Message from the OWA President
As President of the Oregon Whitewater Association, I’d like to welcome you to our club! I believe that OWA represents a model of what a social club is about and is the premier whitewater club in the Pacific Northwest. Feel free to browse the website to get to know us better and please send us a message if you have any questions. We hope that you will consider dropping in at one of our monthly meetings, where the people are fun and the pizza is free. We look forward to you joining our ranks as a member.
I was bit by the whitewater bug back in 1979. Back home on leave while serving in the Marines. My brother Mark and some other buds invited me on a river rafting trip they had planned on the Upper Clackamas River. Not having any river running experience prior to this trip, I would soon learn that there's more to running whitewater then just a rubber ducky raft full of people, paddles and beer. It was a brilliant sunny day in mid-May. Wearing only cut-off blue jeans, cotton t-shirt, tennis shoes and a toilet seat style life jacket as my PFD, we hand-pumped two yellow neoprene G I Joe rubber ducky rafts. With our paddles in hand and beer in the boat, off we pushed into the icy cold waters of the Clackamas River. It was almost instantly while on the river, I was enjoying the heck out of paddling the waves and frothy whitewater of the Clackamas River. It was also around Hole in the Wall where our boat went up against the rock wall. It high-sided the pillow wave, where most everyone and the beer was thrown thankfully clear of the recirculating hole. I remember swimming around and trying to swim away from the pillow wave that had everyone recirculating around in the eddy. Eventually, I was able to get back into the boat with my paddle in hand and help others out of the water. What seemed like our next rapid, we tore the cheesy floor out of the neoprene boat from scraping over some rocks. Further down river and next up for the encore, was Carter Falls Rapids. We shot for the center route through Carter Falls and it didn't disappoint. When the whitewater cleared, our center route had produced more swimmers. At the take out I was Gun-Ho and ready to run the river again. Everyone else was beat-down exhausted from the cold water and lengthy swims. Thank goodness to dry suits and the availability of high quality rafts today! It was only about a year and a half later I bought my first inflatable raft from Blackbird in Medford. A standard floor (non self-bailer) twelve foot hypalon Campways Sea Rider!
I've now been personally kayaking, canoeing, tour kayaking, rafting, R-2 paddling and cat-boating for over 40 years, which has totaled over 140 different rivers and 176 different runs to date. Mostly in Oregon, Washington and Idaho, as well as rivers in California, Arizona, Utah, Colorado, Montana, British Columbia, Alberta, Yukon, Alaska, Switzerland, Austria, New Zealand and Australia. From the class 1 canals of Amsterdam in Holland to the class +5 section of the Little White Salmon River in Washington and the numerous other rivers in-between. I still have a bucket list of rivers myself, ranging between claimer class 1+ larger rivers and lakes to some class 5 high gradient rivers I'd like to get out and explore!
Boating wasn't my first desire to be transported into the outdoors. Camping, backpacking and mountain climbing through the Mazama's was my first outdoor passion that had me hooked in exploring the wild areas in my backyard and the Northwest.
I joined OWA in 2000 and was instantly welcomed in and made to feel like I was part of the family and that's a tradition that we strive to continue today. Nobody has too little experience or isn't ready yet. We sponsor classes, training trips and outside of those nearly every club member is willing to offer advice about everything related to whitewater boating from how to rig your boat to how to do dishes in camp to how to run a rapid.
As a club, we have many different types of trips on our trip calendar ranging from challenging class 5 to more mellow family trips. Whatever your preferred boating style is, you can find people who share your passion in OWA.
We often get the question “Why should I join OWA”. If I haven't convinced you already, here are some more benefits:
- First and foremost it’s a great way to meet new people and have a great time
- We are family friendly and many current member families met on club trips
- A full year of organized and scheduled river trips and club events
- Monthly club meetings featuring quality presentations and free pizza
- A unique website that provides you with useful timely information on rivers, members, and events
- Monthly newsletters
- Access to member only safety classes including: Swiftwater Rescue Training & Wilderness First Aid at a greatly reduced rate off typical retail price
- Access to member only deals
- Winter pool session for river rescue practice
- Exclusive email for members to communicate
- Exclusive Facebook group for members to communicate
Club Organization & History
OWA was formed in 2000 as a 501(c)(4) non-profit organization. The group is centered in Northwest Oregon and Southwest Washington but we have active members spread over several western states. Our mission is to provide a strong and active club for safe recreational boating. This mission allows us to focus on being a social club where you can have fun, meet new boaters and participate in group activities such as river safety events and training. The club is governed by a volunteer board and numerous committed volunteers.
There are two teams of people that have worked very hard over the past years to make this club what it is. While they do not get much of the glory, the members are the ones that make this club what it is, without an active and friendly group of members the club would stagnate and eventually dissolve. I believe that is the single biggest thing that sets OWA apart from many other social clubs. In addition to the members at large the board members that have served over the years have shaped this club into what it is today. Our founding officers provided a strong foundation and the current board continues to be very dedicated to following that model and making this club an awesome organization. There are too many names to mention here but I would like to recognize the past presidents for their special contributions:
Tom Hanson Term: 2000 - 2002
Brent Davis Term: 2003 - 2006
Cary Solberg Term: 2007 - 2008
Brenda Bunce Term: 2009 – 2012
Bruce Ripley Term: 2013 - 2016
Scott Ogren Term: 2017 - 2020
President, Oregon Whitewater Association