Tag Archives: bear creek kayaking

Kayaking Flooded Bear Creek: Medford, Oregon

The Winter of 2014/15 has been a dismal one as far as snow-fall in the mountains. It’s been abysmal, even worse than last year in regards to snow pack. However, there has been plenty of rain here in the Rogue River Valley.


In mid February there was a significant rain event sending the local rivers up to and in some cases, over their flood lines. The Rogue river down near Agnes, Oregon got to 100,000 CFS. To put that in perspective, the Rogue usually flows at a sane level of around 2000 CFS. 100,000 CFS is a lot of water.

Bear creek, a normally tiny creek that I talked about in this post way back in 2010, got to the highest level I can ever remember seeing…6000 CFS.

This tiny creek running through the center of Medford, Oregon normally runs at around 120 CFS. It’s a small creek bed. With 6,000 CFS flowing through it, it was cranking. It came within a foot of overflowing it’s banks and flooding the mall. (oh man, I would’ve loved that)

Unfortunately I didn’t get a chance to get on it this time, a fact I sorely regret. But another local group of kayakers did. Of course, in this day and age no one seems to do anything without documenting it on a GoPro. Here’s the footage, enjoy!

Bear Creek Boating: The Ghetto Run in Medford Oregon

It’s mid-April, the ground is saturated from recent rains which means the rivers and creeks rise quickly when the rains come. The ground can’t hold anymore moisture so it all runs off into the creeks making for some great high water kayaking.

One of the best runs is right in downtown Medford…Bear Creek.

Mostly people don’t even notice Bear Creek as it meanders through the guts of Talent, Phoenix and Medford, finally dumping into the Rogue river around Gold Ray.

But when it rains and the polluted little creek starts to swell, the play boating can be damned good.

The best section is from Barnett road bridge to the Rogue Valley Mall. It flows through the soft underbelly of Medford, which is why we call it the ghetto run.

It always feels funny putting in at the Dairy Queen on Barnett. You get some damned funny looks from the locals as you begin donning your gear and carrying your boat to the water.

This isn’t the normal remote put-in most boaters are used to, this is downtown Medford, a stones throw from Interstate 5.

There’s no designated put-in, you have to fight your way through thick riverside blackberry bushes, hoping you don’t step on a used hypodermic needle.

Once you’re on the water though, the fun begins. The river bottom is made up of smooth bedrock which makes for some really perfect surf waves.

The only problem is slowing down enough to catch the waves. As with all high water runs there are very few eddys.

Usually kayakers have to plow into the river bank and hold onto some submerged sapling, or possibly an abandoned shopping cart, as you wait your turn for a 6 foot wave.

You don’t really have to wait though, there are many waves and not many kayakers think to float this section, so there isn’t much competition.

It’s a short run with lots of fun surf waves and a few holes too. The holes are pretty shallow though and I don’t mess with them much, mainly because I don’t relish flipping over in this nasty, muddy, polluted water.

I’ve flipped many times and never contracted an illness, but the less I’m under the better.

The pollution probably isn’t a problem when the river is really cranking because it’s flushing all the nasty shit down pretty quick…it’s parts-per-million.

A good level to do the ghetto run is anything over 800 CFS. You can find an up to date flow here. It gets really fun when it’s above 1000 CFS, the more water the better.

A word of caution: as with all high water runs be sure to watch for sweepers and floating logs. They can ruin your whole day and they can appear and disappear from day-to-day on these little creeks.

So be careful, have fun, and keep your mouth shut tight while playing on these super fun surf waves.