The Roaring River watershed is one of the last uncut, roadless areas in the Clackamas drainage. The view from the rim of the rugged canyon is one of the best in the area. The scenery is excellent throughout the run with old growth trees along the banks and rugged rock walls. The rapids are classic boulder gardens with some fun bedrock slides thrown in for variety. The upper section has a great 25 ft. waterfall.
River Description (Kayak/Canoe)
If you've found the put-in trailhead, prepare to shoulder you boat for a 60-90 minute downhill hike to the river. The trail has some good views and some nice forest as it drops steeply down to the river. The rapids start right from the beginning with some Class 3 boulder gardens with a fair amount of wood along the banks and above the river. If you are lucky to have a good water level you should be able to avoid portaging in this section but be careful as the wood shifts around a lot up here. You'll know you are getting to the falls when the river begins to consolidate and a distinctive bedrock ledge appears. Scout the hole at the base of the biggest ledge as it can get brutal at some water levels. Next stop, the falls. This 25 ft. falls is pretty straight-forward but beware the big hit at the bottom. I missed my boof the first time I ran it, went deep, and nearly ripped my shoulder out its socket by not letting go of my paddle. Big fun, though. There is a decent trail around the falls on the right or you can do a "throw and go".
The section below the falls is where most of the good rapids are. The gradient picks up considerably and the rocks get bigger; making for some exciting rapids. Although there is usually no shortage of eddies, the rapids only let off in a few places so it isn't a good place to get separated from gear. Pretty shortly below the falls is an obvious horizon line on a sharp right-hand bend. You'll see a bunch of wood piled up on the left bank. Scout on the right and see if you want to run this tricky ledge drop. Just below the first part of this rapid is an excellent, steep boulder garden. Probably my favorite on the whole run. If you don't want to run the boulder garden you can portage both parts of the rapid on the left.
Below this rapid there are many, many good Class 3-4 rapids with excellent scenery. Be on your toes for the odd piece of wood here and there. Once you hit a long gradual bedrock slide, eddy out quickly on the left. Just downstream is a series of small ledges ending in a very retentive hole. This hole has been known to circulate swimmers for a long time so be sure to set a rope for safety. The entire rapid can be easily scouted/portaged on the left. More great rapids continue from here to the end with some really excellent ledge drops in the last 1/2 mile. When you hit the Clackamas River it will be hard to wipe the grin off your face!
Rafting Note: There is no reason why you couldn't get a small raft down this stretch with an expert crew but the long hike in and the rocky, woody nature of the river would make it interesting. At high water there are very few eddies that would fit a raft which would increase the difficulty significantly. Still, it could be done.
How to get there
Put-In (GPS: 45o11.604'N, 122o02.374'W)