Guidebook Title

Roaring River title
(4.9 miles above Clackamas River--Clackamas River)

Roaring River Info BoxThe 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)
Roaring River doesn't make it easy for boaters. The shuttle is about 35 minutes each way and access to the put-in requires a 3 mile hike down into the canyon. Some years the river has a large amount of wood and at high water a couple of the rapids have very unforgiving holes. Having said all that, Roaring River has some of the best Class 4 rapids in the Clackamas drainage and really is worth all the trouble.

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".

About a 1/4 mile below Parrywinkle Falls the trail from the lower put-in meets the river.This section below the falls is where most of the good rapids are and is where most people put-in. 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 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.

The first time I ran Roaring River there were probably 6 portages. Currently, I've been able to do it with 2-4 portages depending on where you put in. None of the portages are that hard but there is always the possibility of new wood so be on your toes. Watch out for some sticky holes at high water; particularly in the last mile or so.

How to get there
Take-Out (GPS: 45o09.516'N, 122o07.058'W)
The take-out is at the Hwy. 224 bridge over Roaring River where it joins the Clackamas River.

Put-In (Upper Put-in: GPS: 45o11.604'N, 122o02.374'W)
Although it is a long drive to either the lower or upper put-in trail, both are fairly straight-forward if you pay attention. Turn onto Forest Road 4610 6.4 miles east of Estacada (across the highway from Promontory Park). Travel about 7 miles on 4610 and you will be at a distinct split in the road.

Upper Put-in
To reach the upper put-in, turn left at the split (staying on 4610) and travel another 6 miles to the old Lookout Springs campground. Make sure you bring a road and trail map as there are a couple turns along the way and the old campground can be a little difficult to recognize. It is just past an old quarry on the left. If you are trying to run the upper in winter you will most likely hit snow about a 1/2 mile from the trailhead. The trail is to your left about 10 yards from the entrance of the campground. Follow the trail about 3 miles down to Roaring River.

Lower Put-in
To reach the lower put-in, stay straight at the split in the road which is 4611. There are two road junctions to look for. Stay straight at the first 2-way split which is about 1.2 miles from the junction of 4610. Drive another mile and turn right at the major 3-way split. Stay on this road all the way to the trailhead. The road gets really bad about 1 mile from the trailhead. High clearance makes the drive less stressful.

There is a stick gauge a couple hundred yards upstream of the take-out bridge on river-right. A flow of 2.5 is a good medium level. I've run it just below 2' (which was really too low) and just over 3' (which was pretty exciting).
It is really hard to judge flow from the main Clackamas River. I've had medium water at 1300cfs during a flash rain event in August and low water at 3000cfs in winter. Generally you'll want at least 2500cfs on the Clackamas River but pay attention to how hard it is raining. If similar size creeks in the area (Rock Cr., Wa, NF Washougal, etc. are running than Roaring River probably is as well.

You can also look at river at the take-out on Hwy. 224. There aren't a whole lot of tribs upstream so if this section is runnable then you have a minimum amount of water. If all the rocks are covered then you are at a high flow.

More Info
Check out Jason's description of this run. Jason's description covers the bottom section just below the falls.

Also check out a trip report in the blog: First Roaring River Trip of the year!

Photo Gallery

Headwaters Picture Rapids on the upper section Rapids on the upper section Parrywinkle Falls Jason in lower Head Knocker Jason in Maple Hole
Headwaters of the River Rapids on the upper section Rapids on the upper section Parrywinkle Falls Jason in lower Head Knocker Jason in Maple Hole

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