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.
The bridge crosses over a flatwater section of the river and it is about a mile downstream to the Chetco Gorge. Potential access is available on river right downstream of the bridge.
Congested boulder garden rapid.
Tricky lead in rapid to navigate around the massive Conehead Rock that sits at the bottom of this drop.
Alternate access at the old bridge site.
We ran this in early March towards the lower limit of flows (577cfs). It was still plenty of fun. We hiked down the FR 1917-067 spur to Tollman Ranch as we did not have a high clearance vehicle. It took about 45 minutes to walk down. The approximately dozen or so rapids that begin about 1/3 of the way into the run were all great read and run. After a stretch of flatwater and passing under the steel bridge we came to the gorge. There are basically two rapids in the gorge--Candy Cane and Conehead--and then it's over and you have the paddle out. We did not run either drop. Candy Cane was very congested with narrow chutes and water flowing under boulders. Conehead had several rocks sticking up along the right that would have been tricky to navigate at low flow. The spur road described as the take-out in Soggy Sneakers had a massive washout. It would have been possible to hike out (although I expect the road will further deteriorate) but we elected to just paddle another 15 minutes down to the South Fork confluence where you can drive right to the river and have easy access.
I finally got on this run after many aborted attempts; it's a long way from anywhere and I live in So. Or.! Soggy sneakers has the discription of this run nailed. Starts mild,class 2. slowly builds to class 3 then a couple of 4's then back to class 3 then 2 in short order. 1/2 mile past the bridge comes the gorge; eddy-out right to scout/portage. Candy Cane the 1st rapid was a 5 at our flow of 2,400 cfs, beautiful rapid! Conehead the next (last) rapid in the gorge is a long class 5+ (at least in my book) that has to be seen to be believed. Awesome. Not the best run in the neighborhood. (for example the NF of the Smith wins on every criteria of what makes up a great run I can think of) but if your looking for an adventure and don't mind long shuttles on poorly signed dirt roads or portaging over giant boulders this run might be for you or... you could just hike into the gorge and see what all of us on the river that day thought was the highlight of the run.
AW letter in support of Scenic Waterway designation for the Chetco River.
Designating Chetco River and Molalla River as State Scenic Waterways
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Candy Cane from the bottom
Candy Cane lower half
Candy Cane entrance
Tollman Ranch put-in
FR 1376-170 Bridge Site
FR 1376 Bridge
Upper Boulder Gardens
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Last fall the Oregon Parks and Recreation Department (ORPD) solicited input on the designation of a segment of the Chetco River that includes the Chetco Gorge as a State Scenic Waterway. American Whitewater is actively supporting this designation. We encourage the paddling community to attend the meeting and file comments.
The Oregon Parks and Recreation Department wants to hear from you about whether three Oregon rivers should be protected as State Scenic Waterways. Sections of the Molalla, Chetco and Grand Ronde, all of which are well known and loved by Pacific Northwest paddlers, are up for consideration. The agency is seeking public feedback. Comments can be emailed or you can respond to a short survey by October 15th.
Earlier today, Senators Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) and Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) re-introduced a set of wilderness bill including the Oregon Treasures Act, legislation that would protect the Chetco River, Molalla River, Rogue River, and Horse Heaven and Cathedral Rock sections along the John Day River.
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