This section is enjoyable at a wide range of flows. It has been run down to 200 cfs, but most people prefer it with over 800 cfs. The run is most difficult in its teens (1300-1900 cfs) and turns more playful above 2,000. The riverbed is dynamic, with rapids changing during every flood.
This is an incredible piece of river flowing through a beautiful gorge right at Portland's doorstep. In October 2002 American Whitewater signed the Settlement Agreement resulting in the removal of Marmot Dam in 2007 and restoration of this river for fish, wildlife, and recreation. We are continuing to work with our partners to realize the full potential of this spectacular river as Bureau of Land Management develops the management plan for lands previoulsy owned by Portland General Electric that have been transferred to public ownership. This is a great run but it's a good idea to get recent beta from the locals as there are a couple spots where log hazards can create issues.
From the Marmot Dam site the river flows through straight forward whitewater until you come to '64 Logjam where remants of an old log jam still stick up from the channel and can occassionally collect debris. Many boaters use the trail that allows you to put-in just below this rapid which shortens the run to include the best section of whitewater in the gorge.
The river disappears into a magical river gorge with hanging gardens that drape down the sides of the bedrock walls. The first major drop known as Boulder Rapid will be obvious as you approach. You have a couple options (either down the left or the right) depending on flows, the current wood situation, and your comfort level. It is difficult to scout, but it is possible for some to climb up on the cliff on the right above the rapid, or to stop on the top left boulder pile, or at low water to stop on a gravel bar upstream from the giant boulder. The rapid is full of sieves and undercuts which are visible at low flows, and the slots on the right collect wood. Left of the giant Boulder is most commonly run and has at least one eddy on the left at most flows. The far right slots are also feasible at some flows though be prepared to avoid sieves below the slots. To portage you can scramble over large boulders on river left or run/drag the scapy and blind far-FAR left sneak slot.
Rasp Rock is the next significant rapid where the river rushes over boulders with some holes you'll have to negotiate. The river narrows down here and wood catches on the center left rocks at the bottom. The standard line is to cut right behind the bottom right boulder. The giant hole that used to form here at high flows has not been seen much in recent years as the rocks have moved.
Drain Hole comes up next and if it's your first run, it's worth a scout. Scout left if you think you might run it, because you get the best view of the rapid. For those who already know their line, you can see most of the rapid and check for wood from the last eddy on the left. The portage is on the right. After a small pool upstream of the rapid the water accelerates down a steep ramp on the left and banks to the right across a line of giant boulders which catch woody debris on a regular basis. Most lines involve ways of hitting the right eddy below the ramp and above the line of boulders. The best exit slot is far right, door #4.
You will recognize Revenue Rapid by the bridge coming into view. Be warned that the rapid is much bigger than it looks from the bridge. It is a two part rapid with a messy boulder pile at the top and then a big water finish with a hole bottom right. The boulder pile often collects wood, so scout from the left bank to detect blockages. You really can't see any of the routes through the congested top section from shore, so the best way to find a route is follow someone who has been there recently. The rapid is constantly changing. As of 2018 there are three routes through the rocky top part: left to right known as the Dog Leg (for a left to right move), the Straight Shot (where rafts can get through at 1500 and more) and the Far Right. Each line is optimal at a different flow. After the rocky top part the water slams into the right wall, and then there are eddies on the left above the big water bottom part.
After Revenue rapid the take-out comes up immediately on river left, either upstream or downstream of the bridge. Climb up to the road via trails beside the bridge on either side and be courteous to locals as there have been hostilities. Carry your boats up to the parking area at the junction of Kubitz Ave and do not park or load up at the junction of Dusty Lane. Do not get naked or urinate in public here.
From Highway 26 in Sandy turn north onto Ten Eyck Rd. Follow this road 1.9 miles down into the Sandy gorge and the Revenue Bridge. This bridge is the take-out where a trail leads up from the river on the downstream river left side. Parking is extremely limited and local landowners have complained about the congestion--plan to meet and consolidate vehicles somewhere in the town of Sandy and be quick and efficient with your load and unload. Don't block driveways or tear up the shoulder. A few parking spots are available by heading back up the hill a few hundred yards to the intersection of Ten Eyck Road with Kubitz Road.
To reach the put-in continue on Ten Eyck Rd. another 0.2 mile and turn right onto SE Marmot Rd. Head 4.1 miles to the BLM access road at 48770 SE Marmot Rd. Turn right onto this road and head 1.3 miles down to a small pullout at a gated road (just before the barn). Walk a short distance down this road, cross the old canal, and then take the trail to the left that drops into the gorge. This access puts you in right at the start of of the gorge but it's a bit of a scramble down the bank. For the full run and easier access follow the BLM access road 2 miles from SE Marmot Rd. to its end at the Marmot Dam which is now managed by the BLM as river access. BLM has been working on site management and access and the last segment of the road may be gated requiring a 15 minute walk in.
See the Sandy River Gorge page on Jason Rackley's Oregon Kayaking site.
