Clackamas - 3. Three Lynx Power Station to North Fork Reservoir

Clackamas, Oregon, US


3. Three Lynx Power Station to North Fork Reservoir

Usual Difficulty III-IV (for normal flows)

Toilet Bowl

Toilet Bowl
Photo by Thomas O'Keefe taken 05/01/06 @ 2550 cfs

Gauge Information

Name Range Difficulty Updated Level
usgs-14209500 700 - 10000 cfs III-IV 00h22m 3530 cfs (running)
Big features at the highest recommended flows but still solid Class 4

River Description

The Clackamas River is well known as one of the classic whitewater runs of the Pacific Northwest with plenty of great class III intermediate whitewater. In December 2010 Portland General Electric (PGE) was issued a new license for operation of the hydropower project on the river and American Whitewater was a formal participatin in that process advocating for river and fisheries restoration, improved public access to the river, enhanced and expanded gauge information, and a study of a playboating feature to mitigate for lost opportunities and impacts of the project.

When paddlers refer to the Upper Clackamas they mean the waters upstream of North Fork Resevoir which is part of PGE's hydropower facilties on the river. The run from Sandstone Bridge (Three Lynx) down to the Memaloose Weigh Station just above the reservoir makes a great 13.5 mile day trip although many kayakers focus on the 4.2 mile middle section from Fish Creek to Bob's Hole which serves up the best whitewater and some fine playboating. This section is also the site of the annual Upper Clackamas Whitewater Festival (downriver, slalom, and head-to-head) that takes place in May every year  at Carter Bridge.

The character of the run is mostly pool-drop class III rapids which can develop class IV hydraulics as the river rises during intense winter storms. Good consistent flows are available throughout the winter with rain and into spring as snowmelt. The river drops low in the summer but can still be enjoyed as a technical boating experience and a wonderful escape into the National Forest just an hour from downtown Portland. With Highway 224 running along the entire length of this run road scouting is easy and the road itself provides only a minimal intrusion to what is an incredible scenic journey along a forested river. Several Forest Service campgrounds, particularly in the area of Carter Bridge, make this a great weekend destination and you can build your own adventure by exploring upstream sections of the Clackamas or any of the many tributaries.

The run starts out at the Sandstone Bridge which is upstream of the Three Lynx Powerhouse. Powerhouse is a significant rapid upstream of the powerhouse which is located on river right and typically adds another shot of water to the river.

As you pass beneath the Three Lynx Bridge the river continues on with more fun class II and III and you soon reach the Narrows where the river is squeezed within a mini basalt gorge. Downstream of the gorge is Hole in the Wall Access, a good alternate put-in for a shorter run particularly at the lower range of flows. The next significant rapid is Hole-in-the-Wall where the river slams up against the bedrock wall on river left. There have been accidents here as boaters became trapped in the recirculating current up against the wall so be sure to stay right. The road is above this rapid on river right and it's worth taking a look on the way to the put-in if you have any questions regarding the preferred line.

You will soon come to pass under another bridge and see the Fish Creek boat slide on river left. This is another alternate access point. After a couple class II rapids you will come to one of the bigger drops on the run which is Carter Bridge Rapid. This rapid is upstream of the Carter Bridge and it also the site of annual races held as part of the Upper Clackamas Whitewater Festival.

After Carter Bridge the river passes through a couple more class II rapids including Slingshot before the river pools up at Big Eddy. Just below Big Eddy is Rock 'n Roll and then comes Toilet Bowl which is the last of the significant drops on the run and one of the few not easily visible from the road.

As you see the road along river right, you're be at Bob's Hole. Line up on river left for you chance to surf this feature. Bob's Hole is at one of those sites along the river that is subject to change with floods and each year you can expect it to be a little different. It changed significantly in the 1996 floods and will likely change again. Many kayakers enjoy the playboating at Bob's Hole and it has been a park and play spot but most continue on downstream to Moore Creek Access which is a good take-out option. You can also put-in here or continue through the easier class II float of a couple miles down to the Memaloose Weigh Station. As the river passes the weigh station it settles in behind the slackwaters of the reservoir where Promatory Park offers a final take-out option.


The Clackamas is reached by taking Highway 224 east out of Portland and this run is a short distance east from Estacada. The highway runs along the river providing a number of options for easy roadside access for this section of the Upper Clackamas. Although you can come up with alternatives to the options below and scramble down at any of a number of places along the river, the primary access points are designated by Highway 224 mile marker as follows:

  • Mile 31.0: PGE's Promatory Park which is actually on the reservoir but has been used for river festivals in the past. It's also an option for flatwater SUP adventures in summer.
  • Mile 33.5: Memaloose Weigh Station which provides good access that can also accomodate rafts and is the last good access before the river settles into the slackwaters of the reservoir.
  • Mile 35.3: Moore Creek Access was opened in 2015 and is managed by PGE for river runners. It provides the best raft access.
  • Mile 36.7: Bob's Hole was historically a park-and-play site but with unstable hillslopes and chance of rock fall, many now avoid this site in favor of alternate access points. It was recently signed for no parking. You also have to cross the road and scramble across rip rap. It's not practical for rafts.
  • Mile 37.4: Big Eddy which provides a take-out above the Toilet Bowl with a good trail to the river. The site provides easy access for kayaks and you can make it work for a raft.
  • Mile 38.8: Carter Bridge provides easy access to the river for rafts or kayaks on the downstream river left side of the bridge and below Carter Bridge Rapid. This is also the site of river festivals.
  • Mile 39.2: Fish Creek access is reached by turning off the highway at mile 39.2 and continuing 0.3 miles to the Fish Creek river access. There is plenty of parking here and a ramp to slide rafts down to the river. There have been ongoing problems with vehicle break-ins at this site over the years.
  • Mile 41.0: Hole in the Wall Access was opened in 2016 and is managed by PGE for river runners. It provides easy access for rafts or kayaks and is a good put-in alternative when flows are lower.
  • Mile 45.0: Three Lynx bridge downstream of the Three Lynx powerhouse is sometimes used as a river access.
  • Mile 45.7: Sandstone Bridge upstream of the Three Lynx powerhouse is generally considered the start of this section and offers decent river access for all craft. It is set to be improved in late 2016 by PGE.

