OwSR No. 5: Sandy River

Sandy River

The Lower Sandy River | Photo: Michael Hughes

Quick Facts

  • Managing Agency: Mt Hood National Forest (USDA Forest Service) and Salem District (BLM)
  • Upper Sandy Designated Stretch: From Dodge Park to Dabney Park
  • Upper Sandy Designated Stretch: From its headwaters to the Mt Hood National Forest Boundary
  • Length: 33.5 miles (15 miles Wild, 4.8 miles Scenic, and 13.7 miles Recreational)
  • Lower Sandy Outstanding Remarkable Values: Scenery, Fisheries, Recreation, Geology, Wildlife, Water Quality, and Botanical and Ecological
  • Upper Sandy Outstanding Remarkable Values: Scenery, Recreation, Fisheries, Geology, and Botanical
  • Wild and Scenic River Designation: October 28, 1988

More Information

Celebrated by Michael Hughes and Susan Elliot on February 7, 2017 by paddling the Lower Sandy River from Dodge Park to Oxbow Park.


Sandy River KaykakingSusan Elliott: Michael and I entered the Sandy River from a tributary, Bull Run. Deep caves in the river's canyon walls lined the shores before the canyon expanded at the confluence of the Sandy. The river doubled in flow, and the deep caverns evolved into tall overhanging cliff walls. Rain likely kept other paddlers at home in the comforts of their shelter. We, however, enjoyed the additional flow in waterfalls around every corner and the groundwater dripping through seemingly solid rock. Snow and ice likely melted just days before our trip. This day, the moss flaunted its bright green coat as if it had been stifled for months prior.

Fog hung low in the deep evergreen forests and often silhouetted a single tree, reminding us to see the trees through the forest. While not within a National Forest polygon, the forest along the banks of the Sandy River below Dodge Park connects with the Bull Run Watershed upstream. These trees collect and filters the drinking water of over 960,000 Portland residents. Thus, the Sandy River's larger watershed provides sustenance for one of the largest cities in the Pacific Northwest. The thought made the importance of that one tree, silhouetted in the fog, seem greater.

As we floated the 8 miles to Oxbow Park, the whitewater eased into mellow meanders. Large gravel bars and eroded banks hinted at the power of this river. Today, however, fisherman casted their flies in peace and we floated calmly all the way to the take-out.

Michael on the Sandy RiverMichael Hughes: Good friend Susan from Wild River Life and I have been planning some river adventures this winter and have been getting held up a bit by winter weather. We didn’t let the huge snowflakes falling from the sky stop us from heading over to the Sandy River this time. The snow turned to rain and we made our way to take-out at Oxbow Park near Gresham Oregon. Our adventure for the day started on Bull Run River, a tributary to the Sandy, and start of the lower wild and scenic designation. After a quick paddle down Bull Run we were on the Sandy and taken back by the geology and tried to make some educated guesses on how certain features were formed. As we floated we passed many people wading into the cold water to chase fish. We were lucky enough to watch one angler land a pretty big steelhead. As we continued our float the the river widened and slowed, giving us time to take in the last few miles of this beautiful river right in our backdoor.

Learn about Oregon Wild and Scenic River No. 6: John Day River >>


Northwest Rafting Company Exploratory Division