It is still advisable for groups to rendezvous in Sandy (at the Safeway or similar) to consolidate into the minimum number of vehicles and change into boating garb, in order to minimize time spent and nudity at the takeout parking area at the mouth of Kubitz road.
Ran it for the first time after last month's high-water event and found that the wood situation noted in August has changed generally for the better. The wood on the left-side of Boulder is gone, as is the wood at the top of the middle chute at Upper Revenue. The "skinny chute" at the cave a few drops above Boulder may still have wood in it, but we couldn't tell for sure. However, there is now a very easy slot just to the right of it, which I would recommend unless you know for sure that far left is wood-free. At Drain Hole, there are a couple of logs criss-crossed vertically at 45 degree angles between the middle and right boulders. We had a swimmer here today, and at this flow, he was able to kick-off the bigger one that sits in the current running along the boulders but this could become very dangerous at higher flows, so take a good look at it before committing.
Ran this on August 19, 2017 and discovered multiple wood issues. They've obviously been there awhile but haven't seen them documented and they are significant. Rapid with the cave on the left a few drops above Boulder has wood solidly planted in the skinny left chute forcing a portage at low water. Wood is spanning the center chute at Boulder at the undercut, and the right chute looks worse than ever. Big chunk blocking the normal entrance to the regular middle run at Upper Revenue. Upper Revenue too low to run now anyway, and looks like some high water will likely move it along.
Neighbor Relations at Takeout: Paddlers' right to take out here is embattled as of the end of 2016. Build friendly human connections when possible. The best takeout parking area is at the intersection of Kubitz and Ten Eyck. Please refrain from aggravating the situation. Change and urinate in private. Park closely to avoid the need to spread out down Kubitz Road. Avoid turning around in their driveways. Avoid worsening the mudhole on the uphill side of Kubitz Road (the takeout parking intersection). Do not park or load on Dusty Lane. If the water is high enough, consider taking out at Dodge Park instead.
To find the put in take Hwy 26 west through Sandy. At the last traffic light in Sandy take a left down OR 211 (?) towards Bull Run. The take-out is at Revenue Bridge, however due to landowner issues it is best to park about 100 yds before the bridge on a road that turns off to the left. After a lovely discussion (mostly about the aforementioned barista), the 4 of us crammed into the cab of Mike’s pickup truck and headed off upstream.
Our original plan was to put-in above Alder Creek, however after 20 minutes of drysuit stench in the cab of the truck and no-sign of a good put-in, with the guidebook locked in my car at the takeout, we decided to settle for the put-in at the Marmot Dam site. From Revenue Bridge continue on OR 211. The first right is Marmot Rd., take that until a dirt road takes off on the right with lots of big official signs. The road winds down to a locked gate. At this point we decided that the easiest way to the river was down. After some sliding on a muddy slope, the kind of place where it is far to easy to imagine serial killers dumping bodies off of the dirt bank. We just about dumped Dave, and his boat, off the bank, however a sort of sketchy belay later, and Dave had made it to the river. The other 3 of us decided that we did not in fact want to die by falling off of a dirt cliff on the Sandy River, so we made our way back up the road and continued walking down to just below the dam site where we found an easy put-in.
The first couple miles of the river are easy class II with one woody class III that is worth scouting on the right, you can see giant logs sticking out of the river from upstream. Continuing downstream you head into a fun little gorge section with a few class III rapids and some lovely overhanging caves. We made it past Sasquatch and his cohorts and had fun through Boulder, the first class IV of the run. At the level we ran it at, the line was just to the left of the biggest boulder, winding down through some other rocks. Next was Rasp Rock where there’s a big hole that you might want to paddle hard into. Half the group went right, the other half went left, and we all survived so that just goes to show (?) We continued down to Drain Hole, a tight right turn with a big sieve on the left, a move that looks hard but actually has a huge pillow on the sieve. The final rapid is Revenue Bridge, a fun, but quite rocky rapid that is much bigger than it looks from the bridge. We ran far right down the top section, then left at the bottom, skirting (or getting chundered in) some quite large holes. The takeout is on the left at the bridge.
more pictures can be found at http://cohophotography.com/sandygorge/
Fact sheet on dam removals scheduled for the Pacific Northwest.
The Sandy at Marmot gauge is immediately above the launch point and is becoming more consistently accurate by the year as the sediment from the breached dam distributes. The riverbed is very dynamic so after each major flood event the gauge may read differently for the same flow.
Permits are not required for this reach.
We have no additional detail on this route.
Use the map below to calculate how
to arrive to the main town from your zipcode.
Marmot Dam site river access
Marmot Dam site bridge
Marmot Dam site
Sandy River Revenue Bridge
Marmot Dam Removal Underway
Matty on Revenue Bridge
Marmot Dam Removal, stage 1
Marmot Dam Removal, stage 2
Marmot Dam Removal, stage 3
Revenue Bridge Rapid
Scenic Sandy River Gorge
Setting up for Drain Hole
Descending into the Sandy Gorge
Put-in below '64 logjam
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