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
Holbeck & Stanley The Best Whitewater in California
Cassaday & Callhoun California Whitewater
Campground, put-in and take-out.
At high flows this becomes one of the crux rapids.
Photo courtesy of All-Outdoors Whitewater Rafting
Lewis Creek enters on the left.
From above this rapid looks similar to Airplane Turn.
Waterfall enters on the right.
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.
Steep rapid with multiple lines, scout left.
Photo courtesy of All-Outdoors Whitewater Rafting
Beware of the seam that forms in the bottom reversal of this rapid.
Formerly more difficult - this rapid is still high consequence because it is so close to Freight Train. scout right
Trail around rapid on right. You can scout this rapid from the road.
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.
Wooley enters river right downstream of a green bridge, as the Salmon bends to the left.
Take-out on right, down-stream of the bridge.
Alternate take-out or put-in. Oak Bottom playhole at various levels.
Letter from AW advocating for the continuation of USGS gage on CA's Salmon River
Can be run at lower levels (down to about 700 cfs) and much higher if you have huevos.
Permits are not required for this reach.
The California Salmon is located in the beautiful and isolated coastal mountains of California. Cell Phone service is mostly non-existent and GPS can be misleading.
From Sacramento, CA Take I-5 North to Redding, CA, and as you approach Redding asses how adventurous you feel. If you decide that the adventure should be left for the river, or if you are towing a trailer/driving an oversized vehicle then take Exit 678 and merge onto CA-44 West. Take this to its end (about 2.3 miles) and follow the signs for CA-299 West. Wind through the mountains for about 90 miles on Highway 299, and then, in the town of Willow Creek, turn right onto Highway 96 and Follow it north for 45 miles. Turn Right off of route 96 immediately after it crosses the Salmon River onto Salmon River Road. Salmon River Road parallels the river; drive past Oak-Bottom Campground, Brannons Bar, and Butler Creek (alternate put-ins/take-outs). The road becomes a single lane and Nordheimer campground will be on the left about 13 miles from Highway 96.
(Approximately 6.5 hours)
Alternately, if as you approach Redding you decide that any time is a good time for an adventure then continue on I-5 north to Yreka, CA and follow the route below.
From Yreka, CA take the exit for CA Route 3, Fort Jones, Etna. Make two left turns to get on Route 3 and follow it south to Etna. In Etna turn right onto Sawyers Bar Rd/Main Street. Follow this road for about 44 miles to Nordheimer Campground (This is a single lane road; it takes about an hour and 45 min to reach the campground from Etna. The Pavement is good but the road has some significant drop-offs and no guard rails. Please drive carefully.)
(Approximately 2.5 hours)
Note: On a nice day with a good, reliable car I recommend either the Redding/Willow Creek Route or the Yreka Route. From Sacramento they take about the same amount of time.
From the Bay Area take I-80 East to 505 North to join the route above, or take Highway 101 through the towns of Eureka and Arcata (about 280 miles). Take the exit for Highway 299 towards Weaverville/Redding. Follow 299 East for 37 miles to the town of Willow Creek. In Willow Creek turn left onto CA Route 96 and follow it north for 45 miles. Turn Right off of route 96 immediately after it crosses the Salmon River onto Salmon River Road. Salmon River Road parallels the river; drive past Oak-Bottom Campground, Brannons Bar, and Butler Creek (alternate put-ins/take-outs). The road becomes a single lane and Nordheimer campground will be on the left about 13 miles from Highway 96.
(Approximately 7.5 hours)
Freight Train from Above
Cal Salmon Shuttle Road
Freight Train, Left Line
Cal Salmon From Above
Cal Salmon Blue Angel
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