Port Orford is graced with two beautiful rivers: the Elk River and the Sixes, both north of town.
The Elk River has picnic areas, spots for swimming, rafting, kayaking, as well as campgrounds maintained by the US Forest Service, and the Elk River Fish Hatchery, about eight miles up Elk Rivers Road.
Above the hatchery, the river is designated as "wild and scenic" and is protected. A drive up the river is spectacular - you’ll see one of Oregon's pristine old-growth forest/river ecosystems. Spring in particular brings lush forest growth, waterfalls and a wild river.
The Elk River also offers a wide opportunity for fishing. Early in the season, after the first significant rain, fish come into the mouth of the river. Public access is from Paradise Point State Park to the south and Cape Blanco State Park to the north. Later, as the fish move throughout the river, fishing is from the banks (under the bridge on Highway 101 is a popular spot) or by drift boat. Salmon on the Elk are mixed wild and hatchery produced.
Read "A bucket-list scramble along the coast. The Elk River has it all..."
Elk River Hatchery
The hatchery was built in 1968 and expanded in 1971. Owned and operated by the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, it produces salmon and steelhead smolts that return as spawning adultsm which supplement natural populations and contribute to sport and commercial fishing on the south coast.
Hatchery Production: Fall Chinook Salmon - The largest program is the annual production of fall Chinook salmon smolts: 325,000 smolts for Elk River, 150,000 smolts for Chetco River, and smaller numbers of smolts as needed for other south coast streams. The smolts are released when they are about nine months old.
Winter Steelhead: They also rear 50,000 winter steelhead smolts annually for the Chetco River. Smolts are just over one year old when they are released in April each year.
Rainbow Trout: A newcomer to Elk River Hatchery is the production of rainbow trout - 700 trout for the annual lunkers program, which is a special project to release large trout (3-6 pounds each) into Floras Lake, Garrison Lake and Libby Pond.
An important salmon habitat and fishing stream, Sixes River is one of Oregon's most pristine rivers.
It is home to late run Chinook Salmon, with fishing season beginning after the first heavy rains of fall, closing at year end. Most years, rain begins mid to late October, with a few years pushing into November. Returning fish naturally spawn in the Sixes, since there are no hatcheries.
Fishing on the Sixes is on the bank or by drift boat, with most boats taking out at Sixes Store or Sixes Day Use in the heart of Cape Blanco State Park.
Traces of gold still wash down the stream, and there are still a few miners around. Historically, gold was mined in the black sands of Cape Blanco, both on the Sixes and the Elk, since the cape is flanked by both.
Check with BLM (541.756.0100) or Oregon State Parks (541.332.6774) for more information on opportunities to pan for gold on the Sixes - site is about 12 miles up Sixes River Road.