SEASON: Winter rain storms.
This trip combines the scenery of a large floodplain river, characteristic of the western side of the Olympic Peninsula, but with a bit more whitewater than other comparable runs like the Bogachiel, Hoh, or Queets.
This is a scenic river that starts out in Olympic National Park. The run starts out with some fun class II/III but as you continue downstream you will need to negotiate your way through some log jams. Use caution as the old-growth trees that grow along the river here can result in some massive wood hazards.
The river enters another fun bedrock section as you reach the bridge near the South Fork Campground. You can take-out here (this is the easiest access), or you can continue on down to the confluence with the Hoh. The whitewater is pretty much over at the bridge, but if you enjoy the scenery of a large floodplain river, the Hoh River is a fun trip and you can even continue all the way to Highway 101 if you're prepared for a long day on the water.
You can make the trip longer by continuing on the Hoh River but there are some issues with river access. You can try the end of Owl Creek Rd. at the confluence with Owl Creek as an alternate take-out but this is private property (this would give you another 1.5 miles on the South Fork Hoh and 3.7 miles on the Hoh). In his guidebook Korb recommends Hoh Rainforest Lots (for 1.5 miles on the SF Hoh and 1-2 miles on the Hoh) which is also private property, and you will need to obtain permission from a willing landowner. The turn to reach this is located 1.7 miles up Maple Creek Rd. from the junction with Owl Creek Rd. Both of these options require a hike across the floodplain from the river to the spot where you leave your car so they are not the most convenient. Alternatively, if you want to plan a long day you could continue on down to the DNR's Hoh Oxbow Recreation Area just upstream of the Highway 101 Bridge, but this would be an additional 1.5 miles on the SF Hoh and 15 miles on the Hoh.
for additional information see
Korb, G. 1997. A paddlers guide to the Olympic Peninsula. third edition.
We ran the South fork Hoh on Nov 25, 2004 with a group of 8. We hiked in about a mile on the trail. It's a bit tricky knowing when to head off the trail and into the woods. Stay on the trail until it begins rising fairly steeply. We didn't see a trail down to the water there, but the bush wacking was not difficult. If you head off the trail too soon, you could end up with a long hike to the river, which would be at the far end of a meander. If you head off too late, you'll not be able to get down a cliff. The best whitewater was in the first 1-2 miles, so it was definitely worth hiking in. The drops were easier than Korb made them out to be, but that may be due to landslides into the river. We had 4 easy portages due to logs, but all we visible in time to read and run. It was pretty much flat after the camp ground, so I would recommend taking out at the campground. We continued down for about 2 miles after that. We talked to friendly neighbors that to ask them about the take-out that Korb suggested, Hoh Rainforest Lots. They said that folks living there were not friendly. Instead, we followed their suggestion to drive as far as the rd would go, parking at a friendly owner's place who gave us permission. The tricky aspect of this take-out is that you cannot easily get to the river from the take-out, because you have to cross a stream channel and island to mark the main Hoh. We found the easiest place to do this was at the downstream end of the island, which you get to from the very end of the rd. From there, we waded across in our drysuits, crossed the island, and marked the main Hoh. Allow yourself an extra 30-60 mins to mark your take-out. When parking the take-out car, watch out for creeks crossing this road that are unpassable. I decided that I didn't want to risk driving my car through these creeks, and in the end, it turned out to be a wise decision because the creek came up a ways while we were on the Hoh. This trip was fun as as a novelty, but didn't have much in the way of class III. The only tricky aspect was eddying out in time to avoid the log jams.
Memo and supporting documents on rivers eligible for Wild and Scenic designation within Olympic National Park
A comprehensive guide to 75 river runs on Washington's beautiful Olympic Peninsula.
Check the USGS Hoh
gauge and look for flows of around 5000 cfs.
Historically there was a gauge on South Fork Hoh (stn.
12040900, 1985-1989, 50 sq. mi.) but it's no
longer active. Discharge on the South Fork is
approximately 20% of the flow recorded on the Hoh
River gauge. Be careful of high water as this river
transports massive trees as the river approaches
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.
below the South Fork bridge
Canoe on the South Fork
South Fork Hoh
If someone gets hurt on a river, or you read about a whitewater-related injury, please report it to
American Whitewater. Don't worry about multiple submissions from other witnesses, as our safety
editors will turn multiple witness reports into a single unified accident report.
The extensive road network in Olympic National Forest has deteriorated over the last few years with the reduction in logging intensity and corresponding lack of routine maintenance. The road failures have resulted in destruction of aquatic habitat and reduced access. Repair work and decommissioning has begun with the introduction of a new road management plan in fall 2002.
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