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California Rafting Rivers

Northern California is full of whitewater rafting rivers. Most groups concentrate their time on the forks of the American River, but there are many other quality runs in the state. Below is a list of the most commonly run rivers and links to information about them.

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Coast Ranges

Sierra Nevada

Smith River

Scott River

Cal Salmon River

Lower Klamath River

Upper Klamath River

Clear Creek

Trinity River

South Fork Eel

Middle Fork Eel

Main Eel River

Russian River

Rancheria Creek

American River

North Fork American

Middle Fork American

South Fork American

Pit River

Upper Sacramento

North Fork Feather

Middle Fork Feather

North Fork Yuba

Pauley Creek

Middle Fork Yuba

South Fork Yuba

Truckee River

Giant Gap

East Fork Carson

North Fork Mokulumne

North Fork Stanislaus

Main Stanislaus

Tuolumne River

Cherry Creek

Merced River

Kaweah River

Kings River

Upper Kings

Forks of the Kern

Upper Kern

Lower Kern

Southern Oregon

Rogue River

Illinois River

Disclaimer: River descriptions and classifications may change due to natural events that may create new hazards or flows. C-W-R advises that any paddler that uses this site be additionally informed by seeking out local news and updates for changes on this river.

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Rafting California’s Salmon River

Difficulty: Class V
Length: 10.2 miles
Flows: 1000 cfs – 4000 cfs
Gradient: 54 ft/mi
Put-in: Nordheimer Creek
Take-out: Wooley Creek
Season: March – June

The Cal Salmon River is the next step up for rafters that have done the North Fork of the American or the Main Tuolumne and want something more difficult. The Cal Salmon has many Class IV rapids and includes three challenging Class V rapids. The water is clear and the beauty of the bedrock canyon is stunning. Additionally, this run is a long drive from California’s population centers so it is rarely crowded.

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Featured Outfitter

W.E.T. River Trips runs early spring rafting trips on the California Salmon River from mid-march through June depending on flows.

Rafting on California's Salmon River - Cascade Falls RapidThis awesome river is nicknamed the ‘Cal Salmon’ in boating circles to distinguish it from the easier (and more popular) Salmon River in Idaho. There is boatable whitewater on the Cal Salmon above Nordheimer Creek on the main river as well as on the North and South Forks of the Salmon. There is also a great run below Wooley Creek that runs into the Klamath River and its classic big water Class IV rapid Big Ike. Multiple river access points allow the intrepid rafter to paddle any type of rapid that he or she desires. The most popular run is the one from Nordheimer Creek to Wooley Creek described here.

Rafting on California's Salmon River - Bloomer FallsBelow put-in at Nordheimer Campground are some easy warm up rapids that will hopefully prepare you for the Class IV Bloomer Falls. This used to be a dangerous Class V rapid until the Forest Service cleared the channel with dynamite. This made it a Class II rapid until it filled in with sediment and is now an intimidating Class IV drop. Bloomer Falls is quickly followed by the Class IV rapids The Maze, Lewis Creek Falls, and the Class IV+ Airplane Turn.

The action eases up for a while in preparation for the Class V rapid Cascade which has three distinct challenging lines for a raft. Cascade is soon followed by the Class IV+ rapids Achilles Heel and Whirling Dervish as well as many more Class III and IV rapids.

Freight Train Rapid on the Cal SalmonThe juice of the trip are the Class V rapids Last Chance and Freight Train which occur around mile six. Last Chance is a straightforward rapid that leads into a meaty boat flipping hole. The “boat-flipping-hole” is particularly important here since Last Chance is immediately followed by the Class V rapid Freight Trainwhich would make a horrible swim. Freight Train is a long, steep, fast, and powerful rapid that ends in a narrow chute. This is one of those rapids that you will never forget whether you have a perfect run, or swim it from top to bottom.

Below Freight Train is a Class IV+ rapid (and river access) at Butler Creek. For the next few miles the action eases up with the occasional Class III and IV rapid. One rapid of note is Gaping Maw, a long and complex rapid with big holes that is definitely worth scouting. Many trips that have flawlessly run the Class V rapids above have had problems with “the Maw.”

The take-out is at a bridge which crosses the river just past the confluence with Wooley Creek. The river is mostly class II below Wooley Creek.

If you’re interested in pictures and the perspective of an inflatable kayaker, check out cacreeks’s Salmon River description.

For more informationa about the Cal Salmon, go to AllAboutRivers.com

Directions

To Nordheimer Creek (put-in): There are many options for reaching the Cal Salmon depending on where you’re coming from. Most people that raft the Cal Salmon come from Sacramento or the San Francisco Bay area and will start by driving north on Interstate 5 to Redding.

From Redding take Highway 299 west through the wonderful hamlet of Weaverville and along the Trinity River. Once you reach the town of Willow Creek, hang a right on Highway 96 (north). You’ll follow the Trinity River for a while, and at Weitchpec you start traveling up the Klamath River. Once you pass Orleans, you should start paying attention for a bridge that crosses the Salmon River. Just past this bridge at Somes Bar, hang a right on Salmon River Road. There are many river access points along the Cal Salmon river with plentiful parking. The normal put-in for this run is at Nordheimer Creek Campground.

