The Clackamas River is one of Portland's classic Class III rivers, great for kayaks and rafters alike. Accessible for much of the year, the best whitewater is between 1,500 and 2,500 cubic feet per second. Below 1,000 cfs the river gets a bit rocky and difficult to navigate, and above 5,000 cfs the rapids fill in, the pools disappear and the river becomes more of a fast wave train requiring a very solid roll. At optimal flows there are several impromptu play spots, as well as some with eddy access.
Kayakers have several choices for put-ins: just below Three Lynx Powerhouse, Sun Strip Campground a few miles downstream from Three Lynx, or if time is short, a put-in at Fish Creek still lets you hit all the best rapids. Rafters often put in below Three Lynx at a dirt turn-out with easy access to the water or at Fish Creek where there is a boat ramp. The usual take out is at Bob's Hole, once the location for a world famous freestyle rodeo. The hole has filled in over the past five years, however, and is no longer a great play spot.
A brief discussion of some of the notable rapids on this run follows, but please consult a river map for specific locations and information.
- The first rapid is after about 1/4 mile, a boulder garden ending in some large holes. Pick your way down the middle, and make a solid move to the right at the bottom to avoid some larger rocks and holes.
- More Class I/II water after that, with Roaring River coming in on the right under a bridge.
- Hole in the Wall, III: While not the most difficult rapid, it has the most significant hazard. It starts with a wide Class II boulder garden with larger holes on the right side. Avoid the giant, hazardous eddy on the left with undercut walls.
- The rapids are smaller Class I-II for the next few miles until a bridge and Fish Creek boat launch on the left.
- Carter Falls, III+: After several more rapids, continue until another bridge signals Carter Falls, the largest rapid on the run. The line is down the left, with a hard cut to the right after the falls to avoid some massive holes on the left bank.
- Big Eddy: After a few more easy rapids and some flat water, a headwall appears at Big Eddy. This massive eddy is where squirt boaters can practice mystery moves.
- Rock and Roll, III: Around the corner is this next rapid. The fun line is down the middle of the right channel. For beginners at higher flows it's possible to take the left channel which has rocks, but no significant holes.
- Toilet Bowl, III: In another mile is Toilet Bowl, which at some flows has some massive lateral waves. The line starts in the middle and moves left, avoiding the chaotic waves and crashing holes on the right.
- Bob’s Hole: Finally the run ends at Bob's Hole, where there are several play spots that come and go with flows, and as debris fills and empties from the features below the water.
Note: Many cars have been burglarized at Fish Creek, so watch your valuables.