Willamette, N. Fork of Middle Fork, Oregon, US
|Usual Difficulty||IV-V (for normal flows)|
|Avg. Gradient||106 fpm|
|Max Gradient||250 fpm|
|N FK OF M FK WILLAMETTE R NR OAKRIDGE, OR|
|usgs-14147500||2.50 - 4.50 ft||IV-V||00h20m||1.2 ft (too low)|
Gauge: Boaters go by the foot gauge at the take out, but a new online gauge further downstream can give boaters an idea of what is going on upstream. This online gauge near Oakridge is the one linked above. Check out Nate Pfiefer's chart at the bottom of this page to get an understanding of how the correlation works.
A rough metric on the take out gauge is 0.5'-1' is class IV, 1'-1.5' is IV-V, and above 1.5' is class V (starts low end V and works its way up from there). Locals run this section very high (over 3') and very low (0"). These flows are not desireable for a first time trip (for most people), a scenario where it is still recommended that you follow someone with knowledge.
The high and low extremes have not been included in the runnable range on this page. If you desire to run the river at those flows it is best to have previous knowledge of the run to the extent that you know the run intimately yourself and are no longer needing to peruse the internet for information about it.
The River: Just 45 minutes from Eugene and with easy access to one of the most outstanding sections of whitewater in the region, the North Fork of the Middle Fork of the Willamette is truly one of the nation's most valued Wild and Scenic Rivers for whitewater paddlers. Well known for the "Miracle Mile", a one mile section of continuous boulder gardens, this reach changes in personality over a range of flows that create a highly technical slalom course through a boulder maze at low flows and a stomping class V at high flows. Below the Miracle Mile the river provides great intermediate whitewater with some fun drops and finishes off with the Gorge which provides some good fun a half notch below the Miracle Mile.
The Miracle Mile: There may not be a finer one mile section of continuous boulder garden rapids anywhere with easy and convenient access at the top and the bottom. For this reason you find that many with the skills to enjoy this run are more than content to just run laps. To check flows peer under the Christy Creek bridge at the take-out to the paddler's staff gauge on the bridge piling. Good flows are around 1 to 1.5 feet or right around 0.5 feet if you are looking for a more technical run.
The run begins with easy warmup as you navigate an easy entry rapid and then pass under the FR 1926 bridge. The fun starts right away with Initiation. From this point on it is pretty much continuous whitewater with named sections separated by small eddies. Next up is Ricochet followed by Confusion which is the longest section on this reach. Once you have made it through Confusion you should have a pretty good idea of the character of the run--there's plenty more to come. Sharks Tooth is next followed by Whoop-de-do one place where we you want to be sure to be on the right to avoid the nasty stuff over on river left. One option is to go way far right down a narrow channel separated by the main channel by an island that allows you to sneak the drop. Silly Putty awaits below and then another fun boulder garden before you reach the last couple horizon lines and then the bridge at which point you can take out on river left and do it all again or continue on downstream.
The best way to enjoy this run for the first time is to go with someone who knows it well and can shout out the lines. Bring your A game and a good boof. For more detailed information see the low water guide to the Miracle Mile and the high water guide to the Miracle Mile on Jason Rackley's Oregon Kayaking site.
The Middle Section: The middle section is a significant notch down from the Miracle Mile but the first rapid--Dragonslayer--is one worth considering for a portage on the left due to the bad hydraulic that can develop. What follows is some fun class III on a beautiful river. Stay aware for Spinal Compression which you probably saw on the shuttle. It is recognized by a bedrock wall on river right. A couple more fun rapids await below and eventually you come to the FR 19 Bridge and enter the Gorge. If you don't want to paddle the Gorge you can take out on river left a short distance upstream of this bridge.
The Gorge: The Gorge is a fun IV+ section of whitewatater through a beautiful gorge. You can see the biggest rapid on the run as you head up river on the shuttle and you will recognize it from river level where the river bends to the right and drops over a horizon line. This section comes to an end when you float under another FR 19 bridge at the end of the canyon. You can take-out here or continue on the next run downstream.
The run is about an hour from Eugene. From Highway 58 turn north onto Westfir Road (this is about 30 miles from I-5 exit 188) following signs for Westfir and North Fork Road. In 0.5 miles from Highway 58 you will cross the Middle Fork Willamette and then take a hard left. In 1.7 miles from crossing the river you will be in Westfir where you will see the covered bridge (known as Office Bridge) that crosses the North Fork of the Middle Fork. Continue on up the river on North Fork Road (Forest Road 19) along river left and start looking for the mileage markers.
For the upper run you will first reach the take-out at North Fork Road mile 8.4 where you cross the river to river right. Park and access the river from this bridge. As you head upstream you get a couple views of the fun gorge below you that finishes off the run. For those who don't want to run the gorge take-out at mile 9.3 where there is a short access road to the river (you will reach this point just after crossing the river back to river left).
Heading upstream the next access point is at mile 12.0 where you turn onto FR 1925 and follow it down to the bridge across the river. This bridge, known as the Christy Creek Bridge, serves as a put-in for those who are just looking for an intermediate boating trip or as the take-out for those running the Miracle Mile.
To reach the upper put-in for the Miracle Mile continue up river left on North Fork Road and the small pull-out at mile 13.2 that provides easy access to the river (this is just past the turn-off for FR 1926 that heads off to your left across the river).
|Mile||Rapid Name||Class||Features (Legend)|
|-14.6||Christy Creek Bridge (end of Miracle Mile)||N/A|
Take-out for the Miracle Mile or put-in for those accessing the section downstream.
Access above The Gorge which can be used as a take-out for those who do not want to run it or as a put-in for those who just want to run this short section.