Motors Allowed?
Easy / Class A
4.00 mi (6.44 km)
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Located on the Oregon coast at Brookings, the Chetco River Estuary is one of Oregon’s smallest bays at approximately 171 acres in area emptying a watershed of approximately 359 square miles. The Chetco River Estuary is located 5 miles north of the Oregon-California border at the base of the Klamath Mountains. The city of Brookings is on the north side of the estuary, and Harbor is on the south side. The Chetco River Estuary is strongly influenced by seasonal fluctuations in river discharge. It has also been highly modified for navigation by jetties, marinas, and a dike.

The estuary is home to several species of fish, including coho salmon, fall chinook, steelhead trout, cutthroat trout, pile perch, silver surfperch, kelp greenling, black rockfish, and lingcod. There is an array of birdlife, including bald eagles, great blue herons, egrets, cormorants, belted kingfishers, and pelicans. Other wildlife include sea lions, harbor seals, otters, and the rare Humbolt marten. The estuary has a number of neat coves and sloughs and contains some of the cleanest and clearest water on the Oregon coast. The boat basin offers a very easy, calm water introduction, where you can view the many different commercial fishing boats, Coast Guard vessels, and pleasure craft moored up to the docks.

Starting at the boat launch at the Port of Brookings, you will exit the harbor and get a view of the ocean nearby. There are often harbor seals and sea lions in the strait of water leading into the open ocean. Turn upstream and head toward the Highway 101 bridge over the Chetco. As you paddle upstream, you will get to enjoy the water clarity, which is even more striking in sunlight and in shallower sections. As you continue upstream, you'll likely encounter a number of sand beaches and one or two small sloughs that can be paddled when there is enough water. (In late summer, there may be lower water levels.) The most notable sand/pebble bars are at Morrison Hole and just upstream where the river makes a sharp bend to the southeast. Once you have paddled to your heart's content, head back downstream to the port boat launch.

Tides and winds can vary, so paddlers at the Chetco River Estuary should always be aware of the tide tables and wind forecasts and plan accordingly. If you wish to camp in the area, note that free and dispersed camping options are extremely limited on the Oregon coast. State park and county camp areas are the most easily available camping options, and sites can fill up quickly in the warmer spring and summer months. Make a reservation in advance of your trip.

Logistics + Planning

Preferable season(s)




Parking Pass


Open Year-round



Easy access. Clear water. Wildlife viewing.


Dock may be busy. Wind and tides are variable. Roadside.

Pets allowed


Put-in location (lat, long coordinates)

42.052017, -124.269307

Take-out location (lat, long coordinates)

42.052017, -124.269307

Water Temperature

62.00 °F (16.67 °C)


Family friendly
Boat ramp(s)
Flushing toilets
Picnic tables
Bird watching

Trail type




Typically multi-day


Shuttle required


Site characteristics: Water


Portage required



Nearby Adventures

Southern Oregon Coast + Rogue River, Oregon
Southern Oregon Coast + Rogue River, Oregon
Southern Oregon Coast + Rogue River, Oregon

Nearby Lodging + Camping

Southern Oregon Coast + Rogue River, Oregon
Southern Oregon Coast + Rogue River, Oregon
Ludlum House Recreation Area


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A profound concept originally envisioned by governor Oswald West, in 1967 the Oregon legislature ultimately realized his vision of making the entire Oregon Coast forever open to the public in a piece of landmark legislation titled the Oregon Beach Bill, officially making all 363 miles public land. "The People's Coast" is truly a one-of-a-kind coastline, a unique blend of mountains and rocky stacks, towering old growth forests, marine sanctuaries, tide pools and kelp forests, charming towns, historic fishing communities, world-class golfing, breweries, and simply jaw-dropping scenic beaches. We encourage you to plan your next trip at or by calling (541) 574-2679.

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