September 9 was a gorgeous day to be on the Columbia River. Even better, I was in a kayak drifting through the Hanford Reach National Monument near Richland, Washington, on a tour with Columbia Kayak Adventures.
The seven-hour, 22-mile tour began at Vernita Bridge below Priest Rapids Dam at 9 a.m. with a safety lecture with guides Sean, John and Rosie. Our group of six kayakers included varying ages, from 18 to late 50s, and skill levels from beginner (me) to experienced (everyone else). Each kayaker is fitted to a craft suitable for their height and weight, and safety is the top priority. The guides are friendly, helpful, knowledgeable and professional, but everyone from kids to grandparents is also guaranteed a great time.
Our guides spent the day shepherding our group along the Reach and pointing out structures on the Hanford Nuclear Reservation, explaining some of the history of the facility that produced plutonium for nuclear weapons during World War II. The river runs past the 300-foot-tall White Cliffs, a nesting site for swallows, and the Reach, part of the Mid-Columbia River National Wildlife Refuge Complex, abounds with wildlife. Herons, egrets, pelicans, hawks and other birds took flight as we passed by, and deer also made an appearance several times along the shore.
The tour also included lunch, which we enjoyed on the beach in an eddy about 13 miles downstream from our put-in point. Most of the vegetables for our chicken taco feast were grown in guide Rosie’s garden.
CKA offers three different kayak tours during the spring, summer and early fall. The Hanford Reach Tour is offered once a month, June-September, though additional tours can be arranged for groups of 8 or more. It costs $125 per person, and includes sea kayaks, life jackets, water and Gatorade, lunch, snacks, dry bags for phones, squirt guns and other on-the-water necessities. Bring a hat, sunscreen and sunglasses, and wear clothes and shoes you don’t mind getting wet.
Another tour traverses the hidden areas of the Yakima River delta near Bateman Island, and is a great choice for wildlife spotters: herons, red-tailed hawks, bullock orioles, pelicans, beaver, deer and a local osprey nest can all be seen from water level. It’s $60 per person for groups of five or more, and includes water and snacks.
The Full Moon Paddle offered once a month during the summer launches in North Richland and paddles along the east side of the islands to Howard Amon Park under the full moon. Single and tandem sea kayaks and stand-up paddle boards are available for groups of 20 or more for this three-hour tour, lighted with glow sticks and head-attached flashlights. At $60 per person, it’s a one-of-a-kind experience at a reasonable price.
While CKA no longer has a retail store, they do provide kayak and stand-up paddle board rentals at the Lee Boulevard turnaround at Howard Amon Park in Richland from June through September every Thursday-Sunday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. (last rental at 4 p.m.) and Mondays and Wednesdays by reservation.
For more information about Columbia Kayak Adventures, call 509-947-5901, check out their Facebook page, or visit their website at www.ColumbiaKayak.com.