The Elk River drains from the Grassy Knob Wilderness and Copper-Salmon Wilderness and empties into the Pacific Ocean north of Port Orford and south of Cape Blanco. The Elk River is a nationally designated Wild and Scenic River and supports strong steelhead and salmon fisheries, including a late-arriving run of bright fall Chinook salmon sought after by both gear and fly anglers. Much of the RRSNF-administered section is closed to angling, but the two miles located below Bald Mountain Creek are open on the Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest. In addition, about 13 miles of private lands below Elk River Hatchery are open for trout, steelhead, and Chinook salmon fishing by drift boat. During the salmon and steelhead seasons, updated fishing reports are available by calling the Elk River Hatchery at 541-332-7025.
The Elk River is in Curry County, approximately three miles north of Port Orford, along the beautiful southern Oregon Coast. Designated into the National Wild and Scenic Rivers System in 1988, the Elk River has been given two classifications:
- The 17-mile segment from the confluence of the North and South Fork of the Elk River to Anvil Creek is classified "recreational."
- The 2-mile segment of the North Fork Elk River from the falls to its confluence with the South Fork Elk River is classified "wild."
The Elk River drainage is valued for its fish, wildlife, clean water, scenery, forests and recreation. The watershed is representative of the old-growth ecosystems along the southern Oregon coast. The scenic quality in the river corridor is a result of a combination of the geology, land forms, water and vegetation features. The lower section of the river flows through a steep canyon with exposed rock surfaces, forming an inner-gorge environment. Upstream, the gorge widens slightly, but the corridor remains very steep.
The combination of water, color, exposed rock surfaces, dynamic flow, and relatively undisturbed environment creates an interesting and beautiful landscape throughout the year. The scenic quality of the river corridor draws on these features to create a significant value within the federally protected corridor.
Within the river corridor and surrounding forest live a plethora of different and unique wildlife species, including the marbled murrelet, northern spotted owls, and bald eagles. The forest stands surrounding the Elk River may in fact contain one of the largest populations of marbled murrelets in the lower 48 states.
Perhaps the most remarkable attribute of the Elk River is its outstanding coastal fisheries. The Elk River contains very important populations of resident native chinook salmon, sea-run cutthroat trout, winter steelhead, and some coho salmon. The Elk River provides outstanding species diversity, excellent spawning and rearing habitat, and is also highly valued for its productive commercial and recreational fisheries. Many portions of the Elk River, however, are closed to fishing. Please review the fishing regulations for current closures, limits, and tackle restrictions.
The river itself provides many pools and swimming areas, and there are several dispersed sites along the river corridor. The main attraction to the area is fishing, which is restricted to the first two miles of river corridor.
At a Glance
From Medford, OR, take I-5 North to exit 55 US-199/Redwood Highway. Merge onto US-101/ Redwood Highway towards Crescent City. Near Jedediah-Smith Park, take the Highway 197 North junction towards Brookings and proceed north on US-101, which crosses Elk River approximately 3 miles north of Port Orford. Elk River can also be accessed from the Elk River Fish Hatchery. From US-101, turn right onto Elk River Road (County Road 208).
River and Stream Fishing
- Fish Species: Winter steelhead, fall Chinook salmon, sea-run and resident cutthroat trout
- Fishing Access: 2 X 4, boat
- Fishing Methods: Fly, lure and *bait
- Angling Season: Chinook salmon are best in November; winter steelhead are best in January and February; sea-run cutthroat trout in September and October.
- Depth and Size: N/A-? miles
Oregon state fishing license required. See Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife for more information.
*Bait is only allowed for salmon and steelhead fishing and not allowed for trout fishing.
- Butler Bar Day Use
- Sunshine Bar Day Use
- Elk River Road (County Road 208)
Alerts & Warnings
- Butte Fork Trail Bridge in Red Buttes Wilderness Closed Through July 2023
- Effective 7/27: Forest-Wide Stage 1 Fire Restrictions
- Effective 7/22: Wild and Scenic Lower Rogue River Stage 2 Fire Restrictions
- Understanding Parking and Fire Restrictions on the Illinois River
- Bear-Human Interactions on the Rise!
- Seasonal Alcohol Prohibition on Recreation Section of Illinois River