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Wild Rivers Discovery Trail

Updated: Jul 24, 2023

At the western edge of Klamath-Siskiyou Provence features an abundance of wild rivers snake through one of the most biodiverse regions of conifers in the world. Here you'll find temperate rain forests that cling to the steep red rock mountain slopes comprised of serpentine, and some of the best salmon and steelhead fishing in the lower 48.



Route Overview


Adventure Rating: Epic

Trip Length: 231 mi, 4-6 days

Season: The best season is May - October (mosquitoes are lightest in late summer/fall). If you plan on running the route during winter or late spring, be prepared to clear deadfall and use the wet season reroute (due closed gates).

Avg Trail Rating: 2 Peak Trail Rating: 3

Typical Terrain: Dirt and gravel forest service roads with some connecting pavement. Trail and road conditions can change due to the heavy precipitation and seasonal weather events, which are common in this part of Oregon.

Recommended Vehicle: 4x4 with A/T tires.

Adventure Vans: Sprinter 4x4s should be able to manage the entire route.

Alternative Routes: Yes! See bottom of route details for more info.

 

Route Details

The Wild Rivers Coast stretches from the Klamath River in far Northern California to Port Orford along the Southern Oregon Coast. The Klamath-Siskiyou region is a hub of incredible biodiversity, and one of the largest wild lands regions in the contiguous United States, with nearly 8 million of its 11 million acres falling under public managed lands. The Klamath-Siskiyou is home to the highest concentration of Wild and Scenic Rivers within the United States, with more rivers and creek in the region proposed to be designated as such in the future. Anglers will find some of the best steelhead and salmon fishing in the lower 48. White water rafters also frequent the various rivers and tributaries, with the most popular being the lower Rogue River. The area also provides an abundance of federally designated wilderness areas that feature hundreds of miles of hiking trails. To sum it up, this corner of the Klamath-Siskiyou region is an outdoor recreationalist's paradise that tends to see a fraction of recreation traffic compared to other popular areas within Oregon.


Within the Klamath mountains lies the largest concentration of ultramafic rock in North America. The ultramafic rock within the Klamath-Siskiyou region comes from the ocean crust and is notable for its high prevalence of serpentine rock and soils. Serpentine soils are known for their high alkalinity and concentrations of heavy metals, which makes the soil inhospitable to most plants. Because of the inhospitable characteristics of serpentine soils, endemic species found nowhere else in the world have evolved and adapted to the landscape. Trees that are able to survive in the serpentine landscape are often stunted, leading to pygmy forests of cypress, Douglas fir, and other species of conifer. The serpentine rock creates a stunning and magnificent landscape of red rocks littered with various types of conifer-- it's almost as if a spooky martian landscape his shrouded by the emeralds forests of the Pacific Northwest. In this section of Southern Oregon, the mighty Coast Redwood reaches the northern extent of its range (be sure to check out the Oregon Redwood Trail and Snaketooth Redwood Botanical Area). The end result, is a geological wonder that is unlike anything else in the greater Pacific Northwest. The route can be run in either direction and features primarily dirt and gravel forest service roads, with some secondary forest roads and connecting pavement. Roads and trails tend to be in good condition, but with the high prevalence of annual rainfall that can exceed 100 inches annual in some locations, washouts, fallen limbs and trees, and seasonal erosion events occur with regularity during the wet season. While coniferous rainforests are a common theme throughout the route, areas struck by wildfire, lookouts, and prairies provide an abundance of views. Some of the best views can be had from Wildhorse Lookout (DP 11), Quail Prairie Lookout (DP 7) Vulcan Peak (DP 6), Snow Camp Lookout (DP 10), and Hanging Rock. Traveling through the temperate rainforest, it should come as new surprise that riverfront and creekside access is easy to come by, with numerous developed and informal campgrounds along the river bars. No less than six rivers (Winhuck, Chetko, Rogue, Illinois, Elk, and Sixes) are featured, and dozens upon dozens of tributaries and creeks. Whether you're into kayaking, whitewater rafting, rock jumping, tubing/floating, or angling, there's never a short of activities to take advantage of along these rich and pristine waterways. Those that wish to explore the area on foot will enjoy the hundreds of miles of hiking trails in the region, with numerous trailheads that can be easily access from the route. Some of our favorite trails include Coquille Falls, Panther Ridge-Hanging Rock, Vulcan Peak, Oregon Redwoods Trails, Rogue River Trail, Illinois River Trail, and Chetco Gorge Trail just to name a few). And while one could easily enjoy the route from the comforts of their vehicle, the decision to get out and explore will limit your ability to take in the full experience of the Wild Rivers Coast. Wildlife is also abundant here, where bobcat and river otters flourish, black bear, grey wolves, osprey, and bald eagles live here due to the abundance of unspoiled wilderness and natural food sources. Beyond the natural wonders of the region, the Klamath Mountains were a hotbed of mining activity during 1850s, when gold was discovered in the region. Mining activity continued in various forms through the middle of the 20th century, which left behind numerous mines, and the relics of old mining camps can be found throughout the mountains and waterways. Pioneer relics like the Ludlum House, Gardner Mine, and Packers Cabin (DP 8) provide a window into the early history of the forest service and European settlers/families in the region. And if you wish to enjoy the route from the sanctity of your own vehicle, that's all well and good. The roads and trails may not be challenging, but the dense emerald forests, deep river gorges, fantastic camping opportunities, dark night skies, and abundance of flora and fauna will lighten the mood of event the most curmudgeonly of persons. Alternative Routes Those that are up to the challenge of tackling the Wild Rivers Discovery Trail during the winter season should be prepared to utilize the Wet Season Detour. The Rogue River-Sisikyou National Forest does occasionally close certain roads (gates) during the wet season to prevent the spread of Port Orford Cedar disease. If you wish to extend your adventure, connection is provided to the north section of the Sisikyou Sasquatch Trail to the east. One can easily connect the two routes for 1-2 week adventure traversing nearly 400 miles of dirt.


