This stretch of the North Santiam River is a classic fall run for mid-Willamette Valley paddlers. Although short, the run contains many fun rapids, a few playspots, and a couple of the hardest rapids on the whole river. At high water both of the harder rapids pack quite a punch. Fall dam releases from Big Cliff Dam make the N. Santiam a consistently good fall paddling destination.
Below the Narrows are several good Class 3 rapids which can contain some big holes at high water. There is a long Class 3-4 rapid just above Niagara. This rapid has some very large waves and holes at high water. Generally the left side of the rapid is more forgiving than the right but be on your toes because there isn't much time below the rapid to recover before the river squeezes down to 5' wide and enters Niagara. At Niagara, the river snakes through sculpted rock walls and ends in a large, turbulent pool. The walls are undercut in places and potholes below the surface create some strange hydraulics.
The left channel below Niagara has some good play waves at some flows and there is one more fun Class 3 rapid before the gradient tapers off; eventually backing up behind Minto Dam. Portage the dam on the right through the fish hatchery and take note of the nasty keeper hydraulic at the base of the dam. The take-out is on the right a couple hundred yards downstream of the dam at Packsaddle Park.
Rafting Note:Portages at the Narrows and Minto Dam require some careful work and getting a raft through Niagara at low flows can require some creative teamwork.
Niagara can be scouted before committing to the run by stopping at Niagara County Park. There is a trail down to the Narrows across from the old store at Little Sweden about a mile east of Niagara County Park. The owners have asked that cars park on the north side of the highway if hiking to the Narrows.
How to get there