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River Shuttle Services:

Hells Canyon Shuttle, Inc
Located in:
Oxbow, OR

More Details
Our Website
Hell’s Canyon Shuttle, Inc. is a family owned business and has been providing the rafting community of Hell’s Canyon dependable sh (more...)

Paddlesports Shops:

Tumalo Creek Kayak & Canoe
Located in:
Bend, OR

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Tumalo Creek Kayak and Canoe has the largest selection of whitewater kayaks, sea kayaks, recreational kayaks, paddleboards and can (more...)
site home  :: self guided home  :: U.S. river guide  :: Rivers in Oregon  :: McKenzie River Oregon  :: South Fork McKenzie River Whitewater Kayaking & Canoeing Trip

South Fork McKenzie River Whitewater Kayaking & Canoeing Trip on the McKenzie River

South Fork McKenzie River Info
Use this information at your own risk. See our legal notices.
Put In:  French Pete Creek
Take Out:  Cougar Reservoir
Difficulty:  Class III , Class IV at 3500+ cfs
Gradient:  81 fpm
Run Length:  8.5 miles
Current Streamflow:  703 cfs @ 12/14/2016 10:00 AM - SO FK MCKENZIE RIVER ABV COUGAR LAKE NR RAINBOW OR, reading taken from USGS
Good Level:  1,500 cfs, 3,500 - 4,500 cfs
Streamflow Comments: 

At low water, this run is great for intermediate paddlers with a solid roll. At high water this section is one continuous rapid and should only be paddled by expert paddlers.

Season Comments:  January, February, March, April, October, November, December
Primary Season: 

This only runs after a few days of hard rain.

Permit:  None presently required
Character/Similar To:  Continuous whitewater with the possibility of strainers. The road is a short distance up the canyon giving the river a isolated feeling. High water levels make a fun big water run.
Hazards:  Scout for wood. This section at high water is class V
Water Craft:  kayak,wwcan,raft
Land Ownership:  Forest
Wilderness:  Yes
Location:  In the Pacific Region (OR), of
Shuttle Logistics: 

Take Out: From Oregon 126, take the exit towards Cougar Reservoir, follow this road to the top of the dam. Drive along the west bank of the reservoir until you reach a boat ramp near the other end of the reservoir.

Put In: From the take out, follow the road about 8.5 miles and put in on the right near French Pete.

South Fork McKenzie River on the McKenzie River

The South Fork of the McKenzie is not a typical tributary of the McKenzie River. This section of river is the hardest tributary of the McKenzie. At low flows, below 2,000cfs, paddlers can expect fun class III+/IV- rapids with short pools in between. This is a great run for paddlers that want to make the first step into class IV boating.

After a few days of heavy rain, when flows go beyond 2,000 cfs, this section of river becomes continuous class IV+/V. Pools between rapids no longer exist and logs become a major hazard. Some of the rapids can be scouted from the road, but read and run skills are a necessity on this run at all water levels.

When you reach the confluence with French Pete Creek get ready for a long rapid containing large waves and sticky holes. This rapid is followed by a mile of calm whitewater. The next significant rapid is down in the reservoir. Look for two 90 degree right hand corners that can be run to the inside.

After a long day on the river stop at Cougar Reservoir Hot Springs before the drive home.

Last Edited by bradgoet on 1/25/2012

Towns near South Fork McKenzie River Kayaking

Albany Oregon
Bend Oregon
Eugene Oregon
Gresham Oregon
Lebanon Oregon
Redmond Oregon
Roseburg Oregon
Salem Oregon
Sisters Oregon
Springfield Oregon

Other Resources

Conservation Organizations
  • Rogue Riverkeeper
  • Water Watch
  • Pacific Coast Kayak Clubs
  • Lower Columbia Canoe Club
  • Oregon Kayak and Canoe Club
  • Oregon Whitewater Association
  • POCO - Paddlers Of Central Oregon
  • Willamette Kayak and Canoe Club
  • Travel Guides
  • Oregon Vacation & Travel Planner