The Sixes River is a thirty-mile long, BLM managed waterway with its source in the mountains of the Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest. The river runs a meandering course around small rural communities, through dense forest and the Cape Blanco State Park before reaching its end and terminating on the Pacific coastline of Oregon. Along its way, the river also flows through two more BLM properties, the Grassy Knob Wilderness and the Copper Salmon Wilderness.
The Sixes River has a rich history and was one of the prime areas that attracted miners to Oregon during the nineteenth-century gold rush era. Panning for gold is a recreational pastime that still draws visitors to the river in the present day too. While searching for those elusive, glimmering nuggets is great fun and often successful, it's just one of the outdoor activities to be had on and around the Sixes River.
There are fantastic trails for hiking and horseback riding through the forests on the banks or along the spectacular Pacific coast at the mouth of the river. There's prime fishing along the entire route of the river as well as excellent stretches for kayaking and canoeing. The shady woodlands are ideal for family picnics where dipping toes in the water or jumping in for a swim in warm weather is a must-do. There's lots of wildlife to spot and plenty of birds to watch both in the trees and on the river. Fans of historic buildings will enjoy visits to the Cape Blanco State Park to see the Cape Blanco Lighthouse and the conserved Victorian farmhouse next to it.
There are many sections of the Sixes River which are accessible for recreational purposes. It depends on what you want to do as to where you should head for. Many visitors want to enjoy Oregon's Pacific coast as well as the river, and if that's what you plan on doing, then head for the Sixes River Recreational Area or the Cape Blanco State Park. Both locations can be reached from the US 101 which is a north to south coastal road.
If you've been RV camping inland at the Willamette National Forest near Springfield, head west along the OR 126 to Florence. From Florence, you can join the US 101 southbound to get to Sixes which will take you around three hours. If you've been down in the King Range National Conservation Area, you can join the US 101 northbound in Loleta from where you'll be motoring for about three and a half hours. On either route, you'll be blessed with amazing coastal scenery all the way.
The Sixes River Recreation Area is located inland around four miles east of the small town of Sixes along the OR 184. At the recreation area, there is a small campground located in a secluded forested zone which has nineteen campsites.
The pitches at the Sixes River Recreation Area can accommodate rigs up to thirty feet in length, but no longer as the gravel-surfaced stubs are too short and the turns between the trees too tight. Each campsite is furnished with a grill and picnic table, but there are no utility hook-ups of any kind and no drinking water on-site.
The campground is only open from Memorial Day through to the end of September and operates throughout this period on a first-come-first-served basis. The campground is close to the river and a spot with deep swimming holes, so it gets full very quickly during the peak summer season.
The Sixes River is renowned for its excellent fishing. While the river is a year-round fishing destination, the best catches are to be had from fall through to spring. In the tidal areas of the lower river, you'll have a good chance of hooking a trophy-sized Chinook salmon.
Spots on the river banks are hard to find, but there are boat launches by the bridge on the US 101 and along Sixes River Road where you can get a craft in the water and head out to try your luck fly-fishing for trout.
Even though folks have been panning for gold in the Sixes River for almost three-hundred years, there's still some left to find. If you're heading off to do some manual prospecting with a shovel, pan and sieve you don't even need a permit to do it. With a little luck and a few hours of sifting sand, you could be left with a solid gold souvenir of your visit to the Sixes River.
The Sixes River is a fantastic place to float your canoe or kayak. The river varies in width and although it is slow-flowing there are one or two shallower places with an increased current, but not enough to generate whitewater.
Things to keep an eye out for are submerged tree trunks, overhanging branches and tidal currents near the river mouth, otherwise it's plain paddling all the way.
There are limited opportunities for hiking along the Sixes River as much of it runs through private property, but down by the coast you will find the Mouth of the Sixes River Trail. It's a two-mile-long out and back trail graded as easy which follows the course of the river inland.
For a breath of sea air, try some of the eight miles of trails in the Cape Blanco State Park. There are lots of observation points where you can rest for a while and enjoy the ocean views.
If you're RV camping with your horse, you won't find a better place to go riding than in the Cape Blanco State Park. The park has a seven-mile-long equestrian trail winding over forested bluffs with amazing ocean views and across the beach. The state park also has a one-hundred and fifty-acre riding area and a horse camp with corrals.
The Cape Blanco Lighthouse is a nineteenth-century construction which sits on a small peninsula jutting out into the Pacific Ocean. The lighthouse was built in the late 1860s to ensure the safe passage of maritime traffic past the headland. The round tower stands sixty feet high and its intermittent flash can be seen over twenty-five miles away. Tours of the lighthouse interior can be made for a small fee from April through to October.