Outfitters

All-Outdoors

Bigfoot Rafting

Bio Bio Expeditions Worldwide

Blue Sky Rafting

Living Waters Recreation

Momentum River Exeditions

OARS, Inc.

Outdoor Adventures, UC Davis

Redwoods & Rivers

River Dancers

Rogue Klamath River Adventures

Rubicon Whitewater Adventures

Turtle River Rafting Company

Tributary Whitewater Tours

W.E.T. River Trips

Whitewater Voyages

Wilderness Adventures

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Disclaimer: River descriptions and classifications may change due to natural events that may create new hazards or flows. C-W-R advises that any paddler that uses this site be additionally informed by seeking out local news and updates for changes on this river.

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Rafting the Grand Canyon of the Colorado River

Difficulty: Class IV
Length: 277 miles
Flows: 8,000-50,000 cfs
Gradient: 16 ft/mi
Put-in: Lee’s Ferry
Take-out: Lake Mead
Season: Spring through Fall

A rafting journey through one of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World is highly coveted and hard to come by. The Grand Canyon is the longest rafting trip in the United States, and definitely one of the most spectacular as well. While thousands of tourists visit the Grand Canyon , and some even venture down the nine steep miles to the Colorado River, it is said that the only way to really experience the Grand Canyon is to float through it.

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With limestone walls rising over 1000 feet from the canyon floor, side hikes to crystal-clear, turquoise swimming holes, incredible wildlife, and house-size rapids, the Grand Canyon is a one-of-a-kind adventure. From relaxation and quiet moments of observation, to heart-pounding, adrenaline saturated drops, such as the most famous rapid, Lava Falls, the river takes its travellers from one extreme to another. Many people say a whitewater vacation on the Grand Canyon is a life-changing experience, and everyone agrees it is definitely the experience of a lifetime.

People can choose to experience the Grand Canyon in a variety of watercraft. For more excitement, opt for a hardshell kayak, inflatble kayak, whitewater canoe, or a rubber raft. Three women even river boarded all 300 miles during the winter and made a film about it, Three Women, Three Hundred Miles. Dories can also be a delightful experience, and are rarely seen on other rivers, so many people say natural wooden dories are their first choice. Large, mortorized rafts are an option for less athletic and less adventureous travellers.

The waiting list for permits is temporarily closed for private boaters and a new system is currently being negotiated. During peak summer dates, there is often a two or three year wait to reserve a spot on a commercial trip. So, if the opportunity arises for you to join a Grand Canyon trip, drop everything you’re doing, pack your bags, and head to Arizona.

For more information about rafting the Grand Canyon, check out allaboutrivers.com’s Colorado River page.

Directions

There are several places that private boaters and commercial trips put-in and take-out along the Colorado River. The most popular put-in is Lee’s Ferry. It is also the only place in 700 miles along the Colorado River that you can drive your car right up to the river. Many trips consider Phantom Ranch the easiest half-way point. If there are people looking to leave or join a full-length trip, they can hike in and out of the Grand Canyon on Bright Angel Trail from the South Rim. For a full 277 mile trip, the take-out is Lake Mead.

Directions to Lee’s Ferry Put-In:

From Phoenix – Head east on I-40. Take the Hwy 89 North exit toward Page/ Grand Canyon. Continue 110 miles. Turn left onto Highway 89A toward the North rim of the Grand Canyon and continue for 15 miles. You will cross the Colorado River. Keep going for 9 more miles. Turn into the Glen Canyon/ Lees Ferry Recreational Area.

From Las Vegas – Take I-15 North. Exit on Highway 9 toward Hurricane. In Hurricane, just follow the signs to Lake Powell/ Highway 59. In the town of Colorado City, the highway number changes to Highway 389. Don’t be alarmed! Just continue until you reach Fredonia. Turn right onto Highway 89A. Follow Highway 89A and see directions above.

From Page – Highway 89 South 29 miles. Turn right on Highway 89A and follow the directions from Phoenix.

It is recommended to hire a shuttle service to the Lake Mead Take-out.

Canyon REO is a great shuttle service that offers full-service on your Grand Canyon trip. They can also do food drops and equipment rentals.

Outfitters

Arizona Raft Adventures

Arizona River runners

Canyon Expeditions

Canyoneers

Colorado River and Trail Expeditions

Diamond River Adventures

Grand Canyon Expeditions

Hatch River Expeditions

Moki Mac River Expeditions

O.A.R.S.

Outdoors Unlimited

Tour West

Western River Expeditions

Wilderness River Adventures

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Disclaimer: River descriptions and classifications may change due to natural events that may create new hazards or flows. C-W-R advises that any paddler that uses this site be additionally informed by seeking out local news and updates for changes on this river.

