Trip Reports

Butte Fork, Applegate – October 30, 2016

Video from Aaron Babcock:

The Butte Fork of the Applegate is a tributary to the Upper Applegate in way Northern California. It’s within the Red Butte Wilderness Area and requires a short downhill hike to access the creek. The take-out is at the confluence with the Upper Applegate, which has a road following it. The short run starts off pretty mellow (class II / III) but the character of the creek changes dramatically in its final mile descent into the Applegate.  The run out is very continuous with the random log thrown in for good measure. On this particular trip, the run out was huge as the creek had gotten quite high and the last mile or so was very continuous Class IV and V. After walking for a bit we left some boats and gear behind and headed back to the truck. A few days later, Frank and I came back after flows had dropped.


When we first launched, the creek felt a bit low. As it continued to rain, the water steadily rose.

At the put-in for the Butte Fork of the Applegate

Sami and Frank at the put in for the Butte Fork of the Applegate

To get to this bridge, start at the Shoofly Trailhead. Follow the trail down to the Butte Fork and, when you get near the creek, look for a subtle split in the trail. Turn left and follow the Butte Fork Trail #957. A quarter mile later you’ll cross the Butte Fork and find easy river access on the right.

Note: The trails in this area have been maintained by the Siskiyou Mountain Club. Thank you SMC!

The Butte Fork of the Applegate

The Butte Fork of the Applegate

The photo above shows the very last rapids we ran prior to our first portage.

Lots of scouting and lots of lining/portaging

Horse Creek enters on the right.

Below Horse Creek, the creek steepens significantly. The rapid at the confluence of Horse Creek and Butte Fork was our first portage. From there, we consistently portaged or ran portions of rapids. The photo above shows the first rapid we portaged, with Horse Creek entering on the right..

The Butte Fork of the Applegate

The Butte Fork of the Applegate

Just below Horse Creek – this rapid looked like fun, but the bottom drop leaving the photo landed on a couple rocks. With more water it would probably have been good to go.

Sami at the bottom of a smaller drop on the Butte Fork of the Applegate

Sami at the bottom of a smaller drop on the Butte Fork of the Applegate

Aaron Babcock scoping out a nice drop

Aaron Babcock scoping out a nice drop

After the rapid above, the gradient continued to pick up and flows increased and we called it quits, hiking out on river-right.

Frank and I returned a few days later and floated out at a much lower flow:


Looking down at the Butte Fork while hiking back in.

Looking down at the Butte Fork while hiking back in.

Butte Fork

A lot less water…

Nice Fall colors on the Butte Fork

Butte Fork Applegate

Frank is excited to float rather than hike.

Some of the last rapids on the Butte Fork

Just above the take out on the Butte Fork

If I ever run the Butte Fork again, I would like to see a flow slightly higher than what we saw on our boat retrieval day.


  1. November 4, 2016 at 8:28 pm — Reply

    Very Nice guys!
    Thanks for sharing!
    Glad to see y’all had fun and all was safe.

  2. Tom Riggs
    November 9, 2016 at 3:32 pm — Reply

    Oh Magoo, You’ve done it again!. You get us on the most obscure runs with your photos and narrative. It keeps the drive going for us to get our there in the wilderness.


  3. Priscilla Macy
    November 16, 2016 at 9:23 am — Reply

    Nice one! Any pictures on the last mile (IV-V) section?

    • November 17, 2016 at 7:53 am — Reply

      Hey Priscilla – I didn’t get any photos of that stretch. However, I just added Aaron Babcock’s video to the top of this post and it shows one of the first larger rapids that was the start of our extended portage.

  4. Priscilla Macy
    November 29, 2016 at 7:36 am — Reply

    Thanks Will!

  5. Joseph Hatcher
    December 2, 2016 at 7:30 am — Reply

    Priscilla, I have scouted the last mile or so section when it had water in it before with Jared Sandeen. It is extremely steep, boulder section with each individual move makeable but when you combine all of them in a row, it looked straight up scary. The potential to get shoved in an undercut or slot you did not want to be in would be high, also there are no eddies to stop or set safety. There would be high potential to get spun around backwards and if you flipped or swam, it would get ugly fast. It is V+ mank. Straight up boulder garden falling off a mountain. I personally walked away from it.

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