Widely known as the Sandy Gorge, this section is gorgeous, enjoyable at a wide range of flows, and really close to Portland. It has been run down to 200 cfs, but most people prefer it 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, and wood obstacles that shift on a daily basis. Visitors are advised to seek current local information rather than relying on this writeup.
Parking at the takeout (at intersection of Kubitz and Ten Eyck Roads) is limited and the locals are not happy about the increase in boater use. If you are coming here with a large group, please meet in the town of Sandy, dress out, and consolidate boats and paddlers to the minimum number of vehicles. This way you can simply drop off your takeout car on your way by and minimize both the time spent and the number of cars left. Please avoid worsening the mud problem. Please minimize nudity at the takeout parking. Build bridges not bonfires.
There are several possible put-in locations. Some boaters launch downstream from the log jam by parking at the first large pullout on the right when Big Sandy Dam Road levels out. Be prepared to line boats down a short steep section of trail. If you continue driving to the next major pull-out (after the gate which stays open, identifiable by the concrete blocks) there is an old road down to several short trails that access the water above the log jam by ~1/4 mile. If you drive all the way to the end of Big Sandy Dam Road there is a gated park, open only in summer, that has facilities and adds a mile of enjoyable class III to the run. If the gate is locked, simply shoulder your boat, walk around the gate and enjoy the 10 minute hike in on the road and access the river just downstream of the bridge at the Marmot Recreational Site.
From the Marmot Dam site the river flows through straightforward whitewater down to the '64 Logjam where giant trunks block the main channel and can collect additional debris. Scout right. More runnable at higher flows, the logjam is often portaged on the cobble bar on the right. At very high water (>4,000cfs) a runnable channel opens up to the right of the cobble bar. There is another 2 miles of class III whitewater with one long class III+ before you reach the first class IV: Boulder Rapid.
When the river disappears into a magical gorge with hanging gardens that drape down the sides of the bedrock walls, you are at Boulder Rapid. This rapid is full of undercuts and sieves, and the slots on the right collect wood. It can be run both left and right depending on flows, wood, and your skills. Most people run it in the channel immediately left of the giant Boulder.
Scouting Boulder is tricky. If you're curious about the rarely-run right side channels, climb high on the cliff on the right. When the river goes out of sight, assume that it piles into a sieve. Scouting from the left boulders may mandate a partial portage because you can't get back to the entrance. A spooky but easy sneak (narrow with blind corners, in the dark under the cliff) goes far far left to a point midway down the rapid. This sneak is a good option when the regular channel is obstructed. If you get in there and run out of water, you can get out and drag. At very low water a gravel bar emerges upstream from the largest Boulder and is a good place to stop and look around.
Rasp Rock is the next named rapid, after a few class III's. The gradient steepens, the channel narrows and there are some holes to negotiate. Scout right or read and run. Wood catches on the center left rocks at the bottom. The giant hole that used to form here at high flows has not been seen much in recent years as the riverbed has changed again.
Drainhole comes up next and it's worth a scout, especially if it's your first run, or it's lower water than you've seen. It is a dangerous class IV with a nasty undercut on the left that is harder to avoid at low water. To the right of this undercut is a line of large boulders forming narrow slots and collecting wood. The water accelerates down a steep ramp toward the undercut and the goal is to hit the eddy on the right at the bottom of the ramp. The farthest right slot around the line of boulders at the bottom is largest and most often run.
Scout Drainhole on the right if you're likely to portage, because then you can just shoulder your boat and go. Scout left if you think you might run it, because you get the best view of the rapid. For those who already know the run, you can see most of the rapid from the last eddy on the left.
You will known Revenue Rapid by the bridge coming into view. The rapid is much bigger than it looks from the bridge. It has two parts: a messy boulder pile at the top and then a big water finish. The boulder pile often collects wood, so scout from left or right (or both) to detect blockages. You really can't see the routes from shore, so the best way to find a route is follow someone who has been there recently. The portage is on the left. This rapid is constantly changing. As of Dec 2019 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 piles 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 down the hill to one of several possible launch spots. It's 1.3 miles down to where the road levels and the first pullout on the right is where you can access the river downstream from the logjam. Cross the gully and drop down to the left to get to the water. The second pullout on the right where the concrete blocks are is also used by following the road down to one of several trails that head off to the right and down to the water. Continue to the end of the road for the full run, park in one of the spaces on the south side of the road and begin your hike around the gate down to Marmot Recreational Site.
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 previously owned by Portland General Electric that have been transferred to public ownership.
Some pretty but outdated photos are available on the Sandy River Gorge page on Jason Rackley's Oregon Kayaking site. Rasp Rock has changed a lot since then.
Hey yall, just wanted to share:
a large tree was hung up in Drain hole as of a week ago. It extended from door #3 (see above beta) out into the main flow. Water that day was 2100. Hard saying if the drop in water would cause it to fall out, and if it did would it make it through the corner.
We felt it was an obvious portage, with a high likelihood of getting pushed into the tree and low reward if you did avoid it. Give it a look from river right as left side scouting appeared "possible".
We noted no other wood issues... well, of course the giant Log Jam ;-)
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.
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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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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.
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