Originated at Salmon Mountain and Grassy Knob Wilderness, Elk River winds through Rogue River Siskiyou National Forest for about 30 miles and enters the Pacific Ocean, one mile south of Cape Blanco and four miles north of Port Orford.
Known for its water quality, stunning emerald-green color, and scenic wild landscape, the river is nationally designated as Wild and Scenic.
The lower segment of the river has limited access because of private land. The upper 17-mile portion of the river from the confluence of the North and South Fork Elk River to the Elk River Fish Hatchery is classified as recreational. The 2-mile segment of the North Fork above the confluence of the North and South Fork is classified as wild.
Elk River Swimming
There are many swimming spots along the river at the recreation sites and campgrounds. There are a few turnouts where you can park and hike down to enjoy all things that the beautiful coastal river offers. The water is usually cool even at the peak of summer heat (65°F in August).
Elk River Rockhounding
According to the US Forest Service, collecting of small amounts of rocks and minerals for personal use is allowed along the 17-mile segment of the river from the confluence of the North and South Fork of the Elk River to the Elk River Fish Hatchery. The river's bank and its bottom are composed of gravel and rocks of various sizes and colors. White quartz, green jasper, red brecciated jasper, agate, and petrified wood can be found here.
Besides swimming and rockhounding activities, the Elk River is popular for its wild winter steelhead and fall chinook fishing as well as rafting and kayaking. Elk River Road is a part of the Scenic Bikeway route designated as the Wild Rivers Coast Scenic Bikeway.
Elk River Site 1
This swimming spot, 14 miles away from Port Orford, is one of a few places along the river with easy access. You can drive to the gravel beach or park your car near the road and hike 30 yards down. The site features a large gravel and sand beach. The river is shallow here with a few deeper spots.
Elk River Site 2
A wide pebble beach extends 200 yards along the river bend. The opposite bank is a bedrock. There are two deep swimming holes between rapids. The river's bottom is partially sandy.
The site is located 17 miles away from Port Orford and popular because of the large beach and swimming areas as well for easy access. Any car can drive down to parking near the beach.
Sunshine Bar Campground
Sunshine Bar is a dispersed 6-site campground with picnic tables and fire pits, located 18 miles east of Port Orford.
An easy trail begins on the right-hand of the parking area and campground. Hike 70 yards down to the river to a small secluded beach. The bank is pebble and rock formation. The swimming area contains deep and shallow spots.
There are two vault toilets, but no drinking water and garbage disposal. Day-use and campground are free.
Jacuzzi Rocks Swimming
Jacuzzi Rocks is a scenic memorable site in the beautiful forest setting, 21 miles east of Port Orford. The river carves a 180-foot long channel between narrow bedrock walls. The water is transparent to the bottom with deep green color. There is a small gravel beach downstream. The river is deeper between the canyon walls and flat rocks are used as jumping-off points.
Park at the road and find a very steep 200-foot trail following right and down. Hike with care. An upper portion of the pathway is rope-assisted.
Elk River Site 3
One of the beautiful settings along the river corridor, located between Butler Bar Campground and Jacuzzi Rocks. There are shaded places for camping and picnicking. The road to the river is bad. If your car can not make this trip, leave it near the road and hike down to the river.
Butler Bar Campground
Butler Bar Campground is a primitive 7-site campground with picnic tables and fire pits, located 22 miles east of Port Orford.
The shallow river bends here creating a deep beautiful hole downstream from the bridge, just before rapids. The beach can be accessed by a short road on the left side of the bridge before crossing the bridge.
Day-use and camping are free. There is a vault toilet, no drinking water, and garbage disposal.