The Crooked River is famous among Oregon rafters and kayakers because it arguably has the best whitewater in the state and is nestled in a dramatic desert canyon. Due to upstream dams and agricultural diversions, it only has enough water to raft or kayak down it once every few years. This last weekend was one of those special opportunities, so we made sure we were there.
It takes a solid team of boaters to run the Crooked due to it’s solid whitewater and difficult logistics. Val Shaull, a legend in the rafting community, put together a solid team to make the descent. We started by carrying our boats and equipment 1/4 mile from the road down to the river. The river started off with 2 miles of continuous Class IV before it eased up while we floated serenely through Smith Rocks State Park. After Smith Rocks, we paddled many solid Class IV+ rapids including #1, #2, No Name and China Dam. There were countless wonderful rapids the whole way which diverted out attention from the spectacular scenery all around.
We took out just below China dam (which is now a huge rapid that we had to run) and carried our rafts and gear 3/4 up out of the canyon. It took the team 3 hours and everyone made multiple trips with heavy loads.