OWSR No. 22: River Styx

Kayaking Carter Falls during the Upper Clackamas Whitewater Festival

The River Styx | Photo: Zachary Collier

Quick Facts

  • Managing Agency: Oregon Caves National Monument and Preserve (NPS)
  • Designated Stretch: 0.4 miles above the cave entrance to the cave entrance
  • Designation Length: 0.4 miles (0.4 miles Scenic)
  • Outstanding Remarkable Values: No managment plan but geology, wildlife, and recreation are mentioned
  • Wild and Scenic River Designation: December 19, 2014

More Information

Celebrated by Zach Collier on July 31, 2017 by hiking up the River Styx on the Discovery Cave Tour at Oregon Caves National Monument.


Entrance to the cave which contains the River StyxJ.R. Weir: "Of course it’s been run before" we thought, as we prepared to paddle Sucker creek (downstream of the Wild and Scenic River Styx), under a canopy of branches dripping with moss. Just like so many other exotic, wild creeks that flow in and around the Kalmiopsis Wilderness and the Illinois River basin, there is little or no whitewater information to be found. For us this was a glorious first descent!

Sliding into the water on a light blanket of snow, Zach and I entered the current and were swiftly carried away by a cacophony of splashing waves. Weary of hidden wood hazards and conscious of the water levels spiking around us, we set ourselves to the task of exploring and soaking in this rare experience.

Sucker creek is a little known tributary of the Illinois River and the character is primarily class 2-3(P)(creek) with easy access. We encountered wood in a few places including one gnarly log jam, about half way down, that necessitated a portage on river left. With the juicy flows that we had, wood hazards were sneaky and paddlers are reminded to stay on their guard.

The natural beauty in this part of Oregon is extraordinary and the region has a scenic flavor all its own. Amid forests of fir oak and alder, Sucker creek wends through banks festooned with Dark ferns and pale moss.

With takeout nearly in sight, I paddled furiously to catch the last good surf wave of the day. Crossing the shoulder, I ripped a couple of wide turns before settling into the sweet spot and leaning back. Motionless, with current racing beneath my boat, time slowed. The familiar wave of surreal calm washed through me and I hovered amid the chaos allowing my lens to widen in scope. Gazing upstream at the misty creek, within a frame of lush vegetation sprinkled with snow, I felt the truth of river magic and thought: "this is why we’re here."

Entrance to the cave which contains the River StyxZach Collier: After a trip down the Rogue River I drove to Oregon Caves National Monument to learn more about the Wild and Scenic River Styx. It's a beautiful 45 minute windy drive up Sucker Creek and Cave Creek from the town of Cave Junction.

To see the River Styx you need to take a guided "Discovery Cave Tour" offered by National Monument rangers. This 90 minute tour begins with a quick safety briefing before hiking up the River Styx. There is a walkway above the river that takes you into the cave and keeps visitors from walking in the water. After 10 minutes of walking along the river the tour veers off to other parts of the large cave system.

Learn about Oregon Wild and Scenic River No. 23: Whychus Creek >>


Northwest Rafting Company Exploratory Division