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Rafting the Eel River in California

Difficulty: Class III
Length: 53 miles
Flows: 1,000 cfs – 10,000 cfs
Gradient: 13 ft/mi
Put-in: Dos Rios
Take-out: Fort Seward
Season: Jan – June

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The main Eel is one of the few long overnight rafting trips in California. The flow depends on rainfall and runs during the winter, spring, and early summer. For most of the run, the river follows an old railroad track, but the scenery is good. After rainstorms, the water is muddy, but during the late spring and early summer, when the rains have ceased, the water becomes a beautiful greenish-blue.

Eel River below Dos RiosThe main fork of the Eel River is usually run from Dos Rios to Alderpoint or 6 miles further to an easier take-out at Fort Seward. This run usually takes 4 days and allows time to explore the great tributaries and side creeks that flow into the Eel the entire way down. The Eel could be the longest continuous run in California for an advanced group of boaters. Starting at Estelle Creek on the Black Butte River, then continuing on the Middle Fork of the Eel and down the Main Eel all the way to the Pacific Ocean. The last part of the run from Fort Seward to the Pacific is mostly flat, but adding this stretch can easily turn the Eel into a 10-day wilderness run.

The Fort Seward take-out has the best gauge for the run since it gives the cumulative flow from Dos Rios down. The Middle Fork gauge does not give an accurate picture of the Main Eel run since there are so many tributaries adding water along the way.

For more information and pictures of the Main Eel, check out CaCreek’s descriptions and photographs.

See allaboturivers.com for more details about rafting the Eel River.

Directions

The shuttle is long and it is highly recommended to hire a shuttle. Gloria at Eel River Shuttles 707-926-5252 is a great driver or you can try the Alderpoint General Store 707-926-5408. The rate in 2002 was $135 for a full shuttle from Dos Rios, or $60 for half shuttle where you pick up the driver in Alderpoint. Shuttle drivers change often in this area.

To Dos Rios (put-in): To reach Dos Rios, from highway 101 head east on Covelo road. Go 16 miles to a bridge where the road crosses the middle fork. There is a parking lot near the bridge and where an old road leads down to a gravel bar on river left. It is nearly impossible to drive down to the gravel bar, so plan on carrying your gear.

To Fort Seward (take-out): From put-in go back to 101 and head north. Take the exit towards Garberville/ Redway and turn left onto Redwood Drive. Take a right on Alderpoint Rd. After 18 miles, you will have to turn left to stay on Alderpoint Rd. Stay on this Road to get to the town of Alderpoint where there is an alternate take-out. Otherwise, stay straight on Alderpoint Rd. which turns into Fort Seward Rd. and takes you to the best take-out.

Outfitters

There are no known outfitters on the Eel at this time.

Friends of the Eel River puts together private trips to teach people about the river and river conservation.

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Disclaimer: River descriptions and classifications may change due to natural events that may create new hazards or flows. C-W-R advises that any paddler that uses this site be additionally informed by seeking out local news and updates for changes on this river.

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Rafting the Middle Fork of the Salmon River in Idaho

Difficulty: Class III – IV
Length: 100 miles
Flows: 650 cfs to 8000 cfs
Gradient: 28 ft/mi
Put-in: Boundary or Indian Creek
Take-out: Cache Bar
Season: May – October

The perfect summer river trip meanders and plunges through the remote Frank Church – River of No Return Wilderness deep in the heart of Idaho. Although it is not the most difficult, nor the longest whitewater trip, it is without a doubt one of the most spectacular. Side hikes to beautiful hot springs, incredible camps, and waterfalls cascading down the canyon walls into the river make a journey down the Middle Fork a one-of-a-kind, but hopefully not a once-in-a-lifetime, experience.

Boat on the Middle Fork of the Salmon RiverThe Middle Fork is an amazing vacation for people of all ages and abilities.

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A trip on the Middle Fork usually begins at Boundary put-in, water levels permitting. Since it is an entirely free-flowing watershed, the flows vary significantly throughout the year. When the water drops too low in the summer, or gets too high in the spring, then Indian Creek, twenty-five miles downstream, becomes the put-in of choice. Flights to Indian for you and all your gear (including your boats if you are on a private trip) are available on Salmon Air and McCall Air.

Woolard Camp on the Middle of the SalmonThe first quarter of the river is the most continuously difficult whitewater and can be very technical at low water. From Boundary put-in, to the alternate Indian Creek put-in, the river descends 40 ft/ mi. and has very few slow spots. Velvet Falls, Powerhouse Rapid, and Pistol Creek Rapid have all been known to give boaters a hard time every now and then. Sheepeater Hot springs makes a great place to camp or stop and relax for a couple hours.

After Indian Creek (and the Airstrip) there are several fun class III rapids including Marble Creek and Tappan Falls, interspersed with incredible riverside hot springs This is also the section of the river that passes (and if you are very lucky, stops at) the luxurious Middle Fork Lodge.

Until you reach the Flying B Ranch and Airstrip, the river maintains a strong current, and there are some fun class II ripples, but no significant whitewater. Immediately following the Flying B are the Haystack Rapids. At low water, the rapid is very rocky and technical.

The canyon constricts and the river heads into a deep, wonderful granite-walled gorge for the last twenty-five miles. This steep and narrow section, from Waterfall Creek Rapid to Devil’s Tooth Rapid, is many boaters’ favorite. Around every bend there is a waterfall or creek flowing into the main channel, Bighorn sheep are often spotted high up on the cliffs, and the rapids are frequent.

