Applegate River, Middle Fork - Above Applegate Reservoir

Applegate River, Middle Fork, California, US/Oregon, US


Above Applegate Reservoir (Upper Applegate)

Usual Difficulty II-III(V) (for normal flows)
Length 4.22 Miles
Avg. Gradient 54 fpm


Photo of Stephen McCleary by Marcelo Leyva taken 01/17/11

Gauge Information

Name Range Difficulty Updated Level
Mi. Applegate Above Applegate Lake
dream-538 400 - 2000 cfs II-III(V) 16h41m 120 cfs (too low)

River Description

The Middle Fork Applegate River is a fairly continuous class 2 to 3 creek run.   It is very popular with local boaters and is considered a good introduction to creek boating.   Though the run is busy, but there are many eddies.  A gravel road runs alongside but it is sometimes above or back away from the river. 

There is one ugly, undercut rapid in the middle of the run that is almost always portaged.   It is immediately upstream of the second bridge.   Scout the take out for this portage carefully.  

The Applegate River flows north from the Siskiyou Mountains to its confluence with the Rogue River west of Grants Pass.  It is one of the largest tributaries of the Rogue River.  The Middle Fork Applegate is mostly in California but  enters Oregon just before it reaches the Applegate reservoir.   The easiest access is from Oregon through the Applegate Valley.

Season:  The Applegate has a dependable spring snowmelt season.  It can also flow during warmer winter rainstorms.  

Getting There:  From Medford Oregon, take Highway 238 west to Ruch (25 minutes).   Turn south onto Upper Applegate Road and go all the way around Applegate Reservoir (35 minutes).    From Grants Pass, take Highway 238 east to Ruch (35 minutes).    The roads are excellent to the take out, but gravel to the put in. 

Take out:   There is a large developed access area on the reservoir next to a bridge over the reservoir.   The river is only 2/10 of a mile upstream.   Driving on to the put in, the pavement ends in 1/10 of a mile.   In .34 miles make a sharp turn back to the right onto Road 1040.   The First Bridge is in 2/10 of a mile.    There is an alternate take out on river left at this bridge. 

Put in:  From the first bridge on the river, drive upstream 2.5 miles to the second bridge.  This is a common put in for the lower section.   For the upper section continue 1 mile to the Cook and Green Campground entrance, then go 1/10 of a mile past.  If you reach the Butte Fork Bridge you have gone a bit too far.   Hike a  short ways out to the river.  There is a nice pool immediately downstream of Whiskey Creek confluence and a 10 foot waterfall.   Scout the creek carefully, as the 10' waterfall is not recommended to be run.   

Other Information Sources: - Upper Applegate 
Oregon Rafting - description
Upper Applegate: Helmetcam video by Marcelo Leyva
Upper Applegate 2: Helmetcam video by Marcelo Leyva
Kayakers 4 Life: Helmetcam video by Marcelo Leyva

Applegate Partnership and Watershead Council
Rogue River - Siskiyou NF  
Wikipedia Applegate



StreamTeam Status: Not Verified
Last Updated: 2011-01-25 20:07:42


Rapid Summary

Mile Rapid Name Class Features (Legend)
-0.2Butte Fork BridgeN/A
-0.0WaterfallVHazard Waterfall
0.0Upper RapidsIII+Putin
1.0Undercut ChuteVPortage Photo
1.1Second BridgeIIIAccess Photo
1.3Topless Weather GirlIIIPhoto
3.0Hydraulics on CrackIII+Photo
3.6Take out BridgeN/ATakeout Access Photo

Rapid Descriptions

Butte Fork Bridge (Class N/A, Mile -0.2)

The usual upper put in is about 2/10 of a mile below this bridge.   There is a waterfall between this bridge and the usual put in.

Waterfall (Class V, Mile -0.0)

This waterfall above the usual put in, has been run a few times, but never with good results.

Upper Rapids (Class III+)

A series of class 3 rapids starts at the upper put-in and runs for at least 1/4 mile, ending at the confluence with Cook & Green Ck. in that distance there are 5 class 3 to 3+ rapids (depending on flow) with short sections of class 2 water in between. (The upper section has less water, is more shallow and has more boulders then below the bridge. flipping almost always results in hitting bottom.)

Undercut Chute (Class V, Mile 1.0)

Class 5 undercut

Class 5 undercut
Photo by Picture by Stephen McCleary taken 01/17/11

The river funnels into a long narrow bedrock chute.  The left wall forms a low roof where the river has cut back under it.   This rapid is normally portaged on the right.

Second Bridge (Class III, Mile 1.1)

The put in bridge

The put in bridge
Photo by Picture by Stephen McCleary taken 01/17/11

Second Bridge is about 2.5 miles upstream of the reservoir.  There is a large turnout and easy put in, just upstream of this bridge.   The river has a lot of class 3 from here to the take out.

The bedrock class 5 rapid just upstream is dangerously undercut and is normally portaged.

Topless Weather Girl (Class III, Mile 1.3)

Topless Weather Girl

Topless Weather Girl
Photo by Picture by Marcelo Leyva taken 01/17/11

This section has 3 quick drops in a row all with 'good' holes at higher flows. This is where the 'Kayakers for Life' video starts

Hydraulics on Crack (Class III+, Mile 3.0)

Hydraulics on Crack (or Valium)

Hydraulics on Crack (or Valium)
Photo by Marcelo Leyva taken 01/17/11

Take out Bridge (Class N/A, Mile 3.6)

Take Out Bridge Rapid

Take Out Bridge Rapid
Photo by Picture by Marcelo Leyva taken 01/17/11

An informal parking area and take out are on the northwest (downstream) side of this bridge.  Boaters can take out here or continue around the corner to a large developed recreation area on the reservoir. 

User Comments

Users can submit comments.
January 12 2011 (2926 days ago)
Nick SindersonDetails
This run is a classic class 3 creek run and makes a great introduction to creek boating (it's tons
of fun besides) Dreamflows has a write-up in their Northwest rivers section that will get you to
the put-in and take-out. You can put-in a mile up from the second bridge just below a 10' waterfall
(I've seen it run a number of times but I've never seen anyone do it twice) and Whiskey Ck. I
almost always head upstream for the extra mile as there are 5 more 3 to 3+ rapids in that section.
Just be sure to mark your take-out so as not to bumble into the class 5 rapid/undercut above the
second bridge. What makes the run a classic is evident below the second bridge; evenly spaced class
3 to 3+ rapids with class 2 water and lots of eddys in between from start to finish. Most drops are
bedrock with river center transit the norm. Wood is a hazard at times but due to the runs fast
center channel nature, most wood is pushed to the bank after high water events. We had our first
race down the lower 3, April 2010 and plan to do it 2011. A friend of mine has a good video of the
run at; that will give you a very good idea of the nature of the run. Upstream
of this run is a short class 4/5 section on the Butte Fork of the Applegate. Dreamflows also has
estimate of the flow on their Northwest Rivers page. Carberry Ck. one drainage to the north (less
than a mile away) has good class 4 action and is most likely runnable if the Applegate is.