Canyon Creek, Oregon is a seven mile ride through extraordinary scenery that has earned quite a reputation with kayaking aficionados. The upper two miles provide some of the best class V rapids in the state and should only be attempted by the highly experienced and zealous paddlers. While the upper run is vicious and merciless; the lower five miles are undemanding and hospitable as they glide over ledges and slides in one of nature’s best water theme parks.
Many paddlers choose to pair the lower five mile ride with the Lower Soda Fork class III and IV rapids. If you are beginning with the Canyon Creed run, travel on Hwy 20 east of Sweet Home; the turn off for Canyon Creek is just past milepost 43; turn south and put-in at Black Creek Bridge (approximately 4.9 miles). This run has year-round approachability and a trail provides relatively easy access.
Right out of the gate, the first significant drop is directly downstream of the put-in and around a bend to the left where it drops out of sight. The long stretches of tranquil water between drops allow for plenty of recovery time and are ideal for intermediate creekers. About ¼ mile in is ‘Osprey’, the most difficult torrent on the lower five. Even strong paddlers need to be cautious because this hole is more difficult than it looks, especially at high water.
Below Osprey, the creek mellows out significantly; rapids are farther apart and the creek is wider and less limited which provides the opportunity for paddlers to observe the wider, sunnier nature of the canyon. Kayakers should not let this distract them from the upcoming ‘Constrictor’ which should only be attempted by fearless, talented and/or lucky paddlers.
Just downstream of the Constrictor is the final stretch leading up to the confluence of Canyon Creek and the S. Santiam River. Emerald waters rush between vertical rock walls lined with old-growth Douglas fir to create one of the most beautiful stream scenes in Oregon. The final mile or two is the highlight of the trip down lower Canyon Creek.
Paddlers can take-out at the bridge over Canyon Creek just above the confluence or continue downstream. The float of an additional mile on the S. Santiam River, through Hobbit Gorge, to Cascadia State Park is breathtaking and worth the experience.