My fond feelings towards the Sandy Gorge trace back to my first run through the gorge. I was scouting potential runs for commercial rafting and the guidebook made the gorge sound interesting. I was in town from Colorado so I didn't have any boating partners but figured I'd go slow and scout by myself and probably be o.k. I have memories of leaning out over a 50 ft. cliff trying to scout Boulder rapid, and being overwhelmed with the magical feeling of being in this beautiful place.
After probably close to 50 runs through the gorge, I still love the feeling of isolation and beauty of the gorge. Although the rapids can hand out a beating, they are generally easier than they look if you know them a little. This is truly one of Oregon's classic boating runs.
In 2007, the Marmot Dam and the Little Sandy Dam were removed. Currently, the BLM is developing the old Marmot Dam site for recreation but the area remains off-limits to vehicles. Eventually there should be good access for beginning or ending a trip as well as other rustic amenities.
River Description (Kayak/Canoe/Raft)
When Badger Creek enters on the left about 3 miles from the '64 Logjam put-in, get ready for Boulder rapid. There is also a prominent rock outcropping on the left at Badger Creek. Below Badger Creek there is a long rapid that ends in a big pool above Boulder rapid. Boulder is unmistakable and one of the coolest places I've seen on any river. There are two distinct lines at Boulder. Most folks take the narrow right side slot but there is also an interesting left side line. Boulder can be portaged by staying far left until you run out of water. If you decide to run the left, scout carefully, as the right side of this slot is undercut and has a rock sieve about halfway down.
Shortly after Boulder is Rasp Rock rapid. Rasp Rock begins with a river-wide ledge that is usually run down the middle. About 30 yards after the ledge the river narrows dramatically and is divided by 2 large rocks into 3 slots. Rafts will want to take the middle slot but canoes and kayaks can run any of the slots. Rasp Rock rapid can be scouted from either side of the river by eddying-out after the ledge.
Drainhole is next up. Here the river starts out left, slams into a huge boulder and takes a 90 deg. turn to the right. The trick is to start left and then cut right to avoid the boulder and the hole immediately next to it. This is easier than it looks but gives a lot of boaters the heebie-jeebies. Scout Drainhole from either side of the river. It is easy to avoid the whole rapid by portaging a short distance over the gravel bar on the right.
After another 1/2 mile of gorge scenery, the gorge opens up as the river flattens out. Don't relax too much as Revenue Bridge rapid is only another 1/4 mile downstream. Revenue seems to change a little bit each year but there is usually a tough line down the far left side, and a couple exciting lines through the rocks in the middle. Either way you go it helps to stay upright. After a short pool, the river drops through some fun, big holes and finally calms completely under Revenue Bridge, the take-out.
How to get there
Put-in (GPS:45o24.481'N, 122o14.082'W)
There is also a trail down to the river just above '64 Logjam rapid. To reach this trail continue on the main road to the next gravel road to the east on the right. The trail begins at the end of this road.
Boaters looking to extend the Gorge run or get some warm-up boating before reaching the Gorge can put-in upstream at Marmot Bridge; just downstream from Brigthwood. (GPS: 45o23.024'N, 122o2.766'W)
Pictures and a short trip report can also be found on the blog: Oregon Paddling blog
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