Salmon Creek begins high up in the Willamette foothills west of Waldo Lake and rapidly gains strength from the many tributaries that drain this steep and rugged land. Through its short length it plunges over boulders, through constrictions, and spends several miles as a frothy Class IV-V whitewater run. Catch the river on a summer day just below Salmon Creek Campground, however, and you might never know it. Here the creek rests in deep emerald pools that are unbelievably clear and inviting for swimmers and anglers alike. Alder, maple, Douglas fir, and hemlock crowd the hillside and create a verdant wall that sets off the creek's natural color. A horsetail waterfall from an unnamed creek joins the main flow near the top of the stretch, completing the scene.
The mellow section is only a brief respite for this busy creek, however, for soon the current pushes on toward Salmon Falls, and roughly 10-foot drop into a deep pool that creates some very significant current. Swimming here may look appealing, but it isn’t advisable. A powerful eddy moves upstream along the river-right bank back into the falls, whereas the river left current pushes downstream into a little dogleg before charging on toward Oakridge. Still, there is plenty of room on the rocky riverbank to enjoy the falls.
Salmon Creek Campground has a day use area for those who can’t swing the time to spend the night, but the more time up here the better. This is an ideal spot to cool off after a long mountain bike ride or hike in the area, but grabbing a picnic and spending the day by the water is a great plan, too.
This area is incredibly beautiful and incredibly vulnerable to inconsiderate users; as you pack out what you pack in, you may as well grab any litter you see. A trail runs the length of the river near the campground, and sticking to this route helps preserve the vegetation and soil integrity of this riparian environment. Please help ensure that this are remains remarkable for years to come.