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Middle Fork of the Smith River (Oregon Hole Gorge)2021-03-25T16:51:20-07:00

Middle Fork of the Smith River (Oregon Hole Gorge)

Oregon Hole Gorge, also known as the Middle Fork Gorge, is a classic run near the California-Oregon border. The class IV+ run is only 2.3 miles, and has four primary rapids. Easy highway access to the 199 means that many boaters opt to run laps on this section. Many also Oregon Hole Gorge as a warm-up for a run on the South Fork of the Smith later in the day. For boaters looking to extend their time on the Middle Fork, it is possible to start a couple of miles upstream of Oregon Hole Gorge and warm-up on a class II stretch called Mary Adam’s.

About this guide

This guide outlines Oregon Hole Gorge on the Middle Fork of the Smith River.

All data points were collected using GPS. This location information is provided. These locations were checked against Google Earth for accuracy. Distances are the averages of repeated trips that were GPSed.

Put-ins and take-outs include links to their Google Map locations. Use this to accurately build shuttle directions.

River Info

Oregon Hole Gorge is a short, exciting stretch of whitewater. At low water, the river is clear and gorgeous. The Gorge is scenic, with rock walls and dense forest lining the river on either side. At high flows, the features, especially Oregon Hole Rapid, can become quite large and challenging.

Safety

Oregon Hole Gorge has easy roadside access from Highway 199. It is wise to go with someone who has seen the Smith River before at multiple flow levels, as the river changes drastically from one level to the next. Hole in the Wall rapid has known sieves that are exposed at low water, as well as an undercut wall alongside the left side of the rapid. At most flows, it is possible to scout the rapids in the Gorge, and we advise scouting to all boaters that do not have recent Oregon Hole Gorge experience.

Permits

Permits are not needed to run this stretch of the Smith River.

Shuttle Info

It is easy to set shuttle along Highway 199. Boaters can park/put-in at the Gorge Access on Highway 199 and leave take-out cars the Forks River Access and Boat Ramp.

The flow of the Middle Fork of the Smith can vary dramatically during the rainy winter season. The river is also most consistently runnable during the chilly winter and spring months. Late summer and fall can bring flows too low to boat enjoyably. The recommended flows for the Gorge are between 1,000 and 7,000 CFS.

Sometimes the USGS flow image breaks. If this happens, here is the direct link.

South Fork of the Smith River
Gauge data provided by the USGS

Oregon Hole Gorge River Map & Guide

WARNING: Conditions change frequently and may make this guide useless. This guide is NOT a replacement for sound judgment. Go with someone with recent Smith experience.

Class IV Rapid

Class IV rapid or river feature.

Put-In / Take-Out

The most commonly used access points.

Point of Interest

These include scout locations.

Highway 199 Road Access to Forks Access Boat Ramp  – Class IV

Oregon Hole Gorge is a 2.3 mile, classic stretch of whitewater. It is possible to extend the stretch by starting further upstream on the class II Mary Adam’s section. Many boaters warm-up in Oregon Hole Gorge and then run the South Fork Gorge. Check out our South Fork Gorge Guidebook, here.

Length

Highway 199 Middle Gorge River Access to Forks River Access take-out is 2.3 miles.

Difficulty

Intermediate to Expert

Feet per Mile

Highway 199 River Access to Forks River Access take-out is ~24 FPM

Shuttle Time

Highway 199 Road Access put-in to Forks River Access take-out is about a 10 minute round trip. Google Map directions.

Mile 0 – Put-In: It is a short walk upstream from the Highway 199 parking to the put-in beach.

Mile 0.59 – Entry Rapid: Class IV. Welcome to the Gorge. At most flows, a left run is preferable in Entry Rapid.

Mile 0.65 – Nozzle Scout: It is common to pull off onto the beach on river left just before Nozzle rapid and scout from the rocks.

Mile 0.68 – Nozzle Rapid: Class IV+. Left scout. Nozzle is a center-to-right run.

Mile 0.8 – Hole in the Wall: Class IV+. Right scout. Center-right run to avoid the undercut wall on river left. At lower flows, there is an exposed sieve on river right that is to be avoided.

Mile 1 – Oregon Hole Rapid (IV): Class IV+. Left Scout. Oregon Hole is the final significant rapid of the Gorge. It is a two-part rapid, with a large drop at the top of the rapid followed by a sharp bend to the right. Run the left drop at the top of the rapid and then immediately work to the right to avoid getting pushed into a nasty rock on the left side of the downstream turn.

Mile 2.3 – Forks River Access Take-Out: Take-out for the Oregon Hole Gorge section.

Note that many boaters choose to warm up on Oregon Hole Gorge and then proceed to run the South Fork of the Smith. You can see our guidebook for that section, here.

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