OwSR No. 19: ELK River

Kayaks on the Illinois River

Enjoying the Elk River | Photo: Nicko Hawkins

Quick Facts

  • Managing Agency: Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest (USFS)
  • Designated Stretch: Sources of North Fork and South Fork to the mainstem Elk River down to the conflucence between the mainstem Elk River an Anvil Creek.
  • Designation Length: 28.2 miles (9.7 miles Wild, 1.5 miles Scenic, and 17 miles Recreational)
  • Outstanding Remarkable Values: Fish and Water Quality
  • Wild and Scenic River Designations: October 28, 1988 and March 30, 2009
  • More Photos: Elk River Flickr Album

More Information

Celebrated by Clara Saguto and Nicko Hawkins by exploring the watershed from it's headwaters to the coast on May 26, 2017.


Nicko along the Elk RiverNicko Hawkins: We celebrated the river corridor by exploring the watershed from its headwaters of Copper Mountain all the way to its coast. While driving into its headwaters around copper mountain we found some springs that allowed the illusive pitcher plant to thrive. The Pitcher plant is a carnivorous plant that thrives in areas near springs. We found a couple that you could see the bugs flying around inside the pitcher plant.

It was a great adventure drive as we headed to the Elk from the Rogue through Eden Valley. I had picked up a coos bay district forest service map that was the perfect tool to find our way through Oregon’s Coastal mountains. As we came over the pass and could see Copper Mountain we followed small streams that turned into the South fork of the Elk River.

We followed the south fork a ways and a few miles before the confluence with the North Fork Elk there was a small pond called Laird Lake. As we stopped to check it out we found some other campers walking away with handfuls of trout they had caught. It was at the point in time that we realized that we had not brought any food and we in need of finding some dinner at some point. So we decide to grab a fishing pole and test our luck at this pond hoping to find the luck of the other fishermen. I then tied up a lure on my pole and walk out onto a log that I can cast into the lake from. On the second cast I got a nice bite and brought in an edible 12 in trout. At this point Clara wanted to try so while I cleaned my fish Clara took one cast into the lake. She thought she had snagged the line but then the line started going away from her. She quickly fought it and brought in a nice 3 pound trout. So after three cast we had dinner and were moving down the elk river in search for a nice private camp site.

Clara swimming in the Elk RiverWe found a great place along the mainstem of the Elk River and spent the night listening to the rapid above. In the morning after breakfast and the sun came out Clara and I repelled into the canyon to and swam the tranquil canyon with crystal clear water. After swimming 2 canyons and walking around a rapid we found a place to climb out of the canyon and walk back to our camp. It was a wonderful experience floating in the recreational Elk River.

After Celebrating the Elk I learned that it was designated Wild and Scenic in 1988. The last 2 miles of the North Fork Elk are designated "wild" and the section from the confluence Anvil Creek is designated "recreational." It is designated for having the healthiest native salmon and steelhead runs in the continental united states. There is also the Copper Salmon Wilderness that is located on the north shore of the Elk River and is home to a great selection of old growth forest.

Kayaking on the Elk RiverZach Collier: After a heavy rain I was fortunate to kayak the Elk River from Butler Bar to the Elk River Fish Hatchery with my friend J.R. Weir in 2013. The rapids are generally Class IV and the most difficult rapids were found in one of three mini gorges. The Elk River Road follows this section of the river providing a variety of access poins.

Learn about Oregon Wild and Scenic River No. 20: The Chetco River >>


Northwest Rafting Company Exploratory Division