Whitewater rafting near Portland

Paddle through rushing rapids on these scenic Oregon rivers.

RiverRafting_04A raft plunges into Husum Falls on the White Salmon River.
Wet Planet via Flickr

Whether you’re a lifelong rafter or have yet to touch an oar, Oregon’s rivers offer plenty of whitewater adventures. You’ll conquer rapids, spot wildlife and experience nature in a new way at these spots for whitewater rafting near Portland.

Whitewater rafting near Portland

Clackamas River

19 miles (30 km) from Portland

The mighty Clackamas River is the largest river on the west side of the Oregon Cascade Range. Offering 47 miles (76 km) of federally protected Wild & Scenic waterway, it flows through the Mt. Hood National Forest. Only an hour from downtown Portland, it also has some of the closest whitewater to the city. Highly popular for half- and full-day excursions, the river is packed with class III+ rapids and wildlife sightings.

When to visit

March through June for larger rapids; July through August for more technical runs

Guides

Blue Sky Rafting, River Drifters

Sandy River

36 miles (59 km) from Portland

The 55-mile (89 km) Sandy River is navigable all the way from its headwaters on Mount Hood to its entry into the Columbia River. The best rafting experience, however, awaits in the Sandy River Gorge. The gorge features 70 foot (21 m) walls dotted with waterfalls and hanging moss. Located an hour east of Portland, this rushing stretch of river is full of challenging class III and IV rapids.

When to visit

March through June

Guides

Blue Sky Rafting, River Drifters

North Santiam River

70 miles (113 km) from Portland

Located 23 miles (37 km) from the state capitol of Salem, the North Santiam River offers a full day of rafting and relaxation. Families will want to visit in August, when the river is relatively calm. For a more intense experience, visit in September or October, when spillover from the Detroit Dam increases the river’s water levels. 

When to visit

August through October

Guides

Blue Sky Rafting, River Drifters

White Salmon River

95 miles (152 km) from Portland

Formed by old lava tubes, the 44-mile (71 km) White Salmon River flows from the glaciers of Washington’s Mount Adams into the lush Columbia Gorge. Unlike many nearby rivers, the White Salmon is navigable almost year-round, making it a popular destination for autumn adventures. A typical half-day trip beings in BZ Corner, Washington, located 90 minutes northeast of Portland. The trip ends at the 12-foot (4 m) Husum Falls, one of the tallest commercially raftable waterfalls in the country. Don’t worry, though — you can skip the plunge if you prefer.

When to visit

April through October

Guides

Ouzel Outfitters, River Drifters

Deschutes River

100 miles (161 km) from Portland

At 252 miles (405 km), the mighty Deschutes River offers plenty of options for visitors of all ages and abilities. First-timers will want to start with a half- or full-day trip down the Wild & Scenic Lower Deschutes. Meanwhile, more dedicated rafters can spend two to five days vacationing on the river. The most popular starting spot, Maupin, is located 100 miles (161 km) southeast of Portland.

When to visit

May through October

Guides

Ouzel Outfitters, River Drifters

More Oregon whitewater rafting destinations

McKenzie River

139 miles (224 km) from Portland

A great choice for beginners, the McKenzie River flows west from Central Oregon toward the city of Eugene. Located two hours south of Portland, the half-day trip is perfect for kids. Gear up for long stretches of placid water peppered with class II and III rapids.

When to visit

April through October

Guide

Ouzel Outfitters

North Umpqua River

187 miles (301 km) from Portland

Visitors to famous Crater Lake National Park can make a slight detour to the North Umpqua. This boulder-strewn river features more rapids per mile than most other waterways. Expect an exciting day of class II and III rapids. More experienced rafters can try the class IV “Pinball” (named for its tendency to make rafts ricochet around).

When to visit

May through July

Guide

Ouzel Outfitters

Rogue River

256 (412 km) from Portland

One of the country’s most celebrated rafting destinations is the Wild & Scenic section of the Rogue River. It offers 40 miles (64 km) of floating, hiking, bird-watching, wildlife spotting and sightseeing of historic lodges and cabins. A typical trip spans three to five days, starting in the Southern Oregon town, Merlin (four hours south of Portland).

When to visit

June through September

Guide

Ouzel Outfitters

Upper Klamath River

291 miles (468 km) from Portland

Skilled rafters love the thrill of navigating 30 major class III to IV+ rapids on the Upper Klamath River. A one or two-day trip typically starts in Ashland, a vibrant Southern Oregon town near the California border.

When to visit

May­ through September


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