Among the storied waters of Oregon, the Yamhill River garners faint praise. In Oregon people speak of the Rogue, Santiam, Deschutes and the Owyhee in a reverent way. We speak of our last adrenalin pumping run through Blossom Bar on the Rogue and the haunting, otherworldly landscape of the Owyhee, a river that can be run only a few months a year but which captures your imagination for a lifetime.
In my backyard of McMinnville, meanders the Yamhill River which serves as a functional workhorse for local farmers to irrigate the crops. I’ve lived along the Yamhill for many years and have never been on the water. It is slow-moving, filled with chemicals from neighboring farm run off and often muddy during the rainy season. In many ways the Yamhill is a hard used and often polluted waterway.
This past week I purchased a kayak. I’ve long borrowed or rented and finally I’d bought my own. It is a 14′ kevlar coated beauty designed to glide along lakes, wide rivers and ocean estuaries.
Yesterday I went on the water with my friend David who has a lovely, hand-built wooden kayak. We only had a few hours and he took me to ‘one of his favorite rivers’, the Yamhill. I decided to put my doubts aside and trust David’s recommendation. We slid our kayaks into the river at the Dayton Landing. What I discovered was a beautiful stretch of water.
For the next few hours we had the river to ourselves with the exception of Great Blue Herons, hawks, falcons, butterflies and jumping fish. I discovered that the river I’d ignored for the last 20 years offered beauty both subtle and dramatic. Beauty that I had thought could only to be found elsewhere.
As I took my new kayak out from the water I knew that David had introduced me to a river with many stories to tell and gifts to offer. The Yamhill River put-in is only 15 minutes from my door. Beauty and adventure await. Who knew?