Salmon - Forks of Salmon to Somes Bar

Salmon, California, US


Forks of Salmon to Somes Bar (Cal Salmon)

Usual Difficulty IV-V (for normal flows)
Length 19 Miles
Avg. Gradient 31 fpm

Freight Train

Freight Train
Photo by Sam Dobson taken 04/28/13 @ 1800 cfs

Gauge Information

Name Range Difficulty Updated Level
usgs-11522500 1000 - 4000 cfs IV-V 00h59m 873 cfs (too low)

River Description

The California Salmon River has something for everyone. This gorgeous Northern Cal River has Coastal Range waters driven by onshore Pacific Maritime airmasses met with steep geography.

Although the entire run is 19 miles, the two most popular sections - which can be linked - are Nordheimer Campground to Butler Creek (Class IV-V 6.4 miles),

and Butler Creek to Brannons Bar (Class IV 3.7 miles).

For the complete run, drive up-stream of Nordheimer campground and put-in just as you enter aptly named town Forks of Salmon and boat the class II from here to Nordheimer. (4.3 miles).

If you haven't had enough when you reach Brannons Bar, continue down-stream to Oak Bottom Campground (1.5 miles Class I-II), or beyond to the Klamath River (4.5 miles) and run the Ikes (.75 miles beyond the confluence Class IV).

Class III, IV, or V sections can be found on the Forks of the Salmon River.

Great camping is available at Nordheimer Campground. Both individual and group sites are available. For more information go to the Forest Service web site or call Six Rivers National Forest (707) 442-1721

For directions to the Salmon River see the Directions tab, multiple routes exists which follow roads of varying size and quality. Use GPS's carefully as they can be misleading.

For more information see the Cal Salmon description on Jason Rackley's Oregon Kayaking site.

Freight Train photo above courtesy of All-Outdoors Whitewater Rafting

Print Guides:

Holbeck & Stanley The Best Whitewater in California

Cassaday & Callhoun California Whitewater

StreamTeam Status: Not Verified
Last Updated: 2014-01-02 17:05:56


Stream team editor

Rapid Summary

Mile Rapid Name Class Features (Legend)
4.3Nordheimer CreekN/APutin Access
5.0Bloomer FallsIVPlayspot Photo
6.0Lewis Creek FallsIII+Waterfall
6.5Morehouse CreekN/AWaterfall
6.8Airplane TurnIV
8.5CascadeVWaterfall Photo
8.7Achilles HeelIV+Hazard
10.2Last ChanceIV
10.3Freight TrainVPhoto
10.7Butler LedgeIVAccess
13.1Gaping MawIV
14.1Wooley CreekN/A
14.4Brannons BarN/ATakeout Access
16.0Oak Bottom CampgroundN/ATakeout Access Playspot

Rapid Descriptions

Nordheimer Creek (Class N/A, Mile 4.3)

Campground, put-in and take-out.

Bloomer Falls (Class IV, Mile 5.0)

Bloomer Falls

Bloomer Falls
Photo by Sam Dobson taken 04/28/13 @ 1800 cfs

At high flows this becomes one of the crux rapids.
Photo courtesy of All-Outdoors Whitewater Rafting

Lewis Creek Falls (Class III+, Mile 6.0)

Lewis Creek enters on the left.
From above this rapid looks similar to Airplane Turn.

Morehouse Creek (Class N/A, Mile 6.5)

Waterfall enters on the right.

Airplane Turn (Class IV, Mile 6.8)

A tree is blocking the center channel. The river right channel is raftable at + or - 2000cfs. At high flows the river left channel opens up enough for a raft.

Cascade (Class V, Mile 8.5)


Photo by Sam Dobson taken 04/28/13 @ 1800 cfs

Steep rapid with multiple lines, scout left.
Photo courtesy of All-Outdoors Whitewater Rafting

Achilles Heel (Class IV+, Mile 8.7)

Beware of the seam that forms in the bottom reversal of this rapid. 

Last Chance (Class IV, Mile 10.2)

Formerly more difficult - this rapid is still high consequence because it is so close to Freight Train. scout right

Freight Train (Class V, Mile 10.3)

Freight Train

Freight Train
Photo of Eric Nies by Eric Henrickson taken 05/19/07

Trail around rapid on right. You can scout this rapid from the road.

Butler Ledge (Class IV, Mile 10.7)

If the flow is above 1800 cfs this rapid can be avoided by taking a small side channel on river left around a gravel bar island.
Use this channel if you are taking out at Butler Creek river access.

Gaping Maw (Class IV, Mile 13.1)

Stay Right

Wooley Creek (Class N/A, Mile 14.1)

Wooley enters river right downstream of a green bridge, as the Salmon bends to the left.

Brannons Bar (Class N/A, Mile 14.4)

Take-out on right, down-stream of the bridge.

Oak Bottom Campground (Class N/A, Mile 16.0)

Alternate take-out or put-in. Oak Bottom playhole at various levels.

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