South Coast Kayaking

Explore Oregon South Coast waterways of Chetco, Coos, Coquille, Lower Rogue, and Coastal Umpqua Rivers.

Explore Oregon South Coast waterways of Chetco, Coos, Coquille, Lower Rogue, and Coastal Umpqua Rivers.

Oregon South Coast Rivers

The spirit of Oregon’s Wild Rivers Coast flows through its waterways, sharing common characteristics, offering similar bounties, yet each one distinct. Whether finding their sources high in the Cascades – like the Umpqua and Rogue – or rising from the rugged Coast Range, like the Coos, Coquille and Chetco, the rivers play a vital role, from wildlife and fish habitat to early-day transportation corridor and sportfishing destination. For local tribes, “everything was about the river,” and this profound connection is still very much a part of their culture. Today the rivers also enjoy a growing popularity with paddlers who have discovered these little-visited gems of Oregon’s Wild Rivers Coast.

Parts of Rogue and Chetco are federally-designated Wild and Scenic Rivers, and the Umpqua, Coos and Coquille flow into wide-ranging estuaries as they near the sea, with inlets, sloughs, channels and quiet back waters to explore. The waterways teem with wildlife as well, and a quiet approach in a paddle craft is the perfect way to get an up-close view. Every season brings its own rewards and experiences in their recreational wonderland – so let’s paddle!

Kayaking the rivers, estuaries, sloughs of Southern Oregon Coast

Kayak launches


Chetco River


44.5 miles of the 55.5-mile Chetco river was federally designated Wild and Scenic in 1988. The 44.5-mile designated segment of the Chetco is located within Curry County in southwest Oregon on the Chetco Ranger District of the Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest. The Chetco heads in steep, deeply dissected, sparsely vegetated, mountainous terrain within the Kalmiopsis Wilderness. Over its 55.5-mile length, the Chetco drops from 3,700 feet to sea-level as it empties into the Pacific Ocean between the towns of Brookings and Harbor, about five miles north of the California border. In the upper section, the river floor is fairly narrow and boulder-strewn with numerous falls and rapids. As the river leaves the wilderness, its character gradually changes. The terrain becomes less dissected, the river gradient gradually becomes less steep, the river bottom widens and the surrounding hills become more densely forested.

Mandatory permits are required to float the Chetco through the Forest Service section for all users year round. Free, self-issuing permits are available at a boat registration station along the North Bank Chetco River Road (Forest Service Road 1376 a short distance past the Forest Boundary).

The Chetco River and its adjacent corridor offer a wide diversity of recreational opportunities. In winter, salmon and steelhead fishing and whitewater kayaking are the primary recreational uses. In summer, fishing, swimming, boating, camping, sightseeing and picnicking are the major attractions. The primary fishing season for steelhead and salmon is between November and March.

The Chetco’s water quality was found to be an Outstanding Remarkable Value based on its striking color and clarity, its ability to clear quickly following storm events, its contribution to both recreation and fisheries, and its contribution of exceptionally pure and clean water for the domestic water supplies of both Brookings and Harbor.


Guides & Outfitters


Rules and permitting are subject to change, currently all boats over 10’ need an invasive species permit with the state of Oregon. Learn more >


Coos River


Fed by more than two dozen freshwater tributaries and spread over nearly 20 square miles, Coos Bay is the largest estuary on the Oregon South Coast, offering a variety of year round paddling opportunities. Ride the tides up sloughs and inlets, launch expeditions along the working waterfronts and around bay islands, or explore the peaceful reaches of Sough National Estuarine Research Reserve, the nation’s first protected estuary.

Estuaries are protected embayments where rivers meet the sea. They support a fascinating tapestry of life – from worms, clams and other tiny creatures buried deep in the mud, to multitudes of young fish and crabs, to dozens of species of resident and migratory birds.

In addition to its many natural attractions, the area has a rich and colorful history, with fascinating remnants of the early pioneer days, as well as traces of Indian culture.

Waterways have always been an important part of Coos Bay’s transportation system, and our coastal rivers serve a wide array of craft, from tugboats, lumber barges and wood chip ships, to US Coast Guard vessels, Army Corps of Engineers dredges, and commercial and recreational fishing boats.


Guides & Outfitters


Rules and permitting are subject to change, currently all boats over 10’ need an invasive species permit with the state of Oregon. Learn more >


Coquille River


The Coquille River is a prized estuary, with tidal influence reaching over 30 miles upriver, second only to the mighty Columbia. Along with one beautiful natural setting after another, paddling treks pass historic homesteads and townsites, a national wildlife refuge, old relic boats, Indian fish weirs and miles of peaceful countryside. Most of the riverbank is private property, but there are eight launch sites, mostly county boat ramps, from the river’s outlet at Bandon to the inland town of Myrtle Point. The most scenic trips utilize the tides in the downriver sections and include a loop trip around the river’s largest island.

