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April 7, 2020

“At the catch! Blades in! Power 10! Let her run!”

Kaspar Murer, Past President, Wasabi Paddling Club

Renée Morgan, Calm Water Coalition, Portland Rowing Club


On any day on the Willamette River, you might hear steersmen and oarspersons shouting these commands to their rowing and paddling teams. Portland has a long history of crew teams, with the first club founded on May 3rd, 1879 by 38 university rowers from eastern schools who wanted to continue rowing through their summer vacations.


These original oarsmen founded Portland Rowing Club, the second oldest amateur athletic club west of the Mississippi. From this handful of oarsman 130 years ago, Portland’s rowing and paddling clubs now number in the thousands, with 3,500+ team members alone.


Today, the Willamette is a recreation hub for thousands of rowers, swimmers, fishing boats, cruisers, wake boats, jet skis, the Portland Spirit, Willamette Jet Boats, marinas, and floating home residents. It’s also home for Human Access Project and its River Huggers swim team.


Naturally, with so many user groups, there is also conflict. Recently, the issues have escalated. Dragon boat and rowing clubs, floating homeowners, and many others have experienced a steep increase in wake-related incidents. In the past two years over 100 boats have been swamped and 8 boats have been capsized. More than 100 people have been thrown into the river. Two rowing shells have been broken and damage has occurred to floating homes, docks, and marinas. This has become a human safety emergency.


There are efforts being made to resolve these conflicts -- to share the river and restore safety for all. Shared concern for these new issues led more than 4,000 people to come together to form Calm Water Coalition (CWC) in 2018. CWC is working with Wake Sports and other user groups, the Oregon State Legislature, Oregon State Marine Board, a Rulemaking Advisory Committee, Multnomah County Commissioners, and the Sheriff’s River Patrol to facilitate safe areas of recreation and increased law enforcement.


This is where you can help!


We need letters of support for restoring a River Patrol for Portland in the budget, sent to Multnomah County Commissioners and the Sheriff, emphasizing how dangerous the river has become, especially to human-powered watercraft and swimmers. Use this link to see a sample letter in an editable .dox  or .doc MS Word format: Please share your personal experiences!


Thank you for your help.