Salmon River (Clackamas County, Oregon)

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For other places with the same name, see Salmon River (disambiguation).
Salmon River
Oregon Salmon River Clackamas County from bridge looking west P1651.jpeg
At Wildwood Recreation Site, less than 2 miles (3 km) from the river mouth
Country United States
State Oregon
County Clackamas County
Source Mount Hood National Forest
 - location Mount Hood
 - elevation 6,124 ft (1,867 m) [1]
 - coordinates 45°20′09″N 121°42′24″W / 45.33583°N 121.70667°W / 45.33583; -121.70667 [2]
Mouth Sandy River
 - elevation 1,017 ft (310 m) [2]
 - coordinates 45°22′36″N 122°01′49″W / 45.37667°N 122.03028°W / 45.37667; -122.03028Coordinates: 45°22′36″N 122°01′49″W / 45.37667°N 122.03028°W / 45.37667; -122.03028 [2]
Length 33.9 mi (54.6 km)
Mount Hood and vicinity showing the Salmon River (near the bottom center)

The Salmon River is a 33.9-mile (55 km) river in Oregon's Cascade Range and drains a portion of southwestern Mount Hood. The entire length of the river is protected National Wild and Scenic River, the only such river in the contiguous 48 states of the United States.[3] Several portions are in protected wilderness. It is affluent to the Sandy River.


The overall course is sickle-shaped with the point facing north at Mount Hood and the handle facing west. The headwaters are on the Mount Hood's south face at the foot of Palmer Glacier east of Silcox Hut. The canyon is visible most of the year—when not snowfilled—where it crosses the Pacific Crest Trail at 5,980 feet (1,820 m). The river continues directly southward for a few miles and remains east of Timberline Road. As it descends below 4,500 feet (1,400 m), it turns southwest, and continues under Oregon Route 35, elevation 3,600 feet (1,100 m), just east of the junction with U.S. Route 26, and crosses under Route 26 as well.

The West Fork begins in the Timberline Lodge ski area under the Pucci chairlift. It flows south-southwest and is joined by natural cold springs at the 5,000-foot (1,500 m) level, continues south-southwest and crosses under Highway 26 just west of the Highway 35 junction. Just after they cross Highway 26, the West Fork and Salmon River join, and a half mile (1 km) later, the Salmon is joined by the East Fork Salmon River which comes out of a steep valley just north of, and below, Barlow Pass.

The combined river flows directly south through Red Top Meadow for about 3 miles (5 km) and begins meandering slightly through Salmon River Meadows, elevation 3,320 feet (1,010 m). At the south end, the river is joined by Ghost Creek and turns west-southwest for about 4 miles (6 km) before meeting Mud Creek, which flows from Trillium Lake. About 1.5 miles (2.4 km) downstream from Mud Creek, it enters the eastern boundary of Salmon–Huckleberry Wilderness[4]

A steep east–west gorge captures the Salmon River and collects several creeks—Inch, Draw String, Linney—which join it from the south. It turns northwest, flows over a series of waterfalls ranging from 15 to 80 feet (4.6 to 24.4 m) high:[5] Stein Falls and Split Falls, and turns directly north to go 90 degrees counter clockwise around a volcanic prominence. South of the Salmon River, Iron Creek merges with Tumbling Creek and flows over Hideaway Falls a quarter mile south of the junction between Tumbling, Swift, and Kinzel Creeks and the Salmon River, at elevation 2,200 feet (670 m).

OGNB Members at Frustration Falls, Salmon River Gorge
Salmon River in winter

Just after joining with Goat Creek it turns northwest and flows over three closely spaced falls: Vanishing Falls, Frustration (60 ft),[6] and Final Falls, which are at the foot of cliffs to the south. A half mile later, Copper Creek joins from the south and, a mile later, Bighorn Creek joins from the south and the river leaves the wilderness area. About 1.5 miles (2.4 km) later, the South Fork Salmon River—which drains about 25 square miles (65 km2) of rugged mountains northeast of Squaw Mountain—joins a mile above Green Canyon Campground, and enters the last 11 miles (18 km) on a comparatively level grade with occasional short rapids.

It meanders through several areas with houses near Welches and Wemme, then goes through Wildwood Recreation Site which provides educational and recreational experiences. It crosses (again) under Highway 26 and merges with the Sandy River near the community of Brightwood.


The lower canyons have black bear, mule deer, cougar, badger, fisher, and marten. Dense western hemlock, Douglas-fir are mixed with western red cedar, red alder, and vine maple.

The rare Alaska cedar is found in patches around the Salmon River Meadows.[7]

The river is likely named for its abundant anadromous fish: steelhead, cutthroat trout, Chinook salmon, and coho salmon.

Recreation[edit] says

The main body of the river is rated class V - V+ (expert).[9]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Source elevation derived from Google Earth search using GNIS source coordinates.
  2. ^ a b c "Salmon River". Geographic Names Information System (GNIS). United States Geological Survey. November 28, 1980. Retrieved 2012-04-27. 
  3. ^ BLM Oregon: Wildwood Recreation Site - html version[dead link]
  4. ^ Sen. Ron Wyden [D-OR]. "S. 647: Lewis and Clark Mount Hood Wilderness Act of 2007". Retrieved 2012-06-11. 
  5. ^ "Salmon River Gorge, Oregon". Liquid Kayak. Archived from the original on 2007-10-09. Retrieved 2007-08-11. 
  6. ^ "Salmon River Canyon". Oregon Kayaking. 2003. Retrieved 2007-08-11. 
  7. ^ "Exploring Oregon's Wild Areas: A Guide for Hikers, Backpackers, Climbers". Retrieved 2012-06-11. 
  8. ^ "Salmon River Canyon". Oregon Kayaking. Retrieved 2007-08-11. 
  9. ^ "Rivers". Retrieved 2015-01-07.