As noted, the Coquille is a tidal waterway, so all paddling trips should involve careful consultation of tide charts. Wind is also a factor, with a strong north wind kicking up just about every summer afternoon. Fighting wind and tide is no fun and often dangerous. Trips should be planned in the morning, with favorable tides.

Autumn and winter can bring calm, windless days without a wisp of wind. The estuaries and inlets are smooth as mirrors, inviting paddlers to dip in and enjoy some of the year’s best conditions.

The most scenic Coquille River trip takes off from either Old Town Bandon or Bullard’s Beach State Park on an incoming tide, and goes upriver to Randolph Island and around it, with the tide turning about then for an easy trip back.
Farther upriver, near the communities of Coquille and Myrtle Point, the river is relatively placid in summer and fall, with no rapids or whitewater, making it fun and easy for beginners. During the winter, calm interludes invite paddlers, but beware of woody debris and fallen trees floating in the river.
The river has a fabled salmon fishery, which attracts bank and motorboat anglers during the early fall salmon run. Give them plenty of room. The rest of the year, the Coquille sees few visitors.


Guides & Outfitters


Rules and permitting are subject to change, currently all boats over 10’ need an invasive species permit with the state of Oregon. Learn more >


Lower Rogue River


Another of the South Coast’s nationally-designated Wild and Scenic Rivers, the Rogue starts its 215-mile journey to the Pacific Ocean high in the Cascade Range, near Crater Lake. It’s popular for fishing, swimming, boating, rafting and paddling for nearly its entire length. So popular, in fact, that permits are required to float, boat and paddle along certain stretches. There are Class V rapids in some places, but as it nears the ocean, the Rogue settles down to offer current-assisted paddling through some of Oregon’s most spectacular scenery. At this writing, no recreational permits were required to paddle below Foster Bar.

Out and back excursions in the river’s estuary near Gold Beach can be fun, challenging and rewarding. Tidal influence extends about 4 miles upriver. While the Rogue’s current can be strong, it’s actually a series of pools and riffles.

In summer, a persistent north wind that blows upriver in the afternoon and dazzling sunshine (when the fog burns off) can be important factors to consider. Paddlers sometimes do moonlit tours to avoid the sun’s heat.

Most trips from upriver sites require a vehicle shuttle. There are a handful of easy put-ins/take-outs at US Forest Service campgrounds and other locations. There is a truly remarkable 12-mile stretch downriver from where the Illinois River enters the Rogue where there is no river access. This section flows through Copper Canyon and is on par with many of the countries most amazing river segments.

Whether you start within sight of the ocean or 30 miles upriver, the Rogue River offers paddlers a memorable experience.


Guides & Outfitters


Rules and permitting are subject to change, currently all boats over 10’ need an invasive species permit with the state of Oregon. Learn more >


Coastal Umpqua River


The largest river between San Francisco Bay and the Columbia River, the Umpqua begins as two rivers more than 200 miles inland amidst the snow-capped peaks of the Cascade Range.

The Umpqua is famous for whitewater paddling in its higher reaches, but there’s plenty of fun “lower down” in what locals call the Tideways.
As it nears the ocean, the Umpqua commingles with adjacent Smith River, and the two create a sprawling estuary, offering paddling opportunities without traveling longer distances or doing shuttles.

Like many coastal rivers, the Umpqua was dredged for maritime traffic, with the spoils dumped in specific areas of the estuary, eventually creating islands. These days, spoils are barged out to sea, and the islands have become de-facto wildlife sanctuaries, inviting exploration.

There are also potential side-trips along the peaceful inlets of Smith River. Expeditions can be launched from boat ramps in Winchester Bay, Reedsport, Gardiner and many upriver locations. Customize your paddling experience, depending on your energy and sense of adventure!

The twice-daily tides influence both the Umpqua and Smith as far as 30 miles upstream, so consult tide tables. Tides and currents are strong! Try to paddle at or near high tide, and don’t attempt overly ambitious treks until you’ve familiarized yourself with the river, tides and currents. Be especially careful near the ocean in the Winchester Bay area.


Guides & Outfitters


Rules and permitting are subject to change, currently all boats over 10’ need an invasive species permit with the state of Oregon. Learn more >

Kayaking Tips

Proper planning and preparation will ensure your paddling experience is a positive one. Being knowledgeable about local weather, tides and currents will assist in making good boating decisions. Conditions can change rapidly. Check the current conditions before you hit the water and include them in your trip planning.

There are many in-water hazards to consider; educate yourself about what these hazards are and learn their locations. Understand that new obstacles can arise at any time, such as log ‘strainers’ – downed trees in the water that can be life threatening. As the tide goes out, the water in the rivers moves rapidly, so plan to paddle incoming and slack tides. Pick activities that match your ability, and consider taking classes to improve your skills and knowledge. Wearing a life jacket is critical – adjust it so it’s snug and comfortable. Anticipate the chance of getting wet and dress accordingly, avoid cotton that retains water and accelerates cooling when wet. Wearing bright, noticeable clothing makes you more visible to other boaters. At night, a white light must be shown toward oncoming traffic.