Camping Recommendations

Our favorite campsites tend to be along the various river bars that provide riverfront access. Some river bars can become crowded during on weekends during the day in the warm season. Dispersed camping is permitted throughout this region of the Rogue River-Siskiyou National forest.

  • Miller Bar

  • Nook Bar

  • Redwood Bar

  • Wildhorse Camp

  • Oak Flat

  • Daphne Grove

  • Butler Bar

  • Sunshine Bar

  • Sixes River Camp

Discovery Points

  • DP1 - Winchuck River Park

  • DP2 - Winchuck River

  • DP3 - Oregon Redwoods Trail

  • DP4 - Snaketooth Redwood Botanical Area

  • DP5 - Chetco River

  • DP6 - Vulcan Peak

  • DP7 - Quail Prairie Lookout

  • DP8 - Packers Cabin

  • DP9 - Collier Butte

  • DP10 - Snow Camp Lookout

  • DP11 - Wild Horse Lookout

  • DP12 - Rogue River

  • DP13 - Illinois River

  • DP14 - Rogue River Trail

  • DP15 - Rogue-Coquille Scenic Byway

  • DP16 - South Fork Coquille River

  • DP17 - Coquille Falls

  • DP18 - Elk River

  • DP19 - Sixes River

  • DP20 - Elk River Salmon Hatchery

  • DP21 - Cape Blanco Lighthouse


>> Always check with local land managers for road closures and conditions.


Recommended Maps

  • Google Maps

  • Gaia GPS (Nat Geo Trails Illustrated layer, Gaia base layer)

Download GPX file



 

Resources


Land Managers

Other Resources

 

Gallery






Terms of Use: Should you decide to travel a route that is published on Overlandtrailguides.com, you do so at your own risk. Always take the appropriate precautions when planning and traveling, including checking the current local weather, permit requirements, trail/road conditions, and land/road closures. While traveling, obey all public and private land use restrictions and rules, and carry the appropriate safety, recovery, and navigational equipment. The information found on this site is simply a planning resource to be used as a point of inspiration in conjunction with your own due-diligence. In spite of the fact that this route, associated GPS track (GPX and maps), and all route guidelines were prepared under diligent research by Overland Trail Guides, the route accuracy and current conditions of roads and trails cannot be guaranteed.

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