After Rubber Rapids and Hancock Rapids, the Middle Fork joins with the Main Salmon and ends with a giant bang right before take-out. The largest rapids on the river, Cramer Creek Rapids, were formed during a flood when Cramer Creek plunged into the Salmon River and changed a class II ripple into a significant class IV drop. After six days of being on the river, rafters and duckiers (in inflatable kayaks) are delighted by the grand finale.

Private permits are very competitive and drawn on a lottery system. You’ll need to go to the Forest Service website for more information and application forms.

There is another extensive write up with great pictures of the Middle Fork on CAcreeks’s Middle Fork of the Salmon page. Also, check out allaboutrivers.com for more information on rafting the Middle Fork Salmon River.

Directions

Most people that run the Middle Fork go with an outfitter because the logistics can be quite staggering. If you go with an outfitter, you can fly to Boise and then to Stanley where you will meet your head guide. At the end of your trip you can fly from Salmon, ID (near the take-out) to Boise and then from Boise home.

If you are organizing a private trip, you’ll most likely be hiring a shuttle service to shuttle your cars from Boundary Creek to Cache Bar. If you decide to fly your gear and friends to Indian, you’ll want to fly in from Salmon, ID to make your shuttle easier.

McCall Air – Air shuttle service based in McCall, Idaho

River Shuttles – Car shuttle service based in Salmon, Idaho

Salmon Air – Air shuttle service based in Salmon, Idaho

To get to Boundary Creek Launch Site (put-in): Get yourself on Highway 75 Latin Stanley and head west. You’ll go 24 miles from Stanley and turn north on a poorly marked dirt road (USFS Road 597). This road will take you through some beautiful scenery. You’ll drive through a big meadow and take a right onto Road 568. From here it’s 13 miles to Boundary Creek Launch Site.

This is a very heavily used launch so please work with all of the other parties to get your boats down the ramp.

To Indian Creek (alternate put-in): During high water and low water most groups fly into Indian Creek, 25 miles down river from Boundary Creek launch site .You’ll want to call Salmon Air or McCall Air to help you do this.

To get to Cache Bar (take-out): You’ll end up at Cache Bar which is basically the end of the road. As you leave the boat ramp, take a right onto the dirt road which will take you up the Main Salmon River. Just before the town of North Fork is a free Scat machine and trash dump. Take a right on Highway 93 in North Fork which will take you to Salmon and then Stanley along the Salmon River.

Outfitters

ARTA River Trips

Action Whitewater Adventures

Adventure Guides

Adventure Sun Valley

Aggipah River Trips

Canyons Incorporated

ECHO River Trips

Far & Away Adventures

Hughes River Expeditions, Inc.

Idaho River Journeys

Idaho Wilderness Company

Ken Masoner’s Whitewater Adventures

Mackay Wilderness River Trips, Inc.

Middle Fork Rapid Transit

Middle Fork River Expeditions

Middle Fork River Tours

Middle Fork Wilderness Outfitters

Mountain Travel-Sobek

O.A.R.S. Dories

River Odysseys West, Inc.

Rocky Mountain River Tours

Solitude River Trips

Warren River Expeditions

Wilderness River Outfitters

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Disclaimer: River descriptions and classifications may change due to natural events that may create new hazards or flows. C-W-R advises that any paddler that uses this site be additionally informed by seeking out local news and updates for changes on this river.

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Rafting the Upper Sacramento River

Difficulty: Class II+ to III+
Length: 8.25 or 12.5 miles
Flows: 800 cfs – 5000 cfs
Gradient: 58 ft/mi
Put-in: Sims Road
Take-out: Pollard Gulch or Mosquito Creek
Season: March – June

With its headwaters beginning near 14,162 ft majestic Mount Shasta, the Upper Sacramento River is one of those river gems that offers roller coaster waves, beautiful side creeks, deep green pools, moss covered cliffs, and cascading water falls set in a lush river canyon.

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Directions

To Sims Road (put-in): From Sacramento or the Bay Area, travel North on Interstate 5 to the Sims Road exit, exit 718 which is approximately 40 miles North of Redding, CA. If you are traveling South on Interstate 5 from Medford, Oregon, the Sims Road exit is 21 miles south of Mt. Shasta City. From the exit, it is a short 1/2 mile drive to the put-in which is on your right just past the rail road tracks. Do not cross the bridge.

The river access is under the bridge down an access road. Put-in space is limited so patience is needed on those busy holiday weekends. You can also put-in across the river near the Sims Campground and foot bridge on your right, river left. However, the river bank is steep so use care and beware of poison oak.

To Pollard Gulch (8.25 mile run take-out): Take-out for the 8.25 mile stretch is at Pollard Gulch off Interstate 5 at exit 712, Pollard Flat. There is a forest service road leading down to the take-out (limited parking). Watch for the Pollard Gulch River Access sign after exciting I-5.

