River Trails Section 3


Chief Joseph Dam to Wells Dam

(Section 3)



Length of this water section: 29 miles
Lake formed behind Wells Dam: Lake Pateros
Dams completed: Chief Joseph - 1955; Wells - 196


Landscape: Both sides of the river are marked by large tracts of orchard property and hills with Ponderosa pine and sage growing on them in a shrub-steppe environment. You also can spot the North Cascades towering in the distance as you approach the town of Pateros from the east. The Cassimer Bar Wildlife Area at the mouth of the Okanogan River is home to a host of bird life - including white pelicans, ospreys, cormorants and spotted sandpipers - and attracts birders from around the nation.

Put in: Marina Park, Bridgeport

Take out: Starr Boat Launch (Note: Paddlers also can arrange ahead of time for the Douglas County PUD to provide portage around Wells Dam. Call the Wells Project Office at (509) 923-2226 to make arrangements. In that case, take out will be on the east bank just upriver from Wells Dam.)
Elevation drop: From 956 to 781 feet above sea level
Water character: Flat

Navigation tips: In the Pateros area, the Columbia River widens significantly. When the wind is blowing, the river can develop large white caps and be extremely hazardous to paddlers. If you need help or assistance, stick to the north and then west sides as you head downriver. You’ll find Highway 97 nearby. On the other side (the Douglas County side), there are very few access roads.

Navigation links: Wind conditions | River flow Link 1 - Link 2

Shoreline paddler facilities (north to south on river):

  • Marina Park, Bridgeport (Mile 27, south shore): Campground, RVs, marina, dock, toilet
  • Cassimer Bar (Mile 18, north shore): Rudimentary boat launch near bridge over the Okanogan River
  • HistoryColumbia Cove Park, Brewster (Mile 16, north shore): Dock, toilet
  • Memorial Park, Pateros (Mile 8, west shore): Campground, RVs,dock, toilet, nearby store
  • Peninsula Park, Pateros (Mile 8, west shore): Toilet
  • Starr Boat Launch (Mile 3, west shore): Boat ramp, toilet

Places to eat/drink: Brewster has a number of restaurants, particularly authentic Mexican eateries, and stores. Bridgeport, located on the opposite side, has a restaurant or two, but that's it. An even better bet for the paddler is the town of Pateros. Get out of your boat at the town's waterfront Memorial Park, cross the adjacent street, and you'll come face to face with a couple restaurants, a bakery, grocery store, visitors center and museum. 

Other lodging: The Pateros waterfront area has two full-service hotels, Lake Pateros Inn and the Pateros Lakeshore Inn.

If you have a vehicle: The Methow Valley, located west of Pateros, is a great place to explore. Recreational opportunities abound and the town of Winthrop has an Old West theme.

Links of interest: Wells Dam | Pateros Chamber of Commerce | Brewster Chamber of Commerce | Chief Joseph Dam | Bridgeport State Park

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