Sandy River, Oregon

Sandy River, Oregon is a renowned steelhead and salmon sport fishery.

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Author: Mark Bachmann with a wild Sandy River Steelhead 03/08/07.

Sandy River, Oregon  

The Sandy River in northwestern Oregon is undoubtedly one of the best maintained urban rivers in the world.  It is our home water.  The Fly Fishing Shop is located in the Sandy River basin 35 miles from the mouth of the river.  Recent management emphasis has been to maintain many parts of the Sandy drainage in a wild condition conducive to rehabilitating its divers populations of native salmonids.  All wild fish within the basin are catch and release.
There is evidence that wild fish populations are increasing.  The future looks good.

Current Water Flow Above Marmot Dam

Water Flow Below Mouth of Bull Run R.

Fishing Report Winter Steelhead Summer Steelhead Chinook Salmon
GUIDED TRIPS River Journal Basin Map Resident Trout
More Fish Pictures Cascade Streamwatch Don't Miss The Sandy River Spey Clave!

Mt. Hood, Oregon

The Sandy River originates high on the slopes of Mt. Hood, a 11,200' volcano located about fifty miles east of Portland, Oregon. The headwaters of the Sandy River are beneath Reid and Sandy Glaciers at 6000 feet elevation. From here the river flows due west past The Fly Fishing Shop in the village of Welches, located in the Hoodland Corridor.  Fifteen miles west of us, the river then turns north to enter the Columbia River at sea level.
The Sandy River is a geological product of some of the most dramatic forces on Earth. Her changeable

personality is one of tectonic stress, explosive volcanism, glaciations, torrential rainfall, the after-noon sun, and the disintegration and regeneration of huge conifer forests.

The river flows through a rugged canyon. The deep clear pools and clean, gray gravel bars are often shaded by the tall, wet green trees.

As the river leaves the steep slope of the mountain it crosses recent volcanic mudflows and the gradient decreases. The mellowing currents allow smaller gravel to collect. These deposits form an ever-shifting layer, lying loosely over a mantle of hard basalt. Much of the water in the river travels through this aquifer providing maximum oxygenation for the spawn of anadromous fish. The Sandy River basin contains vast areas of spawning gravel for salmon and steelhead.

Wild steelhead return to the Sandy River every month of the year. Hatchery Steelhead are available approximately eleven months each year. Chinook salmon are available in reasonable condition and catchable numbers six months each year.  Coho runs can be prodigious in September and October.  The Sandy River has gained a reputation among fly fishing enthusiasts as a very demanding arena to test the best of skills.  However, it has very, very high quality steelhead, especially during the winter months.

This river's geographic location, topography and geologic history make it the perfect factory for large, strong fish that return ocean bright.

A careful blending of both hatchery and endemic stocks, bring bright steelhead year round. Probably at least five genetically different races of steelhead ascend the Sandy River each year.

This steelhead fishery is combined with the added bonus of Chinook and Coho salmon and a budding resident trout fishery.  In the 1970's and 1980's runs of steelhead and Cohos were heralded as the highest percentage of hatchery returns in the world. In 1980 nearly 20,000 steelhead returned to the watershed.  During the 1990's runs plummeted. Wild fish nearly disappeared.  The Federal Endangered Species Act intervened.  Basin management shifted drastically from total hatchery involvement to a concerted effort to resurrect wild populations.  Recently we have gotten some good breaks from nature as well. The Pacific Ocean is in the cold water phase.  Massive up-wellings are causing a bloom of the small animals that our fish feed on, which favors their survival while they are at sea.

Debates on how our fisheries are to be managed can be fierce.  Long term battle lines have been drawn between anglers who want to kill all the fish NOW, and angler who want to save some for FUTURE generations.  However most of the people in the area do believe that the river should be left to its natural flow.  The canyon's residents have fiercely guarded the Sandy River's ecology. Nowhere else in the world does such a wild and scenic steelhead river flow through such a densely populated area.
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Sandy River photos by: Mark Bachmann - all rights reserved.

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