North Santiam River Rafting - Trip Itinerary & Details
Near both Portland and Salem, the beautiful North Santiam River offers easy access to whitewater fun. Our North Santiam trips combine lively rapids with enchanting cascade mountain scenery. This beautiful stream provides one of the state's loveliest yet least known raft tours. Flowing from its source high in the Cascades near Mount Jefferson, the North Santiam runs swift and cool through a lovely forested valley.
During spring snowmelt the North Santiam sports many class III to III+ rapids, including Spencer's Hole, Carnivore, and Mill City Falls. During the summer months the North Santiam offers a more relaxing pace, mostly class II+ rapids, and sunny skies. In the fall the water typically rises again, and the class III whitewater returns.
Spring and summer are great times to run the North Santiam, but fall is a particularly nice time to float these waters. The chance for a sunny day remains high, and fall colors and soft light add to the day's beauty. Plus we're usually 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 fall trips may also be treated to the sight of shoals of migrating salmon.
The Pacific Northwest is home to some of the world's most diverse coniferous forests. We see a number of houses on our float, but overall, forests still dominate the landscape. Animal species you may see on your trip include chipmunks and ground squirrels, deer, grouse, and occasionally mink and otter.
Much of the local geology is hidden beneath deep soils, but in places along the way the bedrock is in view, revealing old volcanic rocks that predate the majestic volcanic peaks visible to the east. Also visible along the way are signs of the region's early history, including Mill City, which grew up around a lumber mill founded by John Shaw.
The excitement on the Santiam begins almost immediately, as we encounter a number of small but lively rapids as soon as we push away from our put-in at Packsaddle Park. We'll encounter numerous rapids before we stop for a picnic lunch (on full day trips), but the day's biggest rapids await us after lunch. Spencer's Hole and Carnivore, two of the day's highlights, lie in wait for us a short distance below our lunch stop. And another mile or so downstream we'll run the day's biggest drop: Mill City Falls. (Our 1/2 day trips take out just below the falls, while on our full day trips we continue on downstream.) Below Mill City the river's pace eases, but a number of enjoyable rapids remain to challenge us in the last few miles before our take-out. (We will take out at either North Santiam State Park or at the Mehama-Lyons bridge, depending on water levels.).
Half Day trips
Morning half day trips meet at 9:30 AM* and afternoon half day trips meet at 1:00 PM*. In either case we meet at North Santiam State Park, near Mehama, Oregon.
One Day trips
We meet at 9:30 AM* at North Santiam State Park
Look for a vehicle sporting the O.R.E. logo. Our lead guide will answer questions and help you prepare for your trip.
Your car will remain here if you are taking a full day trip. In the case of a half day trip you will return to your car and follow our van to the boat ramp at Mill City (or half day trip take-out point - a 10 minute drive). In either case our van will then transport you to the trip's launch point.
Once we arrive at our launch site our lead guide will conduct a safety orientation. We'll then all board rafts and be on our way downstream.
Day trips include a stop for a riverside lunch between noon and 1 PM.
We typically arrive at our take-out point around 12:30 PM (1/2 day morning trips) and around 4 PM in the case of 1/2 day afternoon trips and full day trips.** Once we arrive you will be free to be on your way at your leisure.
* Please plan your drive carefully so as to arrive at our meeting place on time. Our guides will attempt to wait for you if you are running late, but circumstances typically do not allow them to wait more than 20 minutes. If you miss your intended trip we will most likely not be able to provide a transfer to an alternate trip, and we are unable to provide a refund for missed trips.
** Many factors influence our timetable, including water levels, winds, and the needs and preferences of our guests. Please consider these times approximate.
- The services of our professional guides and staff.
- Transportation to and from our meeting place.
- A hearty lunch at riverside on full day trips. Lunch is freshly prepared by our guides from the highest quality ingredients. Special dietary needs can be accommodated with advance notice.
- Durable, professional quality rafts and river running equipment, including splash jackets and U.S. Coast Guard Approved lifejackets.
- Waterproof river bags for your personal gear.
Half Day trips
Morning half day trips meet at 9:30 AM, and afternoon half day trips meet at 1:00 PM at North Santiam State Park. We will make our shuttle arrangements there, before going to the launch site. Please have your breakfast (or lunch, in the case of afternoon trips) before we meet.
One Day trips
We meet at 9:30 AM on the day of your trip at North Santiam State Park. We will make our shuttle arrangements there, before going to the launch site. Please have your breakfast before our meeting time.
Morning half day trips typically end by approximately 12:30 PM. Afternoon half day trips and full day trips typically end by approximately 4 PM. (Many factors influence our timetable, including water levels, winds, and the needs and preferences of our guests. Please consider these times approximate.)
From Interstate 5 just south of Salem, take exit #253 and follow highway 22 east (toward Detroit Lake). After about 25 miles take a sharp right onto Santiam Park Rd. (If you find yourself on the outskirts of Mill City you've gone about 4 miles too far). Follow Santiam Park Rd. to where it ends at North Santiam State Park. Look for us in the main parking lot.
Lodging is available a short drive from the river at the Best Western Sunrise Inn (503-769-9579) in Sublimity. Numerous hotels are also available in Salem, 30 minutes west of the river.
Camping is available at nearby Fishermen's Bend Park, upstream at Detroit Reservoir, and north of the river at Silver Falls State Park.
Shuttle specifics vary by day and group. If you're on a full day trip you will most likely be leaving your car at the Park and boarding an O.R.E. van for the ride to put-in. For half day trips we may caravan further upstream - so that you car will be waiting for you at your trip's take-out spot - before we travel by van the the put-in.
In general you will simply need to bring only your own clothing, sunglasses, hat, sunscreen, a change of clothes and a water bottle.
A complete list of what to bring is found here. You will receive a copy of this list when you sign up for your trip.
Fishing on the North Santiam is generally good during summer months for trout, and very good during the fall months for salmon and steelhead. If you would like to fish you will need an Oregon fishing license, which may be purchased at Oregon sporting goods stores or online at the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife's web site.
While in the area consider a trip to nearby Silver Falls State Park. Plan a hike through the old growth forest at Opal Creek Wilderness. Or take advantage of the culture and cuisine of the Portland metropolitan area, just over an hour's drive away.
Guests sometimes ask whether it is appropriate to tip their guide. Tipping is optional, but if your guide did a great job then feel free to thank him or her with a gratuity. The amount is up to you, but tips between 8% and 20% of trip cost are customary.
- Intermediate whitewater in Spring.
- One of our mildest day trips, Summer & Fall.
- Near Silver Falls State Park.
- Close to Portland & Salem.
- Near: Salem
- Trip Length: Half & 1 day
- Meeting Times: 9:30 AM & 1 PM
- Season: Year Round
- Trip type: paddle rafting (oar raft by request)
- Whitewater Rating: II+ to III (novice to Intermed.)
- Suggested minimum age: 6