Rules and Laws change periodically. Please visit the Oregon State Marine Board website at oregon.gov for current standards. Or call the Oregon State Marine Board at (503) 378-8587.

  • Wear your life jacket
  • Carry proper safety equipment
  • Preparation, knowledge and skill building is critical to safe paddling
  • Beginners should consider paddling with a companion who knows local waterways and can assist in an emergency
  • Let someone know where you are going and when you will be back
  • Scout for river and water hazards
  • Never grab a stationary object while moving on swift water
  • Stay clear of a motor boats path
  • Position your boat perpendicular to an approaching wake/wave
  • Dress adequately for the water temperatures and weather conditions – avoid cotton
  • Obtain an Aquatics Invasive Species (AIS) permit and carry on board.

Site Conservation: While enjoying the river, be aware of your direct impact on the surrounding area because your efforts will make a difference for the environment. When observing wildlife, allow adequate space so they are not disturbed. Do not remove rocks, plants, or other native objects, as these create habitat for the multitude of species living along these shores.

Waste Removal: Secure your garbage to your boat so that it cannot blow into the water and reserve restroom breaks for designated sites indicated on the maps. Strive to leave an area how you found it, or better.

Fires: Wildfires can dramatically impact the region. Respect local fire restrictions, make fires only where it’s permitted, keep them small and put them out completely.

Invasive Species: Aquatic nuisance species are a serious threat to Oregon’s waterways. Introduction and spread of harmful non-native species can upset the delicate balance of our fragile ecosystems. Aquatic nuisance species are often spread between waterways by hitching a ride on boats and gear. Please wash your boats when switching from one river to the next.

Featured Activities

South Coast

Coquille River Water Trail

Engaging communities on the lower Coquille River to support a stewardship focused water trail from Myrtle Point to Bandon. Locations and times vary. Follow the Coquille River Water Trail’s facebook page for announcements of events.

Myrtle Point, OR

South Coast

Coos Bay Visitor Information Center

Stop in for information on all the things you can see and do in the Coos Bay, North Bend, and Charleston, Oregon area.  The Coos Bay Visitor Information Center is managed by the Coos Bay-North Bend Visitor & Convention Bureau.

50 Central Ave
Coos Bay, OR

Email us (info[at]oregonsadventurecoast[dot]com)

South Coast

South Slough National Estuary

The South Slough National Estuarine Research Reserve (South Slough NERR) is a 5,000 acre natural area located in the Coos estuary on the south coast of Oregon.The South Slough contains upland forests, freshwater wetlands and ponds, salt marshes, mud flats,...

61907 Seven Devils Rd
Charleston, OR


South Coast

South Coast Tours LLC

South Coast Tours can take you on an adventure paddle in the Wild Rivers Coast estuaries and out into the Southern Oregon near shore ocean. Go fishing, wildlife viewing or just simply enjoy the experience of gliding across the waterways...

27436 Hunter Creek Rd
Gold Beach, OR

(541) 373-0487
Email us (dave[at]southcoasttours[dot]net)

South Coast

Bahama Boards

Bahama Boards is a family owned business that has put together a nice lineup of eco friendly surf products and more.  It’s your one stop shop for surf and wellness including rentals (kayaks, SUP, SUP paddles, and wetsuits), surfboard sales,...

650 Ivy Street
Coos Bay, OR

Email us (bill[dot]bahamasup[at]gmail[dot]com)

South Coast

Riverside Market

Find everything you need for your fishing adventure at Riverside market. Rent (or buy) a kayak, purchase one-day fishing licenses, bait and tackle. They also have river toys, food, snacks, ice and firewood for sale. Shuttle service also available.

98877 N Bank Chetco River Road
Brookings, OR


South Coast

Wavecrest Discoveries

Reconnect with nature on Oregon’s South Coast in the “mind-refreshing” nature-based tours and activities by Wavecrest Discoveries. These engaging and enlightening explorations refresh your mind and spirit as you gain an intimate understanding of this scenic, diverse region. Fun and...

PO Box 1795
Coos Bay, OR

(541) 267-4027
Email us (mgiles[at]wavecrestdiscoveries[dot]com)

South Coast

Coos Boat Tours

River boat tours offering historical, scenic and special event tours out of Coquille, Oregon.

Bandon, OR

(541) 999-6575
Email us (btkvet[at]yahoo[dot]com)

South Coast

Wilderness Canyon Adventures

Wilderness Canyon Adventures specializes in intimate guided trips down the Wild and Scenic Chetco River in Oregon’s remote southwestern mountains. The Chetco is a 55-mile stream of gin-clear water that starts in the heart of the Kalmiopsis Wilderness and flows...

95825 N. Bank Pistol River Rd.
Gold Beach, OR


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