Flows: During years with a strong snowmelt runoff, this section can be run down to 600 cfs. If you are relying on snowmelt, make sure you see the presence of a diurnal cycle on the gauge. This section has been run as high as 5,000 cfs from rain, the significant rapids are class V at that flow. 1,000 cfs is a low flow if the stream is being fed by rain, 2,000 cfs is a friendly flow from rain.
Stream: There is a short walk in from Camp Comfort along a nice trail, this trail ends with a bench overlooking the confluence of the Black Rock Fork and Castle Rock Forks. The confluence of the two forks is where the South Umpqua begins, and marks the put in for this run.
The run starts off relaxing, with class II-III rapids amongst classic Oregon beauty. About 1/2 mile after putting on the stream narrows and it is obvious there is a significant rapid downstream. Eddy out to scout Donkey Kong either left or right, with the portage being easier on the left. This narrow and turbulent drop has been run, but not with style.
The Filter is not far downstream and even narrower than Donkey Kong. This rapid has three narrow chutes, the far right one appears wide enough for a kayak, though a descent of the drop has not been documented. There is an easy portage on the left that ends in a 10 foot seal launch.
The narrow upper section eases below the filter, and boaters find themselves able to read and run a few intermediate rapids down to the Emerson Creek bridge (under construction in 2017). This bridge marks another put in option for those not interested in the adventurous upper gorge.
The next notable rapid below the Emerson Creek bridge is a fun, 5 foot ledge that can be scouted on the left. A couple more small rapids exist below this bridge and the old 2823 bridge. Paddlers looking for a short day can take out here.
Downstream of the old 2823 bridge (removal planned for summer of 2017), the South Umpqua gets quiet for awhile. The next 2.5 miles never exceed class II and can drag on a bit if the water is low. The tame floating is quickly forgotten as large boulders appear and the biggest rapid on the South Umpqua is encountered. There is a potential access point less than half a mile above this rapid here: 43.0754, -122.6609. It is not known at this time if that access is private or not. The lead in to the class V boulder garden can be easily scouted and portaged on the left, while the meat of the rapid is scouted on the right after passing by a house size midstream boulder.
Leaving the large rapid behind, it is a short distance to the next rapid, a long and fun bedrock slide. At low water this rapid can be scouted on the right, many lines exist, but beware a crack in the middle of the slide that has a tendency to pull boats toward it at low water. Far left or right avoids the crack.
Another long, but very low angle slide is another short distance downstream. It can be run just about anywhere, but watch out for a potentially sticky hole just downstream if flows are high.
Less than half a mile below this slide is South Umpqua Falls, it can be scouted from the right. If flows are high stopping above it on the right might be tricky, so it is worth a peak before putting on. The left side is a super easy, but pleasant 100 yard long, low angle slide. The mid-right right side of the falls has a pothole part way down that creates a fun 10-15 drop at low water. The absolute far right wall is incredibly dangerous, with a 10 foot drop into an enclosed retaining wall for a fish ladder, but only incompetence would cause a boater to end up over there.
Take out on the right, or continue through the Three Falls Section.
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South Umpqua Falls
Class V boulder garden
Entry to Boulder Garden
A fun 5' ledge
Seal launch below The Filter
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This week, Oregon House Bill 2835 re-passed the Oregon House on a 52-7 vote. Having earlier cleared the Senate, the bill now awaits a signature from the Governor to be signed into law. For decades, opportunities to protect and improve the ability of the public to access and legally use waterways for recreation have seen minimal progress, while efforts to severely limit access have been a consistent threat. Oregon House Bill 2835 is a pivotal piece of legislation in Oregon, and the first proactive waterway access bill in recent history to have made it through the state legislature.
Time is running out for Oregon Parks and Recreation Department (OPRD) to consider the South Umpqua for designation as a State Scenic Waterway, but it’s not too late. Your voice can help support the agency in taking steps to protect this river in 2018. With its free-flowing waters and exceptional scenic, natural and recreational values, the South Umpqua meets the criteria for designation as a State Scenic Waterway.
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