tips: Emphasize respecting wildlife by maintaining a safe distance and preserving their natural habitats for future generations.

man paddling a paddle board
  1. Deschutes River:

    Flowing through the heart of central Oregon, the Deschutes River is a prime location to observe a variety of wildlife. As you paddle along its banks, keep an eye out for majestic bald eagles soaring above, deer grazing by the water's edge, and otters playfully swimming in the shallows. The scenic backdrop of towering volcanic mountains adds to the allure of this remarkable wildlife viewing destination.

  2. Elk Lake:

    Nestled in the Deschutes National Forest, Elk Lake offers a tranquil setting to encounter a range of wildlife species. Glide across the crystal-clear waters and keep your eyes peeled for ospreys circling overhead, loons diving beneath the surface, and beavers busy constructing their dams along the shoreline. The surrounding lush forests and picturesque mountain vistas provide a breathtaking backdrop to your paddle board wildlife adventure.

  3. Sauvie Island:

    Located in the Columbia River just outside of Portland, Sauvie Island is a haven for bird enthusiasts. Paddle through the island's wetlands and marshes, where you can spot a variety of waterfowl, including great blue herons, egrets, and cormorants. Additionally, Sauvie Island is a popular resting and feeding spot for migratory birds, offering opportunities to witness the spectacle of bird species in their seasonal journeys.

  4. Fern Ridge Reservoir:

    Situated near Eugene, Fern Ridge Reservoir is a haven for birdwatchers and wildlife enthusiasts. As you navigate the calm waters of this expansive reservoir, be on the lookout for the graceful flight of great blue herons, the comical antics of diving ducks, and the occasional sighting of bald eagles perched in nearby trees. The surrounding marshes and wetlands provide a scenic backdrop as you observe the abundant birdlife.

  5. Upper Klamath Lake:

    Located in southern Oregon, Upper Klamath Lake is renowned for its diverse bird populations, making it a prime destination for paddle board wildlife viewing. Glide along the tranquil waters and marvel at the spectacle of thousands of migratory birds that visit the lake throughout the year. From graceful sandhill cranes and majestic white pelicans to colorful waterfowl such as cinnamon teals and American coots, the array of bird species is sure to captivate your senses.

  6. Smith Rock State Park:

    While primarily known for its striking rock formations and hiking trails, Smith Rock State Park also offers opportunities for wildlife spotting from your paddle board. The Crooked River, which flows through the park, provides a habitat for river otters, mule deer, and a variety of bird species. Enjoy the stunning cliffs and dramatic canyon scenery as you quietly paddle along, keeping an eye out for the park's diverse wildlife.

  7. Malheur National Wildlife Refuge:

    Located in southeastern Oregon, the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge is a sanctuary for both resident and migratory bird species. Explore the refuge's numerous lakes and wetlands, and you'll encounter a rich assortment of waterfowl, shorebirds, and raptors. The refuge is particularly famous for its vibrant spring and fall migrations, during which thousands of birds stop to rest and feed. Prepare to be amazed by the sight of snow geese, sandhill cranes, and various songbirds in this important wildlife habitat.

  8. Waldo Lake:

    Known for its pristine waters and scenic beauty, Waldo Lake provides a serene setting to observe wildlife from your paddle board. This high-elevation lake is home to a variety of bird species, including bald eagles, ospreys, and great horned owls. Keep an eye on the water's surface, as you may catch glimpses of trout swimming below. The tranquil ambiance and untouched wilderness surrounding Waldo Lake make it an idyllic location for wildlife enthusiasts.

  9. Netarts Bay:

    Located along the northern Oregon coast, Netarts Bay is a treasure trove for bird watchers and marine life enthusiasts. Paddle across the bay's calm waters and witness a vibrant array of shorebirds feeding along the tidal flats, including sandpipers, herons, and gulls. Scan the horizon for harbor seals hauled out on rocky outcrops, and if you're lucky, you might even catch a glimpse of a majestic bald eagle soaring overhead.

  10. Wallowa Lake:

    Tucked away in the northeastern corner of Oregon, Wallowa Lake offers not only breathtaking mountain scenery but also opportunities for wildlife viewing from your paddle board. Glide along the pristine waters and keep an eye out for mule deer grazing in the meadows along the lake's edge. You may also encounter a variety of bird species, such as red-winged blackbirds, ospreys, and even the occasional American dipper near the lake's tributaries.

  11. Applegate Lake:

    Nestled in the Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest, Applegate Lake is a hidden gem for wildlife enthusiasts. Paddle along the lake's shoreline and immerse yourself in the serene beauty of the surrounding forest. Look out for black-tailed deer venturing down to the water's edge and listen for the distinctive calls of the numerous bird species that inhabit the area, including bald eagles and western bluebirds.

  12. Owyhee Reservoir:

    Located in the southeastern corner of Oregon, the Owyhee Reservoir offers a remote and scenic location for wildlife viewing from your paddle board. As you navigate the calm waters, you may spot bighorn sheep scaling the rugged cliffs surrounding the reservoir. Keep an eye on the sky, as golden eagles and prairie falcons soar above. Take in the stunning desert landscapes and the dramatic canyon walls that provide a dramatic backdrop to your wildlife adventure.


group on paddle boards
Photo Credit: Tumalo Creek

Oregon's diverse waterways provide endless opportunities for wildlife viewing from a paddle board. From the serene lakes and rivers of central and eastern Oregon to the captivating coastal and mountainous regions, each location offers its own unique wildlife encounters. Remember to approach wildlife with respect and maintain a safe distance to ensure their well-being. Embark on a paddle board journey through Oregon's scenic landscapes, and be prepared to witness the wonders of nature up close and personal.

Links to other exciting prospects to explore in Oregon.

For wildlife tips check out our blog and this article on Beginners Guide To Bird Watching. For other places in Oregon check out these articles If you are looking for some other places to paddle board in Oregon or do some sup fishing then check out these articles, Stand Up Paddle Boarding in Oregon or our article on The Ultimate Guide On Finding Places To Paddle Board Near You And for SUP Fishing The Best Places to SUP Fish in Oregon: Exploring Oregon's Waters for Anglers! For sup yoga, this is the article for you, The Best Spots for SUP Yoga in Oregon: From Mountains to Coast. For a complete guide of where to paddle board in every state, this one is for you! The best places to paddle board in the United States a state by state tour of where to paddle board with Glide Paddle Boards. Or perhaps something international is what you are looking for, then these two articles will help out. Check out the ultimate guide on finding places to paddle board near you for tips and tricks on finding new and exciting places near you! And for international spots Epic Spots Globally To Paddle Board is for you!

dog on a paddle board