This is one of the more outstanding runs on the Oregon Coast range that flows through a beautiful forested canyon. At recommended flows the heart of the run is class III with one class IV drop, but be on the look out for wood hazards. It is generally at optimal flows during the winter boating season after a good rain event.
There is an upper section that begins at Drift Creek Falls, and ends at Drift Creek Camp. The combination of a hike in, lack of rapids and a few log portages means this upper stretch isn't a great option for a whitewater trip.
The preferred run begins at the Drift Creek Camp, a retreat center in the Siuslaw National Forest. The first mile and a half is easy class II warm up. As you enter the first gorge section, the gradient picks up and the class III fun begins. If flows are over 1,000 cfs expect this gorge to have class IV push.
After a couple of initial rapids, you come to a horizon line and a class IV rapid. You can pull out for a scout on river right. You have options to go down the right or left channel at the entrance. You finish the second half of the rapid by continuing on down the left hand side.
The run continues with a couple more fun class III rapids before the gorge opens up a bit and the gradient tapers off. Soon the action picks up again and you will encounter more class III rapids interspersed with easier sections of class II.
The whitewater finale comes as you approach a boulder garden rapid. An entrance drop requires you to navigate among a few boulders before you reach a good eddy on river left where the river descends over a bit of a horizon line. It's a good idea to scout the landing zone on this one which is easy to do from river left. The preferred line is a chute to river left between two large boulders, but you need right angle to avoid a rock that is in the runout from the chute.
This rapid continues with one more fun boulder garden stretch that is easy to boat scout before the gradient flattens out. Soon riverside homes come into view and it is a couple of miles of flatwater paddling to the take-out.
Logistics: Just south for Lincoln CIty turn off onto Drift Creek Road at Highway 101 mile 119. Stay right at mile 1.5 on South Drift Creek Road and arrive at the old covered bridge crossing at mile 2.0. The covered bridge is now gone but Drift Creek County Park provides convenient river access on the upstream river left side of the new bridge. To reach the put-in head back the way you came to river right and turn up the hill on South Drift Creek Camp Road. In 0.8 mile you will reach the junction of Forest Road 19 and 17. Stay left on Forest Road 17 (directions in Soggy Sneakers suggest using Forest Road 19 but the vegetation has encroached and high clearance may be necessary as the unmaintained pavement has slumped in several places). At Forest mile 4.8 you will reach the junction with Forest Road 1929 and head 2.5 miles back down to Forest Road 19 and turn left. Follow this road 2.9 miles up river to the bridge across the river that serves as the put-in. Follow the signs for Drift Creek Camp, a retreat center which is at the put-in.
For an alternate route, head south on Drift Creek Road from the take-out (continuing on the road that you used to get to the take-out bridge) and head over the hill 2.5 miles to Highway 229. Head east up Highway 229 4.6 miles and turn onto Forest Road 19. Go 2.4 miles up Forest Road 19, turn left at the Forest Road 19 and 1980 junction to continue on Forest Road 19 and in another 2.5 miles you will be at the put-in. at 1500 cfs.
Here is a trip report at 1,000 cfs and a video at 1500 cfs.
Fun run and free of wood (as of 1/20/15) except for one log that's in play in the class IV drop in the first gorge. 900 cfs was a great flow. Drops were nicely filled in and it was definitely not too pushy. Good fun class III in a beautiful Pacific Coastal Rainforest setting.
The flows are an estimate based off the Siletz River. It can be run higher but it helps to know the run and have a recent wood report.
Permits are not required for this reach.
We have no additional detail on this route.
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Big log in flatwater stretch
Fun Drop in First Gorge
Class IV Drop
Drift Creek put-in
Drift Cr take-out bridge
Drift Creek cascading falls
Drift Cr (OR) put-in
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This week, Oregon House Bill 2835 re-passed the Oregon House on a 52-7 vote. Having earlier cleared the Senate, the bill now awaits a signature from the Governor to be signed into law. For decades, opportunities to protect and improve the ability of the public to access and legally use waterways for recreation have seen minimal progress, while efforts to severely limit access have been a consistent threat. Oregon House Bill 2835 is a pivotal piece of legislation in Oregon, and the first proactive waterway access bill in recent history to have made it through the state legislature.
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