Chetco 85

In the heart of the Kalmiopsis Wilderness in southern Oregon, the little-known Chetco River flows for 55 stunning miles before reaching the Pacific Ocean near Brookings.

Nestled between two well-known whitewater runs, the North Fork of the Smith River and the Illinois River, the Chetco is often not sought out by paddlers due to its challenging access for boaters, but it is known among fishermen for its trophy salmon and steelhead runs.

There are two options for getting to the Chetco and most choose the 8-mile hike from Babyfoot Lake to start their trip. From there it’s 20 miles of Class IV rapids in a remote river canyon to the closest river access.

I first visited this magical place with some friends in 2011 and absolutely fell in love with the Chetco’s clear water and beautiful canyon. After some research, I learned that this section of the Chetco had been commercially run by Allen Wilson before the Biscuit Fire in 2002 made the access even more challenging. I called Allen to learn more, and with his advice, I was soon applying for a commercial permit to share this special place with our guests.

It took two years of work with the Forest Service before my company, Northwest Rafting Company, was issued a permit to take a handful of people down this river each year. Learn more about our kayak expeditions on the Chetco River here:

About the Author: Zachary Collier

Zach Collier owns Hood River based Northwest Rafting Company. He spends his winters exploring new rivers and summers guiding on the Rogue River. He's paddled and guided trips around the world, but chose to call Oregon home due to the abundance of amazing whitewater rivers.

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These maps and directions are for planning purposes only. You may find that construction projects, traffic, or other events may cause road conditions to differ from the map results. For travel options, weather and road conditions, visit, call 511 (in Oregon only), 800.977.6368 or 503.588.2941.

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  1. Michelle Carrillo says…

    I grew up floating and kayaking the Chetco River and it is stunning! Glad to see a Wild Rivers Coast water trail highlighted.

    Written on May 8th, 2014 / Flag this Comment

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