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Clackamas River

Trip Summary
Difficulty Moderate (Class 3-4)
Half Day
Full Day

6 miles
13 miles
Guided Raft Trips
Blue Sky Rafting
Equipment Rentals
River Trails
Other Resources

Online Guide

Soggy Sneakers

Oregon Paddling

Clackamas River Picture

River Description

Half-day trips
Most half-day trips start at either MP 41 or Fish Creek. There is a raft slide at Fish Cr. but MP 41 also is an easy carry down to the river with rafts. Boaters choosing to begin at MP 41 start out with a bang as Hole in the Wall rapid is about a 1/4 from the launch. There are a couple good play spots from Hole in the Wall to Fish Cr. although most of the play is concentrated in the section of river below Fish Cr. At low water levels, this half-day section is the most navigable for rafts as it is generally less congested with boulders and shallow spots than the section above MP 41.

Full-day trips
From the pool at the put-in at Sandstone Bridge (3 Lynx) boaters have one short warm-up rapid before the river drops through Powerhouse Rapid. At Powerhouse the river drops steeply before banking off a headwall. At high water, the waves and currents in this rapid are powerful but there is a long recovery pool below the rapid. This is the first but not the last rapid on the Clackamas that has a tendancy to flip unsuspecting rafters. At low summer flows most rafters will choose to put-in below this rapid as it is extremely difficult to get through without gettting stuck.

Below Powerhouse the river contains many smaller rapids and great scenery. The Narrows Rapid is a little bigger than others but is a clean run through waves down the middle of the rapid with a good recovery pool. The next significant rapid is Roaring River; named for the tributary just downstream of the rapid. At very high flows Roaring River has a huge wave/hole at the bottom of the rapid and at low flows, it is a mess of rocks. Be careful of the left wall at the bottom which is slightly undercut and has been known to pop rafts.

About a half mile below Roaring River is the next significant rapid, Hole in the Wall, where the river plows into a headwall. The left side of the rapid has an incredibly sticky, swirling eddy which has a tendancy to hold swimmers, rafts, kayaks, wood, etc. for a long time. At anything but low flows, it is nearly impossible to paddle or swim out of this eddy and the swirling current tends to hold swimmers underwater for much of the time. This rapid has the most fearsome reputation on the river but has gotten considerably easier in the last few years. Despite this, there seem to be rafts and kayaks that have trouble here every year and provide rescue practice for all the local rescue professionals. Hole in the Wall is easily scouted from the road and very easy to sneak on the far right.

About a mile below Hole in the Wall, Fish Creek enters on the left. There is a boat ramp here and this is the most common put-in for kayakers looking for a short run. Most of the classic play spots on the Clackamas are located on the 3 mile section of river below Fish Creek. After 2 fun intermediate rapids (Fish Creek and Armstrong) the river pools above Carter Bridge Rapid. There are a variety of lines through Carter Bridge. There are also several good playspots immediately above Carter Bridge and at the bottom of the rapid.

Below Carter Bridge the river enters a pleasant section with great scenery and mostly flat water. Be on the lookout for Slingshot Rapid which is a fun ride through big waves. Just below Big Eddy, a huge pool where the road reappears near the river, is Rock and Roll. At Rock and Roll the river splits around a small island. The right channel looks the tightest but even at low summer flows provides the best line for both kayaks and rafts. Just around the next corner is Toilet Bowl; probably the most memorable rapid in this section. At medium and high flows Toilet Bowl has huge waves that can easily flip rafts and kayaks but is clean of any hazards and has a long recovery pool at the bottom. There is a steep trail up to the road just after Toilet Bowl which is often used as a take-out but most kayaks continue around the corner to Bob's Hole to play on the waves and holes. Although most kayakers take-out up the rocks at Bob's, the river below Bob's Hole contains some fun Class 2 rapids for boaters wanting a longer run. Most rafters continue another 2 miles below Bob's and take-out just below Memaloose Bridge. The section of river from Bob's Hole to just below Memaloose is also becoming more popular as a short beginner run.

What to Wear

Spring TripsWetsuit Picture

Because weather is quite variable in the spring and water is generally cold, we recommend wearing a wetsuit or dry gear most of the year on the Clackamas. The water temp ranges from 45-60 deg.

Clackamas River PictureSummer Trips

Generally the weather is warm and sunny during summer trips. Rafters in the summer are generally found in shorts and t-shirts while kaykers usually wear a splash jacket with light insulation.

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