To Mosquito Creek (12.5 mile run take-out): This access is a little difficult to find. Take the Dog Creek/Vollmers exit off Interstate 5, exit 707. From the exit there are a couple of roads to choose from. Look for McCardle Flat Road. Once on McCardle Flat Road drive approximately 1.25 miles staying to the right all the way to a flat which is the parking area. Park here not down the road to the actual take-out area as space is limited. Only two vehicles can load rafts/kayaks and equipment at a time. Again be patient and practice river courtesy.

At this take-out you will have to cross the railroad tracks. Use caution, listen and watch for fast moving trains. Again this take-out area is hard to find so watch for vehicles in the parking area as you approach. Better yet, ask someone who knows where the take-out is at the Sims put-in before doing your shuttle. Who knows, you maybe able to follow them to the take-out.

Camping/Lodging

Camping is available at the Sims campground across the river from the put-in or at Castle Crags State
Park approximately 6 miles north of Sims Road on Interstate 5. Lodging and meals are available in Dunsmuir 12 miles or Mt. Shasta City 21 miles north of Sims Road on I-5.

Outfitters

Living Waters Recreation

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Rafting the Truckee River

Difficulty: Class III (one IV)
Length: 6 miles
Flows: 800 cfs – 2500 cfs
Gradient: 25 ft/mi
Put-in: Boca
Take-out: Floriston
Season: April – August

The Truckee is great beginner run if your in North Lake Tahoe, Truckee, or Reno and looking for something fun to do on a hot summer day. The rapids are fun and the river is cold. The river follows Interstate 80 for much of its course which detracts from the quality of this run although it is hardly noticeable until the end.

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The Truckee begins as the Upper Truckee up near Carson Pass and flows into Lake Tahoe. Water is released from the far end of the lake at a dam which controls the lake level and provides reliable summer releases. There are many options available for renting rafts for the scenic Class I float from the dam to River Ranch. Below here are many miles of river that a kayaker or small rafter may enjoy, but the best rafting section of river begins near the confluence of the Truckee with the Little Truckee below Boca Reservoir.

The whitewater below put-in is mostly Class II and III boulder dodging. The one rapid of note is the Class IV rapid Bronco which occurs just before take-out and is visible from Interstate 80. It can be scouted while leaving a car at take-out. Class III paddlers will typically portage along the nearby railroad tracks.

Below Floriston the river is runnable all the way through Reno. The three diversion dams have been known to be run, but are very dangerous. Consult Creekin.net’s Truckee River Page for more information, stories, and logistics about the Truckee River below Floriston.

The Truckee River runs through Reno, which is the site of the new whitewater park. The new $1.5 million park is a mecca for kayakers, but also has some surf holes that could be fun for a raft. The increasing popularity of the park will bring more Reno-ites into the rafting world and on the Truckee River.

Directions

To Boca (put-in): Drive seven miles east of Truckee and then north to the river. You can put in on the Little Truckee or the main Truckee depending on how you feel. If you’re coming from Reno drop a car at the Floriston exit on your way up Interstate 80 and take the Boca exit for put-in.

To Floriston (take-out): Get yourself on Interstate 80 and head towards Reno. You’ll see the Truckee River. Take the Floriston exit and park by the bridge. If you end up in Reno you’ve gone way too far.

Outfitters

Tahoe Whitewater Tours

Tributary Whitewater Tours

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Rafting the Illinois River in Oregon

Difficulty: Class IV+ (one V)
Length: 32 miles
Flows: 1000 cfs – 3000 cfs
Gradient: 24 ft/mi
Put-in: Miami Bar
Take-out: Lower Oak Flat
Season: December – May

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Rafting the Illinois River is an amazing experience. The river is best known for its amazing scenery, crystal clear water, outstanding rapids, and rain. The Illinois River is similar to the Rogue River except that has better rapids, is more beautiful, and much less crowded. Many seasoned river guides consider the Illinois as their favorite river in the world.

The Illinois River is not rafted as often as the Rogue since there is no dam upstream of put-in. The amount of water in the river is directly related to rain. If it rains too much the river can rise to an unsafe level (above 3000 cfs) within a couple of hours. The river can also drop below runnable levels after a few days without rain. This makes a trip challenging to organize since trips are often cancelled due to high water, low water, or potential bad weather. The extremely high quality of this river trip far outweighs the potential of a cancelled trip.

A river permit is required to float the Illinois River and can be obtained free of charge in front of the Selma Market in Selma, Oregon. There is a self registration booth in front of the market that is open 24 hours a day. At this time, and unlimited number of private permits is available. There are only two commercial outfitters on the Illinois River and each is given one start per week.

Most groups will put-in at the Miami bar campground. There are restrooms here, but no drinking water. The first few miles are fairly flat and several creeks add water to the river. Just below York Creek are the two Class IV drops York Creek Rapid and Clear Creek Rapid. A few miles below these rapids is the Class IV Pine Creek Rapid with the famous “Boat Eater” in the right channel. There is a wonderful campsite on a high bench just below Pine Creek Rapid.

