Oregon's Wild and Scenic Umpqua River

Umpqua River | Oregon Coast Rivers

The Umpqua River, located in the coastal area of Oregon, is one of the state's most valuable natural resources. River fishing reports tell of anglers catching impressive quantities of large-sized fish. The North Umpqua River is designated a wild and scenic river, recognized for outstanding fish, water, recreation, scenery, and cultural resources. The South Umpqua River travels through the heart of Oregon's timber country before emptying into the Pacific near Reedsport where the Umpqua River Lighthouse serves as a beloved landmark. From it's beginnings high in the Cascade Range to it's estuary at Winchester Bay, the Umpqua River provides over 100 miles of breathtaking scenery, wildlife habitat, fishing, rafting, hiking, camping and other recreational fun.

The Umpqua River, which is located approximately two thirds of the way down the Oregon coast, is named for the Umpqua (pronounced UHMP-kwah) band of the Coquille Indians. In the early 19th century, the Coquille were the main inhabitants of the river valley. They ceded most of their land to the U.S. government in 1854 as part of the Kalapuya Treaty.

It is comprised of the North Umpqua River, which issues from Maidu Lake at elevation 5,980 feet in the Mount Thielsen Wilderness, and the South Umpqua River, which begins high in the Cascades north of Fish Mountain and joins the north branch near Roseburg.

The North Umpqua River

The North Umpqua River drains a scenic and rugged area of the Cascade Range southwest of Eugene. It is impounded in its upper reaches in the Cascades to form Lemolo Lake for hydroelectricity. It is also impounded for hydroelectricity at Soda Springs Dam, forming a small reservoir on the upper river. Its upper course passes through the Umpqua National Forest, past Toketee Falls and Steamboat, where Steamboat Creek flows in from the north.

The North Umpqua is characterized by steep canyons and large Douglas-fir forests and is known for its whitewater rafting and kayaking and steelhead fly fishing. In 1988, Congress designated 33.8 miles of the North Umpqua River as a Wild and Scenic River with a "recreation" classification. The designated area begins near Swiftwater Bridge and ends at Soda Springs. Nearly all of this area of the river is restricted for fly fishing only in the summer months.

The South Umpqua River

In its upper reaches, the South Umpqua River passes through a remote canyon in the Umpqua National Forest and on to Tiller, then west past Milo and Days Creek. It passes under Interstate 5 and flows north along the highway until it joins the North Umpqua approximately six miles northwest of Roseburg. The populated areas along the South Umpqua along Interstate 5 south of Roseburg are often referred to collectively as the Umpqua Valley.

This area is home to numerous restaurants, shops, convenience stores, hotels, campgrounds, and other resources for travelers and visitors. It is also known for its wineries.

Umpqua River Fishing

With rainbow trout, brown trout cutthroat, and other game fish found throughout the Umpqua River, fishing is one of the area's top activities. According to river fishing reports, sturgeon and striped bass also are caught at certain times of the year. But the big draws are steelhead and salmon. Wild steelhead enter the river twice a year, and a fishery on the North Umpqua adds to the species' population. Chinook and coho salmon also leave the ocean and enter the river to spawn providing two prime salmon-fishing seasons annually. Around the mouth of the river in Winchester Bay, salmon can be found year round.

Umpqua River Whitewater Rafting & Kayaking

The Umpqua River, which is rated from Class I to Class V rapids, ranges from mild water to moderately short, but raging rapids depending on the season and water levels. As water levels increase, most rapids become more difficult to traverse, however, in some cases, lower water levels expose more rocks making it harder to navigate some areas of the river. In general, the North Umpqua provides the best whitewater conditions, and peak times for rafting and kayaking the Umpqua are from May into July.

Other recreational activities along the Umpqua River include scenic drives, hiking, wildlife and waterfall viewing, and biking. There are numerous day use areas and boat ramps along the river as well as public and privately owned campgrounds. The Umpqua River Lighthouse and Umpqua Lighthouse State Park at the mouth of the river are popular attractions as well.

River Fishing Reports, Boating Conditions
and More Information

- The News Review's "Discover Douglas County.com" website has links to current river fishing reports and information.
- The North Umpqua Ranger District also provides daily river fishing reports, boating conditions, and information on river flow levels. They can be contacted at 541-496-3532.
- The Douglas County website has links to pages that provide helpful information about fishing the Umpqua River, including summaries of the different fish species and where they can be found in the river. They also provide tourism information relating to the Umpqua River.
- For more information about Umpqua River Lighthouse and the state park, call 1-800-551-6949 or visit the state parks website here.

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