Additional Information

See the Upper Clackamas page on Rackley's Oregon Kayaking site.

StreamTeam Status: Not Verified
Last Updated: 2016-05-23 01:23:03

Rapid Summary

Mile Rapid Name Class Features (Legend)
-48.2Powerhouse RapidIII+Photo
-46.3The NarrowsIIIPhoto
-44.4Roaring River RapidIII
-43.5Hole in the Wall AccessN/AAccess Photo
-43.2Hole in the Wall RapidIIIPhoto
-41.6Fish Creek AccessN/AAccess Photo
-41.5Fish Creek RapidII
-40.8Carter Bridge RapidIII+Photo
-40.7Carter Bridge AccessN/AAccess Photo
-39.5Rock 'n RollII+
-39.2Toilet BowlIII+Photo
-38.5Bob's HoleIIIPlayspot Photo
-37.2Moore Creek AccessN/AAccess Photo
-35.2Memalose Log StationN/AAccess

Rapid Descriptions

Powerhouse Rapid (Class III+, Mile -48.2)

Powerhouse Rapid

Powerhouse Rapid
Photo by Thomas O'Keefe © taken 10/11/08 @ 0 cfs

A fun rapid just upstream of the Three Lynx Powerhouse that can get a little boney as flows drop. You typically get more water as you pass the powerhouse at the downstream end of this rapid.

The Narrows (Class III, Mile -46.3)

The Narrows

The Narrows
Photo by Thomas O'Keefe © taken 05/17/07 @ 0 cfs

One of the more beautiful spots on the river where basalt walls on either side constrict the river as it flows through a short gorge.

Hole in the Wall Access (Class N/A, Mile -43.5)

Hole in the Wall Access Parking

Hole in the Wall Access Parking
Photo by Thomas O'Keefe © taken 05/14/16 @ 1150 cfs

This access has a restroom facility and a good launch with raft slide. It is maintained by PGE. If the raft slide is congested, kayaks have the option of hiking a short trail at the downstream end of the site (near the entrance) to access an alternate launch site.

Hole in the Wall Rapid (Class III, Mile -43.2)

Hole in the Wall

Hole in the Wall
Photo by Thomas O'Keefe © taken 05/17/07 @ 0 cfs

This rapid can develop a recirculating eddy on river left as flows increase that has caused trouble for many. Run right and stay away from the wall to avoid. Check it out on the shuttle and if you have doubts you can always put-in downstream at Fish Creek Access.

Fish Creek Access (Class N/A, Mile -41.6)

Fish Creek Raft Launch

Fish Creek Raft Launch
Photo by Thomas O'Keefe © taken 10/11/08 @ 0 cfs

For many years this was the traditional intermediate access point with restroom and raft slide. This site is maintained by the Forest Service.

Carter Bridge Rapid (Class III+, Mile -40.8)

Carter Bridge Rapid

Carter Bridge Rapid
Photo of Val Shaull by Thomas O'Keefe taken 05/01/06 @ 2550 cfs

A fun rapid and the site of many of the competitions for the Upper Clackamas Whitewater Festival. The main flow is down the left which is generally the preferred line. Beware of the ledge to the right side of the rapid which comes in play as flows increase.

Carter Bridge Access (Class N/A, Mile -40.7)

Carter Bridge

Carter Bridge
Photo by Thomas O'Keefe © taken 05/14/16 @ 1150 cfs

Slingshot (Class II+, Mile -39.6)

Run down the middle through the big waves.

Rock 'n Roll (Class II+, Mile -39.5)

Short plunge at the outlet of Big Eddy.

Toilet Bowl (Class III+, Mile -39.2)

Toilet Bowl

Toilet Bowl
Photo of T by Thomas O'Keefe taken 05/01/06 @ 2550 cfs

The last major rapid on the run with some big waves that can be a lot of fun.

Bob's Hole (Class III, Mile -38.5)

Bob's Hole

Bob's Hole
Photo by Thomas O'Keefe taken 04/30/06 @ 2850 cfs

In the heyday of whitewater rodeo, this was a popular playspot and the site of Bob's Hole Rodeo. The feature has changed over the years but it is still good fun for playboating.

Moore Creek Access (Class N/A, Mile -37.2)

Moore Creek Access

Moore Creek Access
Photo by Thomas O'Keefe © taken 05/14/16 @ 1150 cfs

The Moore Creek Access is an ideal take-out with changing rooms and restroom facilities maintained by PGE. A wide switchback path is available for rafts and a steeper more direct route from the river is available for kayakers. This can also be used as a put-in for those looking for a beginner float.

Memalose Log Station (Class N/A, Mile -35.2)

The old log scaling station was a busy place during the days of intense logging on federal forests. Today the site is used as a meeting place for boating groups, the last good take-out before you hit flatwater and a decent river access point.

User Comments

Users can submit comments.
May 30 2006 (4618 days ago)
Nice job Tom!!!


Associated Projects

  • Clackamas Stewardship (OR)
    AW has been a stakeholder in licensing of the hydroelectric projects on this river and protection of key tributaries through the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act.