The next ten miles have many Class III rapids and good campsites. The best campsites are at Klondike Creek and Deadman Bar. This section of “scenic” river ends when you see a large pink boulder on the right which signals the beginning of the gorge. Just below the pink boulder is Red Rock Bar which would make an excellent campsite or lunch spot for a small group.

Green Wall Rapid on the Illinois River in OregonThe gorge below here contains one of the best sections of whitewater in the world. It begins with the Class IV rapid Preludewhich has a steep drop on the left side. Prelude is quickly followed by the Class V drop Green Wall which should be scouted on the left. A few rapids past Green Wall is Little Green Wall which has been know to give overconfident rafters quite a bit of trouble. There are several more miles of fun Class III and IV rapids below here including the famous Submarine Hole. This is an exciting Class IV rapid that has a reputation for flipping boats on either the right or left wall at the bottom. Be especially careful at Submarine Hole at low water.

A mile below Submarine Hole, the rapids ease up and Collier Creek enters on the left and an amazing campground is just downstream. The last ten miles of the trip contain some great campgrounds and fun class III rapids. The scenery below Collier Creek is unmatched on any river. The river has a magical feel to it in this lower canyon. You can float all the way to the Rogue or skip some flatwater and take-out at Lower Oak Flat.

Directions

Most groups hire a shuttle service and drive directly to put-in at Miami Bar. The shuttle drivers will meet you at put-in and drive your cars to take-out on a prescribed day. The Illinois shuttle can be quite complicated so this makes life much easier. The shuttle services in the area are quite affordable and professional.

Historically, most rafters have used Galice Resort to run their shuttles. You can call them at (541)476-3818 to reserve a driver. Another option is to contact Sharon at Affordable Shuttles at (541)479-1042 or toll free at (866)HUGGINS. Sharon can also be reached through email at sharonl@affordableshuttles.com.

To reach Miami Bar (put-in): Get yourself on Interstate 5 and head to Oregon. You’ll enter Oregon and drive through Ashland and Medford. In Grants Pass take Highway 199 west towards Crescent City. You’ll drive 23 miles to the town of Selma where you can register for your river permit in front of Selma Market. In Selma hang a right (north) onto Illinois River Road, which is also Forest Service Road 3504. Take this road about seven miles before veering left. The dirt road willl travel about nine more miles before descending down to the Illinois River at Miami Bar.

To reach Lower Oak Flat (take-out): Most groups will pay a professional shuttle service to get there cars to take-out. If you’re too poor for this or bored, follow these directions.

Since Bear Camp Road is usually covered in snow when the Illinois is running, most groups will take Highway 199 further west to the wonderful metropolis of Crescent City. In Crescent City take a right (north) on Highway 101 and drive fifty miles to Gold Beach. In Gold Beach, drive up the south side of the Rogue River for 34 miles until you cross the Illinois River. Just past the bridge you’ll hang a right on Road 450 which leads to Lower Oak Flat.

Outfitters

ARTA Whitewater Rafting

Sundance Kayak School

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South Fork of the American

Difficulty: Class III+
Length: 20.5 miles
Flows: 800 cfs – 10,000 cfs
Gradient: 23 ft/mi
Put-in: Chili Bar
Take-out: Folsom Lake
Season: April to October

The South Fork of the American River is the best day run in the United States due to its super fun and extremely safe rapids. It is also close to both Sacramento and the San Francisco Bay Area.

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The reliable summer releases from Chili Bar Dam make it possible to raft the American River through September. The entire run from Chili Bar to Folsom lake is 21 miles and can be done in one long day, but most people will take two days to enjoy the scenery and wonderful rapids. The two runs on the South Fork are referred to as Chili Bar (Upper) and “the Gorge” (Lower).

Featured Outfitter

The Chili Bar run starts where Highway 193 crosses the South Fork of the American River. The best place to put in is at the Chili Bar Resort (on river right below the bridge) where they will charge you parking and river use fees.

There is a fun surf spot right at put in that will fill a bucket boat with water if you have any luck. The river starts with Meatgrinder which is a challenging Class III rapid that is not any fun to swim. You will soon be tested by Racehorse Bend, Maya, Triple Threat, and finally Troublemaker which usually lives up to its name. The great thing about Troublemaker is that the cameras are rolling and there is usually a crowd of people waiting for some trouble. Troublemakeris followed by several miles of Class II rapids, including the Gremlin and Old Scary. Most Chili Bar trips will take out at Camp Lotus where you will be charged for parking and take-out fees again.

The Gorge run picks up at Camp Lotus where the Chili Bar run left off. It starts with six miles of Class II rapids including Current Divider and Highway Rapid. When you see the Lollipop Tree (a tree shaped like a lollipop) for a third time you’re about to enter the Gorge.

The Gorge starts with Fowler’s Rock which is a Class III rapid that has great potential to “wrap” or flip a boat. Following Fowler’s are Upper Haystack, Lost Hat, Satan’s Cesspool (be sure to smile for the cameras again), Scissors, Bouncing Rock, Hospital Bar, and Surprise.

The trip ends on Folsom Lake where you will get a good work out by paddling across the reservoir. Wimps can pay one of the towboats for a ride. Private boaters take out on the right above the Salmon Falls bridge and commercial outfitters take out on the left after the bridge.

