River of the Month | August, 2018

North Umpqua River

A salmon stronghold and one of the West’s recreational treasures, the North Umpqua River pours cold and clear from the crest of the Cascades in southern Oregon. It courses through a dramatic river canyon of striking, volcanic rock and through ancient forests before meeting the South Umpqua and flowing to the sea. Its 33.8 Wild and Scenic River miles are designated as fly-fishing only and support some of the healthiest runs of native salmon and steelhead in the Pacific Northwest.

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North Umpqua River, Oregon
North Umpqua River, Oregon
Photography | Tyler Roemer

Why It Matters

The North Umpqua is like a savings account for clean, cold water. The unique geology of its headwaters stores and releases large volumes of snowmelt, resulting in cold, emerald-green flows year-round. Because of this, it is one of the few designated salmon strongholds in Oregon, and is increasingly important as rivers up and down the West Coast experience warmer temperatures.

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Although the river is best known for its wild steelhead (pictured), the North Umpqua also supports strong populations of native spring Chinook, threatened coastal coho, resident rainbow trout and cutthroat trout.


The basin’s impressive stands of old-growth forest provide habitat for threatened northern spotted owl, Roosevelt elk, bald eagle, black bear, northern river otter (pictured) and many other species.

How to See It

Home to hallowed fly waters, exciting rapids and gorgeous moss-draped forests, the North Umpqua’s wild and scenic corridor is managed for public enjoyment by the BLM and the Umpqua National Forest. The river is flanked by the spectacular, easy-to-access 79-mile North Umpqua National Recreational Trail.

  • Paddle


    With more rapids per mile than other Cascade rivers, the North Umpqua’s continuous pool-and-drop fun is set amidst some of the most spectacular scenery in Oregon. The river offers boating for every skill level, from placid, jade-green pools to technical Class-IV boulder gardens. Outfitters include North Umpqua Outfitters and High Country Expeditions.

  • Hike


    The world-class North Umpqua Trail traces 79 miles of the river—one of the longest riverfront trails in the West—drawing hikers, mountain bikers and equestrians. Divided into 11 segments, the trail offers day hikes and multi-day treks. Waterfalls abound, and the Umpqua Hotsprings Trail leads to one of the most popular soaking spots in Oregon.

  • Fish


    The North Umpqua is world famous for its 33.8 majestic miles of fly-fishing-only water and hard-fighting steelhead that can occasionally top 20 pounds. Fully half of the river’s steelhead are spawned in the fabled Steamboat Creek (closed to fishing); whether you fish or not, it’s worth visiting the creek’s Big Bend Pool, where a caretaker can tell you about the steelhead you’ll see (cash donations appreciated).

The WRC Story

Western Rivers Conservancy is protecting a series of riverfront properties within the North Umpqua Wild and Scenic River corridor to preserve critical habitat and safeguard public access to the river’s scenic offerings. In 2017, WRC successfully protected Swiftwater Park, which features a mile-long reach of coveted fly water, old-growth forest stands and the gateway to the North Umpqua Trail. Upstream, WRC is currently working to conserve two additional miles of river frontage, including mature forests and important trail access that could be lost to logging and development. By filling in strategic gaps in protection, we seek to enhance habitat for imperiled fish and wildlife and uphold public access to this legendary river.

Best Time of Year

Salmon fishing
Summer steelhead
Winter steelhead
Hiking, biking

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