Chetco, Oregon, US
2) Craggie Creek to South Fork (Chetco Gorge)
||III-IV(V) (for normal flows)
Upper Boulder Gardens
Upper Boulder GardensPhoto of Megi Morishita by Thomas O'Keefe © taken 03/04/15 @ 577 cfs
At moderate flows the Chetco has stunningly beautiful crystal clear water. For the first two
miles the river flows through easy class II rapids separated by deep pools.
Keep your eyes open for massive steelhead that return to this river to spawn. As the river turns
to the south, the gradient starts to pick up and you will enjoy a great section of class III/IV
whitewater with over a dozen high quality rapids separated by good recovery pools. The drops are
all boulder gardens with several boulders that tower high overhead but most can be easily boat
The gradient tapers off as you approach the high steel bridge where FR 1376 crosses the river.
This could be a potential access point as a trail heads to the downstream side of the bridge on
river right. It's another mile of flatwater to the start of the Chetco Gorge.
After some class II, you will reach the first class III rapid in the gorge before you soon arrive
at Candy Cane. This rapid is a congested boulder garden of massive rocks swirled with reds and
lighter colors giving the rapid its name. You can pull out on river right to scout the rapid
which requires a sequence of moves over a couple hundred yards to navigate through the boulder
field. Portaging is a little challenging over the boulders and uneven ground but it should just
take a few minutes on river right. As you proceed across the pool downstream of Candy Cane, you
will soon be at the start of Conehead which you will recognize by the massive Conehead Rock that
towers above at the end of the rapid. Scouting is easily done on the right or a portage (easier
than the previous rapid) can be done on river right. The lead-in to the rapid is not hard but the
crux move is at the Conehead where you need to navigate through a series of small boulders that
obstruct the route around the right of the Conehead.
Above 4,000 cfs Candycane and Conehead become big water class V rapids (portageable). At
7,000 cfs this run is a fun/large class III wave train with great surf aside from the two big
Shortly after Conehead, the gorge ends and the river opens up as you paddle through more class II
and open gravel bar rapids. The first possible take-out is at the old bridge crossing (recognized
by old wooden bridge pilings sticking out of the river bed), but an easier take-out is reached by
paddling another 15 minutes downstream to the South Fork confluence.
Below the take-out, the river is primarily utilized by fishermen and there are several additional
access points (Redwood Bar, Little Redwood, Nook Bar, Miller Bar, and Redwood Nature) continuing
on down to the Loeb State Park.
From Highway 101 mile 357.9 in Brookings turn east onto North Bank Road. This road becomes Forest
Road 1376 (mile post 0 is where the double-lane highway ends just before you cross the river). At
mile 7.9 on FR 1376 you will reach the 1376-111 spur just before crossing the bridge over the
South Fork Chetco (this is 15.9 miles from Highway 101). This spur heads down a quarter mile to
the confluence, a dispersed recreation site with abundant parking and easy access to the river
which makes for a convenient take-out.
To reach the put-in, continue up river on FR 1376, cross the South Fork Chetco at mile 8.0 and
turn left at the T junction to continue on FR 1376. At mile 8.5 you will pass a spur road that
heads down to an old bridge crossing (the bridge is long gone) and another possible take-out (the
one described in Soggy Sneakers) but the road is washed out and you would need to hike part way
up. At mile 8.6, turn right to head up on FR 1917. At mile 3.1 on FR 1917 turn left onto the FR
1917-060 spur. Stay on the main spur and avoid all the roads that head off this one to the right
or left and dead-end at logging landings. At mile 4.2 on FR 1917-060 you will come to the FR
1917-067 spur which heads 1.5 miles down to the river. A high clearance vehicle is recommended
for this road or you can park at the top and carry your boats down (it's an easy hike down
that takes about 45 minutes). Tollman Ranch, a private inholding is just across the river from
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Last Updated: 2018-11-28 20:10:08