Salmon Falls was a town famous for a 20 foot waterfall that stopped salmon from spawning in the upper reaches of the South Fork. The town and the falls were covered and destroyed by Folsom Lake.

If you’re interested in pictures and the perspective of an inflatable kayaker, check out Creekin’s South Fork American description.

Directions

To reach Chili Bar from Sacramento: Get yourself on Highway 50 and head east towards Placerville where you should hang a left(north) on Highway 49 . After a mile on Highway 49, take a right onto Highway 193 which descends down to the river.

From Chili Bar to Camp Lotus: Get yourself Back on Highway 49 and head north towards Coloma. Just past the Marshall Gold Discovery Park you will take a left on Lotus Road. Take Lotus Road for a 1.5 miles to Bassi Road where you will take a left. Camp Lotus is about a mile down Bassi Road on the right. You’ll have to pay a fee to enter, camp, or use the river access.

From Camp Lotus to Salmon Falls: Exit Camp Lotus by taking a left on Bassi Road, left on Lotus Road, and then left again at Highway 49. Follow Highway 49 for about eight miles until you see Salmon Falls Road on the left. It’s easy to miss so pay attention to road signs at the top of a small grade. You’ll take a left on Salmon Falls Road and another immediate left which will still be Salmon Falls Road. It’s about seven miles to the Salmon Falls Bridge. Private boaters will want to park on the left before the bridge as commercial companies park on the left after the bridge.

To reach Salmon Falls from Sacramento: Head East on Highway 50 and exit left (north) on to Eldorado Hills Blvd which will turn into Salmon Falls Road after you cross Green Valley Road. Keep going until you cross Salmon Falls Bridge where private boaters will want to park on the left after the bridge.

Outfitters

Action Whitewater Adventures

Adventure Connection

All-Outdoors

American River Recreation (ARR)

ARTA Whitewater Rafting

American Whitewater Expeditions

Beyond Limits

California Canoe and Kayak

Chili Bar Outdoor Center (CBOC)

Current Adventures Kayak School

Disabled Sports USA

Earthtrek Expeditions

Environmental Traveling Companions (ETC)

Fluid Dynamic Kayaking

Gold Rush Whitewater Kayaking

Mariah Wilderness Expeditions

Mother Lode River Trips

Mountain & River Adventures

Nonesuch Whitewater

O.A.R.S. Inc.

Outdoor Adventures, UC Davis

Outdoors Unlimited, UC San Francisco

River and Rock Adventures

River Mountain Action (RMA)

River Dancers

River Runners

Rock-N-Water

Rubicon Whitewater Adventures

Sierra South Mountain Sports

South Bay River Rafters

Tahoe Whitewater Tours

Tributary Whitewater Tours

University of Nevada, Reno

W.E.T. River Trips

Whitewater Connection

Whitewater Excitement

Whitewater Voyages

Wilderness Adventures

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Rafting the Rogue River in Oregon

Difficulty: Class III (one IV)
Length: 35 miles
Flows: 1000 cfs – 30,000 cfs
Gradient: 15 ft/mi
Put-in: Grave Creek
Take-out: Foster Bar
Season: Year Around

The Rogue River is one of the original eight rivers designated as “Wild and Scenic” by Congress in 1968 for its amazing beauty and wilderness. The Rogue below Grave Creek is described by many as “floating through a zoo” due to the plentiful bald eagles, osprey, deer, bear, chinook salmon, steelhead, and wildflowers. The river has many fun Class II and III rapids with long pools in between. This is the best river in the world for families to enjoy and is a delight in an inflatable kayak.

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Trips that float the Rogue River below Grave Creek require a permit issued by the Bureau of Land Management. Permits are issued on a lottery system, but can also be issued on the spot if you’re lucky and a cancellation occurs. Visit the Rogue River Permit web site for more details.

Many trips begin their Rogue River trip at the Grave Creek river access. Groups looking for a longer trip will put-in at Alameda Bar four miles upriver of Grave Creek. The Grave Creek put-in has an Oregon style concrete boat ramp and plush restroom.

Just below Grave Creek are the class III rapids Grave Creek Rapid and Grave Creek Falls which make a great warm-up. Past Grave Creek Falls is a mile and a half of slow moving water. The largest (and most dangerous) rapid of the trip, Rainie Falls, comes at the end of a long pool. A distinct horizon line warns rafters of this large Class V rapid.

Rainie Falls is an unforgettable rapid. The main drop on the left is a six foot falls into a frowning hole and long boil line. The main drop is rafted occasionally, but is well known for flipping boats and sending people for a long and scary swim. There are two alternate options to the main drop. Most seasoned river guides will take their boats down the “mid chute” just right of the main drop. This is a Class IV maneuver through a narrow chute and a large drop. Most boaters will bump their way down the class III “fish ladder” on the far right side.

Rafting groups will typically spend their first night on the river below Rainie Falls near Whiskey Creek and Rum Creek. There is also a good campsite on the right just below Tyee Rapid, but it is very popular among commercial outfitters and usually claimed early in the morning. There are few campsites in the six miles between Tyee Rapid and Horseshoe Bar.

