A beautiful stream originated on the western side of the Cascade Mountains, Thomas Creek winds for 35 miles through the Santiam State Forest and farming areas before it enters the South Santiam River.
Located in close proximity to Salem and Albany, the area attracts visitors wishing to explore self-guided Covered Bridge Tours. Three from six bridges including Gilkey, Shimanek, and Hannah cross Thomas Creek, two bridges - Hoffman and Larwood span Crabtree Creek, and Stayton-Jordan Bridge is located in Stayton.
In addition to an informative tour along Covered Bridge Route, visitors can enjoy swimming, rockhounding, and fishing.
The warm and quiet waters of Tomas and Crabtree Creeks are perfect for summer swimming even for people with basic swimming skills and children. The water heats up quickly to comfortable temperatures of 70-75°F in the middle of summer.
A few swimming spots are situated under covered bridges where the creeks are narrower and their waters are deeper. Larwood and Hannah Bridges feature picnic tables and vault toilets.
The most scenic swimming and diving area is called Broken Dam and can be found at Jordan Bridge.
The creek is popular among rock collectors for opportunities to find agate, jasper, petrified wood, and fossils.
Be aware that the creek banks are mostly privately-owned with "No Trespassing Signs" posted. Only a few spots are located on public land.
The best time for rockhounding along Thomas Creek is during low water levels when gravel deposits are exposed and the stream can be easily forded.
Thomas Creek has populations of smallmouth bass, crappie, yellow perch, cutthroat and rainbow trout. Also, there are small runs of Chinook salmon and steelhead.
The creek is closed to salmon and steelhead angling. Open to trout fishing from the end of May through October, catch-and-release only.
Warmwater gamefish is open during trout season. No catch limit.
Known among whitewater kayakers, Thomas Creek is classified as a class III to IV on the 5-mile upper section and II to III on the 9.5-mile lower section of the creek depending on the flow volume. The logging road to Upper Thomas is open in October during a few weeks of hunting season.
Thomas Creek Site 1 - Swimming & Rockhounding
A last stop accessible by the public on the Thomas Creek Drive running along lower Thomas Creek is a popular swimming destination. This area comes with a rope swing, shallow and deeper spots for swimming, a pebble bottom, and a small shady beach. Also, this place is known among rock collectors. Agates, jasper, and petrified wood can be found along the creek.
From Scio, head 9.2 miles east on Highway 226, bear right on Thomas Creek Drive and continue 4.5 miles. Finally, the road turns to gravel just before locked gates of the Weyerhaeuser Timber Company. Park your car along the road and find a trail down to the river.
Thomas Creek Site 2 - Swimming
Thomas Creek under the Richardson Gap Road Bridge is deep enough for swimming with shallows upstream. On the northeast side of the bridge, there is a short steep path down to the creek. During the summer months, the water is calm and warm.
This site is located 5.5 miles from Scio. Drive 2.2 miles on Highway 226 east of Scio and then turn right onto Richardson Gap Road and continue 3.2 miles south to the destination.
Broken Dam at Jordan Bridge
Features old broken dam, deep and shallow areas, and beach composed of river rocks and rocky ledge formations.
Hannah Covered Bridge
The site offers swimming, fishing, and rockhounding opportunities.
Larwood Covered Bridge
According to "Ripley's Believe It or Not", it's the only place in the world, where a river empties into a creek
Hoffman Covered Bridge
The creek at the beach and under the bridge is deep enough for swimming.
Gilkey Covered Bridge
In addition to historic value, Gilkey Covered Bridge is a great spot for swimming, rockhounding, and fishing.