The run is divided into two sections, separated by a dangerous class V rapid that is rarely run intentionally, as the entire river flows into an undercut wall. The section above is mostly class II, but be aware of the portage downstream and scout out an appropriate take-out. Driving up the river, you can see the portage just upstream of the first bridge. If you choose to only do the lower run, put in at the first bridge. Most of the good class III action is downstream anyway.
Below the bridge, several rapids deserve mentioning. After a handful of good rapids, paddlers come to a rapid with a sharp S-turn and the bottom of the drop is out of sight. This is dubbed “The Bend” and features a retentive hole in the middle. The easiest run is on the right. The next rapid has another ledgy hole on the bottom right, and the third drop in succession leads into a river-wide ledge hole with a soft spot in the middle.
Access may be a little tricky, and directions cannot be found in any guidebook. Drive to Jacksonville, OR pass through town, and continue to Ruch. Take a left turn, following a sign to Applegate Lake. Drive along the lake road to the end of the reservoir, where there is a stop sign and a T-intersection. Turning right takes you up Carberry Creek, and the road left goes up the Applegate. Drive about a half mile until the road turns to gravel. Take the first right turn and follow it down to the river. You will cross a bridge over the river and see a parking area on the right. That’s the take out, and you can hike boats up just downstream of the bridge. Continue up the gravel road to find a put-in.
Most flow sites only list a gauge for the Applegate below the dam, which doesn’t represent flows on this run. NOAA maintains a gauge for the total inflow to the lake, and about 2/3 of that flow comes from the Applegate. When the gauge reads 800 cfs or more, the run is worthwhile.
Take out: First bridge up from lake
Length: 3 – 6 miles
Typically done in: 1 – 3 hours
Difficulty: Class II-III (V)
Recommended flows: 800 cfs estimated inflow
Cell phone service: No
Closest town to put in: Ruch, Oregon
Closest town to take out: Ruch, Oregon