Below the difficult Class III Tyee Rapid are the fun class III rapids Wildcat, Slim Pickens, Upper Black Bar, Lower Black Bar, and Horseshoe. There is a wonderful lodge at Black Bar that is the only lodge option in the upper half of the canyon. There is good at Battle Bar and Missouri Bar. A cabin that was previously occupied by the author Zane Grey is on the right just past Battle Bar.

The next place of note is Mule Creek and the Rogue River Ranch. This is a hard place to miss due to the well used sandy beaches and numerous people. There are several good campsites here that are typically occupied as many groups lay-over here. There is a wonderful museum and horseshoe pit that is maintained by the BLM at the ranch. An emergency four-wheel drive road leaves the canyon at Rogue River Ranch.

Soon after Mule Creek is the beautiful Mule Creek Canyon and its vertical rock walls on both sides. The canyon is about half a mile long and is quite intimidating due to the rock walls which create strange currents. There is not much room to maneuver in the canyon, so strong skills are necessary in order to avoid slamming into the walls.

At the entrance of the canyon is the Class III rapid Jaws which requires solid boat handling skills. A swim at Jaws would not be fun due to the rock walls, currents, and boils in the canyon below. The other rapid of note is Coffee Pot, a turbulent class III rapid in the heart of Mule Creek Canyon. Most trips pull over in an eddy on the right just past Coffee Pot to admire the cascading waterfalls of Stair Creek.

Soon after Mule Creek Canyon is Blossom Bar Rapid which is the biggest drop of the trip. This Class IV drop has several different lines at different water levels and is known for wrapping boats on the right side in the notorious “Picket Fence.” Confident Class IV boaters will enjoy the challenge of this rapid. Most groups will choose to scout this rapid by walking down the right side and looking down on the rapid from the cliffs.

After passing Blossom Bar the river changes character. Immediately following Blossom Bar is the Class III rapid Devil’s Staircase. There are manymore good Class III rapids ahead, along with several amazing lodges. You’ll see the occasional jet boat during the summer months.

The river canyon opens up and you soon pass by Paradise Lodge on the right which is a great place to stop for some ice cream, beer, or toilet paper at a “Rogue River” price. Some rafting groups will stay at the lodge instead of camping to enjoy the wonderful ambiance of the lodge. Just down river of Paradise Lodge is Half Moon Bar Lodge which is more secluded and quite a bit nicer. There is a five hole golf course on the airstrip as well as many other amenities.

Past Half Moon Bar there are wonderful campsites at Solitude and Tacoma. Clay Hill Lodge, Peyton Place Lodge, and Illahe Lodge are scattered along the river and an option for boaters. One of the better side hikes of a Rogue River trip is up Tate Creek which you will pass during this last section of the trip. Take-out is at Foster Bar which has a scat machine, garbage dump, and concrete ramp.

If you’re interested in pictures and the perspective of an inflatable kayaker, check out Creekin’s Wild and Scenic Rogue River description.

Directions

Most groups will drive to Galice and hire a shuttle driver to drop them off at either Grave Creek or Alameda Bar. The shuttle driver will then drive their car to the take-out at Foster Bar. The shuttle can take anywhere between two and five hours depending on which road is open so this is a good option.

Historically, most rafters have used Galice Resort to run their shuttles. You can call them at (541)476-3818 to reserve a driver. Another option is to contact Sharon at Affordable Shuttles at (541)479-1042 or toll free at (866)HUGGINS. Sharon can also be reached through email at sharonl@affordableshuttles.com.

There are three ways to drive between put-in and take-out if you choose to drive your own shuttle. Once the snow melts, most groups will travel via Bear Camp Road which is the quickest route. When Bear Camp Road closes or before the snow melts there is an alternate route via Eden Valley. The longest option is to drive along the coast via Crescent City and Highway 199. The shuttle drivers are all very aware of the best route at a given time.

To reach Grave Creek (put-in): Get yourself on Interstate 5 and drive to Oregon. You’ll drive through Ashland, Medford, and finally Grants Pass. Take Exit 61 and head west towards Merlin. You’ll pass through Merlin and Galice and the road will change names from Merlin Galice Road to Merlin Road and you’ll finally be on Galice Road. A few miles past Galice you’ll drive by Rand which is where you can pick up your river permit. Just past Rand is Alameda Bar which is an excellent alternate option for put-in. Most groups will continue down Galice Road and put-in just below the bridge at Grave Creek.

To reach Foster Bar (take-out): Most groups will use a shuttle driver, but if you’re strapped for cash and want to drive your own shuttle, ask the nice people at Rand for a shuttle map and current road advice when you pick up your permit.

Outfitters

 

ARTA Whitewater Rafting

Echo: The Wilderness Company

Morrison’s Lodge

NOAH’S RIVER ADVENTURES

O.A.R.S. Inc.

Orange Torpedo

Rogue Klamath River Adventures

Rogue River Raft Trips

Rogue Wilderness, Inc.

Sundance Kayak School

Turtle River

Whitewater Warehouse

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