Chetco River


Chetco RiverThe Omnibus Oregon Wild and Scenic Rivers Act of 1988 designated 44.5 miles of the Chetco River as Wild & Scenic, from its headwaters in the Kalmiopsis Wilderness down to the Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest boundary just above Loeb State Park. The designated segment of the Chetco is located within Curry County in southwest Oregon on the Gold Beach Ranger District. The Chetco Wild & Scenic River is divided into three segments:


  • The 27.5-mile Wild segment from the headwaters down to Mislatnah Creek;
  • The 8.0-mile Scenic segment from Mislatnah Creek down to Eagle Creek; and
  • The 11.0-mile Recreational segment from Eagle Creek down to the Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest boundary.

The head of the Chetco River is in the steep, deeply dissected, sparsely vegetated, mountainous terrain of the Kalmiopsis Wilderness. Over its 55.5 mile length, the Chetco River drops from 3700 feet to sea-level as it empties into the Pacific Ocean between the towns of Brookings and Harbor, about 5 miles north of the California border. In the upper section, the river floor is fairly narrow and boulder-strewn with numerous falls and rapids. As the river leaves the wilderness, its character gradually changes. The terrain gradually tempers its rugged steepness, the river gradient gradually lessens, the river bottom widens, and the surrounding hills become more densely forested. The river narrows in several areas, crossing through rock outcrops and leaving enormous boulders in the riverbed. The Chetco River Gorge, just below Steel Bridge, contains steep sides and unusual rock formations. Below this, the Chetco River continues to widen, the water slows dramatically, and sand and gravel bars and raised river terraces become more common.

The Chetco River receives healthy runs of winter steelhead exceeding 20 pounds and fall Chinook salmon exceeding 50 pounds. Licensed fishing and rafting guides and shuttle services are available to float this section on the Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest. The river fishes well when flows are between 2,000 and 4,000 cubic feet/second (cfs) and the levels are receding. Side-drifting for winter steelhead and back-bouncing for Chinook salmon are preferred methods of fishing this stream, although other tactics will catch fish.

Water Quality

 The Chetco River has three Outstandingly Remarkable Values: Recreation, Fisheries, and Water Quality.  Th e Water Quality, in particular, is a spectacular quality of this river, and was selected as an Outstandingly Remarkable Value based on its striking color and clarity, its ability to clear quickly following storm events, its contribution to both recreation and fisheries, and its contribution of exceptionally pure and clean water for the domestic water supplies of both Brookings and Harbor.

Chetco River Chetco River9 Chetco River8 Chetco River7 Chetco River6

General Information


From Medford, take I-5 North to exit 55 US-199/Redwood Hwy. Merge onto US-101/ Redwood Hwy towards Crescent City. Near Jedediah-Smith Park, take the Hwy 197 North junction towards Brookings and proceed north on US-101, which crosses the Chetco River in Brookings. Take a left on North Bank Road to access the river via Loeb State Park. North Bank Road turns into Forest Service Road 1376 which accesses the Forest Service campgrounds, launch points, and day use areas.

General Notes:
  • Mandatory permits are required to float the Chetco for all users year-round. Free self-issuing permits are available at a boat registration station along the North Bank Chetco River Road (Forest Service Road 1376). Motorized boat use is not allowed on any river segment. Motorized vehicle crossings of the river are prohibited.
  • Whitewater floating on the Chetco is limited by a lack of adequate access to the upper areas of the river (especially in the wilderness) during the high flow season. A very limited number of kayakers have floated through the wild segment of the Chetco during high-flow conditions. Rapids are class III and below during the summer months during average flows. During the winter months rapid class is higher depending upon flow conditions. Summer floating during low water conditions has become an increasingly popular river activity on all river segments.


For information about accessible recreation opportunities in Pacific Northwest National Forests, visit


Camping & Cabins

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Water Activities

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