Boater’s Wish List for 2013: The Chetco River

Boater’s Wish List for 2013: The Chetco River

The Chetco River’s “magic canyon” below Carter Creek

21 December 2012 | Ashland, OR — The Chetco River has everything a backcountry boater could want. It’s undeveloped and uncontrolled. And it’s upper reaches are remote, wild. Pristine.

Boaters on their way up the Babyfoot Lake Rim on the Trans-Kalmiopsis Route

Over the years, many have hit its headwaters in southwest Oregon’s 180,000-acre Kalmiopsis Wilderness Area, but mostly quietly. To get to the Chetco’s upper reaches, you have to hike — far — with a boat and a few days worth of food and supplies, on your back.

In recent years, various groups of boaters have made it into the Chetco and have come
back with stories of a beautiful canyon, quality whitewater, and crystal clear water. The
Chetco remains, however, one of the most difficult trips in Oregon to accomplish. But the
most challenging part of a Chetco trip isn’t the whitewater – it’s getting to the whitewater.

If it wasn’t already a brutal task, the 2002 Biscuit Fire’s aftermath of falling trees made
the challenge even tougher. Thousands of fire-killed trees stacked in seasonal layers
have made access from Chetco Pass to Slide Creek via Upper Chetco Trail No 1102
impassable.

Bailey Mtn Trail No 1109 to Carter Creek confluence

Now the most convenient access is at the Carter Creek confluence via the Trans-Kalmiopsis Route. That’s a 9-mile hike from Babyfoot Lake. 
Siskiyou Mountain Club volunteers have been working for the last three years to keep the onslaught of falling trees and new brush at bay, and ambitious boaters unafraid of a long, tough hike have been using it to launch their trips.

Boaters who want to help keep the route open in 2013 should join the Club over the three-day Memorial Day weekend (May 25 – 27, 2013). 


  • Meet and network with other boaters who share an interest in running the Chetco
  • See first-hand what trail conditions are like to get into the Chetco
  • Familiarize yourself with the logistics of running the Chetco
  • Learn backcountry tips from seasoned Kalmiopsis trail crew leaders
Zach Collier runs the crosscut

This is a great introduction to navigating the Kalmiopsis’ interior with leading field professionals, as well as a chance to put some sweat equity into the trail.


The Club provides leadership, tools, food and help with transportation. You provide some basic gear. 


Worth the read: 

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