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Oregon’s Wild and Scenic

Chetco River

An ever-green river among the evergreens

5 Day Chetco River Kayaking Expeditions

  • Length: 20 miles kayaking + 10 mile hike / 5 days
  • Date: May 28 – June 1, 2023
  • Activities: Class IV Inflatable Kayaking + Hiking
  • Minimum Age: 16
  • Includes: Professional guides, food, and all equipment
  • Meeting Place: Grants Pass, Oregon
  • Trip Cost: $1995 (max 4 people per trip)

Suberb Trip!

Superb trip in so many ways, hard hike in and river was all one could hope for! It is definitely for the adventurous and anyone that want to be in the moment, a truly gem to be enjoyed and appreciate the wonder of wilderness and our earth!
- David Dates

BinocularsChetco River Kayaking trips are an expeditionary-style journey through tight, intimate green canyons and boulder-strewn rapids in a nearly-uninhabited and almost-entirely untouched part of the country. Glass-crystal pools and small side creeks offer nice counterpoints of rest and recharge during an otherwise challenging-but-loving-every-second-of-it adventure.

In 2011, four NWRC guides embarked on an exploratory trip down the Chetco River. For most of them it was a dream realized. Two years later we received one of only two permits issued to an outfitter and led our first group of guests on an unforgettable, inaugural trip. Now we offer two options to run the Chetco: 1) the Upper Chetco River through the Kalmiopsis Wilderness and 2) the Lower Gorges of the Chetco.

Boots | Chetco RiverA trip down the Upper Chetco doesn’t even begin on the Chetco. It starts with an intense, ten-mile hike through the rugged Kalmiopsis Wilderness, one of the largest wilderness areas in Oregon and, quite possibly, one of the most beautiful places you’ve never heard of.

Traversing through ghost trees and snags, remnants of 2002’s Biscuit Fire, the terrain is both tough and cathartic. And, of course, stunning. By the time you get to the put-in, you’re mentally prepared for the real challenge and beauty that awaits. On many boaters’ bucket-lists, the Chetco affords an experience like no other through its green-glass waters so clear you can see your shadow on the bottom.

While the second trip option down the Lower Gorges of the Chetco by-passes the ten-mile hike, it’s only a slightly easier version of a tough and tough-to-top expedition. For someone who is active but not up for the brutal hike in, the Lower Gorges are a great way to see the river.

Whether you do the Upper or Lower Gorges, we promise your time on the Chetco will be a singular experience. This trip exemplifies our off-the-beaten-path approach to creating the best whitewater wilderness trips in the West.

Chetco River Rhythm

Paddle | Chetco RiverWhile its upper stretches are defined by narrow gorges and boulder-congested rapids, the river begins to transition into a broad channel through lush forestlands the closer it gets to the Pacific. With the wilderness hike at the start, running the Upper Chetco is intense nearly the whole way through, the second day being the most difficult. The Lower Gorges flows at a slightly—and only slightly—easier pace.

Off the rafts

Once we hit camp for the day, we might go for hikes. But being such an adventurous trip, we’re usually happy to relax in camp, talk about the day, and steep ourselves in the solitude and immense beauty surrounding us.

Flora & Fauna

BearBears, Osprey, Bald Eagles, Mergansers, Rattle Snakes, Great Blue Herons, river otters, sturgeon, salmon, deer. Ponderosa Pines, Douglas Fir, Western Hemlock, Madrone, Manzanita, Alder, Willoes and many wildflower. Lots of Bald Eagles and Osprey and of course Bear. Bear encounters here are especially cool because they rarely see people so they are truly curious.

Land Acknowledgement

Our trips on the Chetco River travel through the ancestral, traditional, and contemporary lands of the Chetco peoples. In particular, we we visit land ceded in the Treaty of 1853. We recognize current indigenous peoples and those who were removed from their homelands.

We operate under special use permit with the Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest. Additionally, we are an equal opportunity provider and employer.

Trip Highlights

  • Rugged 10-mile hike through the Kalmiopsis Wilderness
  • Mesmerizing, crystal-clear, blue-green water
  • Expedition-style adventure through extremely remote countryside
  • Many miles of pristine salmon and steelhead habitat

Quick Facts

  • Nestled between the better known Smith and Illinois Rivers
  • Flows through the rugged Kalmiopsis Wilderness
  • Begins on the east side of Chetco Peak Enters the Pacific Ocean at the fishing town of Brookings, Oregon

Trip Reviews

ChetcoUpper Overall rating: ★★★★★ 5 based on 5 reviews.
5 1

Suberb Trip!

Superb trip in so many ways, hard hike in and river was all one could hope for! It is definitely for the adventurous and anyone that want to be in the moment, a truly gem to be enjoyed and appreciate the wonder of wilderness and our earth!
- David Dates

Upper Chetco 2018

I cannot thank NW Rafting enough to have made this trip possible. It’s very challenging, it can be raw and in the moment, but I feel very lucky to have experienced something that very few have. The team has endless energy, pure talent and love for their profession and an all out respect for the area. I personally would do this trip again in a heartbeat but just know you will really have to work for it. The bruises and blisters are still healing a week later...
- Max A.

Upper Chetco

Just finished the upper Chetco with Zach and the gang. If you are looking for a true wilderness adventure and you are willing to earn it, this trip might be for you. If you are looking for just a typical river trip down a new river, this trip is definitely not for you. The Chetco is a hybrid between a mountain climb, a back packing trip, and a river trip. You will want to be in good physical shape to carry the 60+ lb. pack 10 miles to the river. The beginning of the hike is relatively flat with a few moderate climbs, but the real fun starts when you begin the 2000' descent into the canyon. If you have bad knees, unfamiliar with a heavy pack, or are over 40, you will definitely want hiking poles. Throw in a few blisters along with the heavy load and you and your legs will be having a serious discussion by the time you reach camp as to who's idea was it to go on this crazy trip. You are carrying all your gear in and this is where the trip is more like a back packing trip. You will sleep in your boat and put up a tarp if it rains. I thought the meals were great relative to back packing standards. No steaks on the grill! When you get to the river, this is where all your hard work pays off. The water clarity on the Chetco is in a league of its own. You can easily see the bottom 25' down with an emerald green tint from the rocks. The rapids are continuous. Don't worry because you will still get your exercise because you may have to push, pull, or drag your boat in some spots. I found myself occasionally looking upstream to see if anyone was coming down river, there is nobody coming. You are in a remote wilderness and you have the place to yourself. Another good reason to be in shape for this trip in case something would go wrong. Zach and his guides do an awesome job with this trip. They know the river and they know how to take care of their guests. Your biggest concern should be your physical ability. Our trip started with clear skies and temps in the upper 80's and ended with pouring rain and temps down in the 50's. One day due to the conditions, lunch was a cliff bar. You need to be able to laugh and joke when things are not perfect. The Chetco is a one of a kind place and we are lucky that someone had the foresight to protect this river. I hope you get a chance to experience this amazing place and when you tell someone you've been down the Chetco, you will know you have earned it!
- Aaron Darrell

Lower Chetco July 2016

Chetco July 2016 What a novel adventure! The Chetco, a river that many people have never heard of, runs out of the seldom visited Kalmiopsis Wilderness as a small, crystal clear river in a narrow valley. We traveled down the river for three days in inflatable kayaks, weaving around giant boulders, shooting through small chutes and sometimes dragging the kayaks across shallow riffles. No one else was on the river and there were many choice campsites along deeper pools that encouraged swimming at the end of the day. It was a unique experience, unlike any of the other well known river trips in Oregon.
- Jay Nutt

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