Oregon Reserve’s Paddle Sport Investments Spur Eco-friendly Tourism

The Takeaway: The South Slough Research Reserve’s water trail system, tours, and outreach contribute to a growing South Coast market for canoeing, kayaking, and stand-up paddling adventures.

NOAA found that recreation and tourism is big business for Oregon’s ocean economy, contributing $1.1 billion to the state’s gross domestic product yearly. The South Slough National Estuarine Research Reserve is doing its part, having invested $167,000 and many staff hours to grow public access to paddle sport activities that leave no trace on pristine estuaries. These investments have resulted in a popular water trail system and map, paddle sports equipment, and a launch and storage facility. Moreover, the reserve’s canoeing and kayaking tours, tips, guide training, and outreach events keep growing. These efforts dovetail with other paddling ventures springing up all along Oregon’s South Coast.

Praise for the reserve’s water trails, from a popular paddling guidebook and travel website, is bringing many to the water’s edge for solo excursions, or group kayak tours conducted by reserve staff members. Participants can bring their own kayak or rent one from the reserve. Public school educational tours in the reserve’s multi-passenger canoes cover waterway conditions and waterfowl, mammal, and marine life habitats. All tour guides are trained in rescue and safe guiding techniques.

Nearby communities are excited about these paddling opportunities. As a result, staff members have brought big canoes to community events, participated in a tribal group’s salmon festival race, showed members of the Coos Watershed Association how to conduct ecosystem research via kayak, and even unblocked a channel to help paddlers and fish move more freely.

With demand outstripping tour capacity, the South Slough Research Reserve developed a permitting process that allows commercial tour guides who follow Leave No Trace guidelines to operate on-site. The new permit includes training for guides, and it expands a South Coast ecotourism market that already includes a fishing derby for kayakers, a Surfrider International paddling competition and film festival, and plans by Travel Oregon to step up promotion of paddling opportunities on six South Coast rivers and estuaries.

The reserve’s funding for paddling equipment, a launch, and a storage facility was aided by a partnership with the Oregon International Port of Coos Bay. (2020)

More Information: South Slough Research Reserve

Partners: Oregon International Port of Coos Bay, South Slough National Estuarine Research Reserve