Guidebook Title

Little Sandy title
FS 14 to Bull Run River

Little Sandy River info boxFirst off, I have to admit I'm a little biased about the Little Sandy River. When Jason and I did this run in the spring of 2000, we didn't have any information about any other descents. I had scouted the first 1.5 miles and found some very runnable rapids set in a tiny creekbed with almost constant gradient. So we plunged in with both feet and eventually finished the run after paddling the last couple miles in the dark. This run still remains as probably the most adventurous exploratory run I've done. Both physically and mentally demanding, the Little Sandy is a special whitewater trip.

Unfortunately, in 2002 the Little Sandy was included in the Bull Run Watershed Management Unit (Portland's drinking supply) and boating or hiking is not allowed anywhere in the Little Sandy drainage. I hope to get back up on this run sometime in the future but I'll just have to wait and see what happens.

River Description(Kayak/Canoe)
Your Little Sandy adventure begins with trying to figure out how to get 3 miles up the road from the gate to the put-in. Boaters used to be able to drive up the paved road all the way to the put-in but there is now a gate at the main road forcing some creative shuttle logistics or a long uphill hike.

Looking downstream from the bridge at the put-in the river looks tiny as it disappears through some brush and small rocks. Don't despair, the riverbed consolidates just downstream and starts dropping through some tight, technical boulder gardens and small ledges. At anything other than low flows, eddies can be mighty scarce in this section. Almost everything can be boat scouted but it is usually possible to scout the steeper drops.

Shortly after a long slide ending in an abrupt ledge drop, you'll see a big horizon line approaching. This is Meatcleaver Falls, a 30-ft. behemoth with a shallow landing. Make sure to stop early enough to get out of the river. I've portaged this one by lowering boats down the left side of the falls but I've also heard that it can be portaged down the middle at some flows. Below the falls the riverbed gets wider and some small boulder gardens appear.

You'll know you are getting to the big stuff when you encounter a riverwide "L-shaped" ledge. This can be run anywhere but be careful because just around the corner is a tougher ledge drop which should be scouted. There is a small eddy on the left right at the lip of the drop. Portaging is easy if you make the eddy.

You are now in the heart of the gorge and there are more drops than I could possibly describe. Many of the drops are tight and technical and have been known to contain wood. There is also a portage at Funnel Falls so scout carefully. One rapid after Funnel is Leap of Faith, a 10-15' sloping falls. There is one more big rapid after the falls and then the gorge starts to open up and the rapids ease off for the next 5 miles or so. There are a couple really nice suprise rapids in this section.

The first take-out is just after you pass a bridge before the Little Sandy dam (scheduled to be removed in 2007). If you are still feeling like you want a little more, portage the dam and run the last couple miles of the Little Sandy. Turn left at Bull Run River and take-out underneath the next bridge on the left. This makes your hike much easier but the risk of prosecution is higher once you hit the Bull Run.

The usual Class 5 hazards exist on this run. Lots of potential pin spots, wood and steep, blind rapids set in a remote gorge. It is possible to hike out on the left but it's not recommended. Because of the length of the run and the number of rapids, this run is extremely mentally and physically draining. Get an early start if you don't want to finish in the dark.

The biggest hazard is the fact that it is technically illegal to boat the Little Sandy. You can decide for yourself whether you want to risk getting caught.

How to get there
Upper (GPS: 45o24.880'N, 122o10.504'W)-approximate
Lower (GPS: 45o25.701'N, 122o13.953'W)-approximate
To reach the upper takeout, turn north on Ten Eyck road on the east side of the town of Sandy and drive down to Revenue Bridge over the Sandy River. Cross the bridge and continue straight onto SE Marmot Rd. About 3.5 miles from Revenue Bridge you should see a gated road on the left with a "Authorized Personnel Only" sign. This is the take-out. The river is 800 vertical feet and 1.5 miles at the bottom of this gravel road.

To reach the takeout on the Bull Run River, stay on Ten Eyck Rd., turning left after crossing Revenue Bridge and follow for about 1.4 miles. Turn right on SE Bull Run Rd. and follow down the hill to the bridge across the river. There is a parking area in front of the gate to the powerhouse.

Put-in (GPS: 45o24.214'N, 122o01.295'W)-approximate
To reach the put-in, continue on SE Marmot Road another 8.7 miles or so from the upper take-out and turn left on FS 14. There is a gate at the bottom of FS 14 so you'll have to figure out a way to get you and your gear the 4.5 miles up the hill to the Little Sandy. It is not illegal to hike past the gate until you get to the top of the hill and cross into the Little Sandy drainage.

Little Sandy River near Bull Run, OR
Look for flows in the 200-500 cfs range. 300 is good for a first-time run. The gauge isn't as accurate if it hasn't been raining for a couple days.

More Info
Check out Jason's description of this run.

Photo Gallery

Confusion Rapid Leap of Faith Ledges Boulders and more boulders