Paddleboarding: Your new favorite way to enjoy the water

Children paddle in the swimming area of a calm lake

Paddleboarding can be a fun, budget-friendly way to unwind outdoors if you know where to go! 

That's where our Washington state parks come in 😊 

By Aimee Danielson of Aimee in the Pacific Northwest

My family and I started paddleboarding a couple years ago – and we haven’t stopped since!

In summer of 2020, I spent more than 50 hours on my paddleboard. Since this is Paddle Safe Week, I’ll share tips and advice from the many mistakes I’ve made - and the many places I’ve been!

Paddlers paddle in a bay

The Danielsons' RV and paddleboards at Sequim Bay State Park.

Rent, buy - and what?

Want to try before you buy? Rentals are available at many of the sites listed here, and more!

But, after a ton of research, I bought an inflatable paddleboard (vs a kayak or hard paddleboard). 

The biggest selling point was that the inflatable takes up less room, and it fits in my Subaru.

Our favorite places to paddle are Washington state parks – of course!

Lincoln Rock  

Lincoln Rock is on the Columbia River and it sits next to a dam, so the current is pretty calm. There are places to launch and an accessible area to float. It wasn’t too crowded when I went, and the park also has bike and walking trails. It has a swim area for kids and plenty of open places for picnics and hanging out.

Lincoln Rock has tent, RV and group campsites and cabins. The park is not too far from Wenatchee, so if you need supplies, no worries - you're close to town!


 This park is in my backyard, so it’s one of my go-to places. The Deep Lake swimming area gets crowded, but the water is calm. I launch from the boat launch and float away! The wind can pick up, but it’s generally easy to get around. The park only allows electric motorboats, so you don’t need to worry about fast boats.

The lake is small, so you can have a mellow float and keep an eye on the kids. The west end is filled with lily pads, which attracts birds. I love it when wildlife hangs out with me on the water. I have seen eagles on many occasions; I think there’s a nest in or near the park.  

The front of a paddleboard with a life jacket on a calm river with cliffs
Paddlers in a lake

Ike Kinswa 

Ike Kinswa sits on Mayfield Lake and it’s one of my favorite places to paddle. There are several places you can visit by paddleboard, including a little waterfall near the boat launch. 

The lake is clear and shallow and has little current close to shore. This location gave me the idea to start fishing from my paddleboard.

Some campsites sit right off the water, so you can launch your paddleboard right from your campsite. (You’ll want to book your site ahead of your trip). If you can’t get a campsite, it is worth a day trip!

A paddleboard with life jacket on a lake. A man fishing on a paddleboard in the background

Sequim Bay

Sequim Bay is such a fun place to float. There is plenty of sea life to see while cruising up and down the saltwater bay. We usually go toward the open water against the current and float back because, even when the wind is calm, it can be challenging to go against the current. This is the Salish Sea, so be prepared for cold water!

Honorable mentions include Fort Worden (which I paddled in February – brrr!) and Lake Wenatchee! (pictured at right).

Two children play in a lake with two paddleboards in the foreground

Tips, safety and cautionary tales

To give a few 'don't be like me' examples, I’ve frozen my butt off, had to swim back to shore and lost items in the water. And once, I was almost sucked into a crazy river! 

  • The water in Hood Canal, Puget Sound and Salish Sea is always cold. In addition to having and wearing a life jacket, I recommend wearing neoprene pants and SCUBA socks and carrying a waterproof jacket in a dry bag. When I fell into the Salish Sea, I got a seawater spa treatment, but I also got cold fast! I was thankful to have that jacket.

  • Carry water shoes. Once, on the Columbia River, I almost got sucked into a shallower river. If I’d had shoes, I could have hopped off and safely walked on sharp rocks to get back in the water in a safer place, but without shoes - ouch!

  • Keep your phone on a lanyard so you can check the time or take a photo. When I fell in the Salish Sea, my phone stayed on my neck and never stopped working! It would have retired with the fishies and orcas if not for the lanyard.
  • Keep water with you, especially on hot days. You may float longer than expected. You’ll want to stay hydrated.
  • Practice getting back on your board in deeper water. Stay close to shore, but find water too deep to stand in. Now try to hop back on the board from the side or behind! It was a struggle for me, but falling off the board is inevitable at some point so better safe than sorry!
Paddlers paddle in a bay

The Danielson family members each paddle in their own way - sitting, standing, kneeling or doing Yoga!

Something for everyone

Most people think standing up is the only way to use a paddleboard these days, but that’s not the case!

My family chose this activity because we can all do it differently. I usually sit. My husband stands, and our daughters stand, sit, lay or kneel - and do yoga! I am unbalanced, so the yoga thing is not for me, LOL! People of most athletic abilities can paddleboard, so why not give it a try?

Stay safe, enjoy your floats and learn more about PNW travel at 😊