Three beautiful and fun whitewater rivers are an easy drive from Portland, Oregon. The Clackamas, our most popular Portland rafting trip, is less than an hour from town. The North Santiam is just under 90 minutes away, and the Deschutes is a just a bit over a two hour drive from the city.
All three trips are suitable for families and beginners at most water levels. The Clackamas is a class III+ river in the spring and a class III run during the summer months. The North Santiam features class III rapids in the spring and fall and class II+ rapids during the summer. The Deschutes is a class III river.
The Clackamas and North Santiam are notable for crystal clear mountain water and lush green scenery. The Deschutes, a desert river, is well known for sunny skies.
Clackamas River trips: Local residents and visitors familiar with the placid lower Clackamas may be unaware that a short distance upstream await some of the region's best rapids. Powerhouse, The Narrows, Headwall, Slingshot, and Carter Bridge are a few of the many lively class III* we encounter, as is Bob's Hole, site of a well-known kayak competition held each May. (* - A few may be class IV during high water.)
North Santiam River trips: Spring and summer are great times to run the North Santiam, but September and October are our favorite times to float these waters. The chance for a sunny day remains high, but fall colors and soft light add to the day's beauty. And we're treated to a second season of high flows, as the operators of Detroit dam increase the flow from this upstream reservoir (to prepare storage capacity for the coming winter rains). Guests on our September and October trips may also be treated to the sight of shoals of migrating salmon.
Deschutes River trips: The section we run is located in the rain-shadow of the Cascade Mountains, which results in an enjoyably dry and sunny climate. So the weather is often very good, with hot, sunny days the norm. Particularly in the springtime, don't be surprised if the Deschutes is basking in the sun while the Willamette Valley to the west is socked in with chilling drizzle. The Deschutes is very crowded on summer weekends.
Which trip offers the best whitewater?
When it comes to near by trips our most thrilling river is usually the Clackamas. To find the biggest rapids in spring on your best bet in most cases will be the Clackamas (or occasionally the North Santiam, at certain water levels), but for the biggest waves in the middle of the summer your best bet is usually the Deschutes. (This does not mean the Deschutes has the most challenging mid-summer rapids. The Clackamas is more challenging. But the Deschutes usually provides the biggest mid-summer splash.) For September and October trips your best bet is either the North Santiam or the Deschutes.
A Note for Groups
O.R.E. offers round-trip transportation from the Portland region and from Mount Hood resorts to groups by special arrangement. Please contact our office for more information.