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An Upriver Journey On The Chetco


The Upper Chetco River has always been off the beaten path, but since the massive Biscuit Fire of 2002 burned through most of the surrounding area, it’s been extremely difficult for rafts and kayaks to access the upper reaches of this river that eventually winds 56 miles down to Brookings on the southern Oregon coast.

That hasn’t stopped guide Alan Wilson though, who decided to take a group of people on an unusual upriver journey—where kayakers pull and carry their boats upstream, over rocks and through rapids—in order to see what the river canyon looked like after the fire.

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Completely clear water,” says Wilson, who grew up in nearby Gold Beach.

“It’s by far the clearest water I’ve ever seen.” The canopy of forest and lush green plant life along the riverbank is also quickly reclaiming the once blackened earth.

Those who want to see the water for themselves are in for a difficult trek, since much of the river is accessible only via a long hike (with a boat in tow) or an upriver paddle. But for thrill seekers like Tim Palmer, the Chetco is the very definition of a wilderness river. 

“It’s not too many places today you get to have a true adventure,” he says. “The earth is so tracked and traveled today it’s rare to have a place—especially in our own state of Oregon—where so very few people go.” 

Want to follow in Tim’s footsteps? Learn more about the wilds of the Chetco from Northwest Rafting.

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