Elk - Butler Creek to Elk River Hatchery

Elk, Oregon, US


Butler Creek to Elk River Hatchery

Usual Difficulty III-IV (for normal flows)
Length 6.5 Miles

First big rapid in upper run

First big rapid in upper run
Photo taken 02/20/10 @ low runnable level

River Description

A great roadside run on the Wild and Scenic Elk River for the class IV paddler. Can be split into two runs with an upper run from Butler Creek to Purple Mountain and a lower run from Purple Mountain down to the Fish Hatchery.

The upper run is class II and III with one class IV. The lower run features about 5 class IV's, two harder than the rest. One of the big ones is visible from the road, but most of the others are not that easy to see. High water quality with good gradient and a tight gorge.  There is camping year round along the river, making this a good weekend option when other small stream around Oregon may be running a little low.

There is a good trip report linked below, with a neat video about the conservation of the area.  This is really one of Oregon's special places.


For flows, call this number: (541) 332-0405.  3' is about the minimum recommended level as of 2016.  The right bank near the gauge is all sediment, so this gauge may vary slightly year to year.

3.5' was a good first time level

4' was also reported as a good first time level.

According to Soggy Sneakers 5.5' is also a good class IV flow.

Like the nearby Smith drainage, this river can be run at a wide range of flows without a large fluctuation in difficulty.


StreamTeam Status: Not Verified
Last Updated: 2019-01-14 22:15:10

Rapid Descriptions

icon of message No rapids entered. If you know names, and locations of the rapids please contact and advise the StreamTeam member for this run.

User Comments

Users can submit comments.
January 14 2019 (2 days ago)
jacobcruser (152640)
We ran this river on Sunday (Jan 3, 2016) at 3.3'. There was no precipitation after a rain event
earlier in the week and the drop in flows was reflected like so: Thursday the recording said flows
were at about 4', Friday at 3.8', Saturday at 3.6', then Sunday morning when we ran the river the
recording just said it was "low". We checked the physical gauge after our run and had 3.3' which we
felt was a low, enjoyable first time flow for the run. It could be more enjoyable higher, but could
also be worthwhile a little lower. There were no wood portages.
November 30 2011 (2604 days ago)
Nick SindersonDetails
No more than a 100 yrds below the 'sluice' (the first class 4 in the upper gorge, about 6 miles
above the hatchery) is a river wide log that did not look portage-able to us due to steep sided
rock walls and swift eddyless water directly above the log. We all ran it on far river left
with-out incident but this involves a right to left move directly in front of the worst part of the
log. If you pay attention on your way up, this can be scouted by walking along the road. Log is no
longer there as of 11/11 But a new log spans the river mid way down the lower gorge. Eddy-out right
to scout. A partial portage of the lead-in on the right made reaching the duck under the log on the
right a lot safer. My guess is the next high water should push this log downstream.
April 14 2011 (2834 days ago)
Nick SindersonDetails
I agree with Sean Welsh...great run. I've been down twice, both times putting in at the campground
7+ miles upstream of the hatchery (Sunshine Bar?). This gives you a mile of class 1/2 warm-up
before the first class 3/4 gorge. The first gorge has a bunch of pool-drop class 3 and a couple of
class 4 rapids. One of which is the 'Sluice' the most dramatic rapid on the run...a 3+lead-in to a
6 to 8' sloping drop into a chaotic looking hydraulic that is easier than it looks. The other drop
in the first gorge that is worth a scout is the last one (you can see this one on the drive up if
you pay attention and thus avoiding a river scout). On the river you'll spot it by the boulders
narrowing the stream with mist raising from river left and the river swinging 90 degrees to the
right...run hard right to avoid the sticky looking hole on the left. After this is a three mile or
so section of mostly class 2 with a few class 3's towards the end, just before the last gorge. The
last gorge is great!; Five somewhat blind class 3+ to 4 drops separated by boiling class 2/3 water
with tight to the walls surging eddies all in just over a 1/4 mile. Next time I'm going to figure
out how to lap this gorge.
March 14 2006 (4691 days ago)
sean walshDetails
Awesome run. came up from sacramento to paddle the smith...everything is frozen or not accesible.
we drove up from the smith (1.5 hours) and ran the middle section of the elk. REALLY GOOD RUN for
the class IV paddler. about 5 class IV's, two harder than the rest. one of the big ones is visible
from the road, most of the other hard rapids arnt visible unless you whack down into the gorge
(wouldnt be that hard). Water quality is similar to smith, rapids were steep, gorge was tight
etc... We camped and ran the chetco the following day.great run but a little high. Overall..if the
smith isnt working out, great alternative.