The Row River and the Coast Fork of the Willamette
I was fortunate enough to live in Cottage Grove from 1979 through 1993. Although this quaint town is only 20 miles from Eugene it is far enough that an angler might devote time to explore this area instead of spending all his time on the famous Mckenzie. From 1973 to 1979 I spent all my trout fishing time on the lower Mckenzie from Hayden Bridge to Armittage Park and from 1979 through 1993 I spent most of my fishing time on the local waters around Cottage Grove. During this period I got to know many sections of the Umpqua, the Smith, the Row (pronounced "r-owl"), the Coast Fork, and the two major reservoirs in this area - Dorena and Cottage Grove Reservoir. I was 28 to 42. I fished more days per year during this period than any other time span in my life. When I say I fished a lot of days you have to remember that I never had a "real" job. I was a musician - my hours were much more flexible than a mill worker's. My days were free. I was a fishing fanatic during this time ... especially fly fishing! I will venture to say that I fished an average of 250 days a year during this time in my life. You have to remember I was relatively young and I was gaining experience. I fished in freezing temperatures, flooding rivers, 100 plus daytime temperatures, and many other conditions that I will not fish today. I learned the most during this time.
The most organized way I might present "Fishing the Cottage Grove Area," might be to start from the bottom and work my way up. Working up will be in elevation starting from the Coast Fork of the Willamette River where it enters the main Willamette - to Creswell - to Cottage Grove. The Row River and the Coast Fork from Cottage Grove to Dorena and Cottage Grove Reservoirs - then the headwaters of both these rivers above the reservoirs. The Umpqua and the Smith Rivers are in a different drainage even though they are relatively close to Cottage Grove. These rivers will be covered at the end of this writing. Just one reminder before I start and this is the Row and Coast Fork Rivers are a part of the Columbia River drainage.
If you live in Eugene you might know where the beginning of 30th Steet starts from I-5. East of I-5 at this point is where the Coast Fork of the Willamette River enters the main fork. This is where "Bring Recycling" was located until last year (2007). There is still a parking area where nude bathers park their cars and walk to the confluence of the Coast Fork and the main Willamette. When I take my drift boat down from Clearwater Park to Island Park in Springfield I will drift past the confluence. I call the confluence "Nude Beach." Some people would look much better with their clothes on! If you go upriver from the confluence you will go past Mt. Pisgah - then the bridge at Highway 58.
Yes you can still pull out under the 58 bridge
From the bridge at Highway 58 to Creswell is 7 miles. This section of the Coast Fork is boatable if the water is high enough. If the water is low you cannot use a driftboat. About 2 1/2 miles downriver from Creswell there is a damn made of construction rocks. Somebody put enough rock in the river to divert the Coast Fork into the neighboring farmland on the right side of the river (looking downstream) for irrigation. It has been about 15 years since I floated from Creswell to 58 but I am pretty sure no one has dynamited this damn. When we floated this section we used our canoe and portaged around this damn. In high water we would use our drift boat since there was enough water going over this man made obstacle. We caught trout early in the season from Creswell to Highway 58. As the water gets warmer in the summer the trout disappear. To my surprise we caught a couple of small mouth bass on this stretch. I have heard from other anglers that there are small mouth in the Coast Fork but apparently there is not a big population of them.
I first fished the Coast Fork at Creswell about 35 years ago just above the bridge on Cloverdale Road. It was the 4th of July and we were picnicking with some friends who lived in Creswell. I lived in Eugene at this time. It was a delightful surprise to catch rainbows and cutthroats. They were sizable ranging from 10 to 14 inches. They were native. But this was 35 years ago and today there are no trout in this section in July. This is because there is very little water in the Coast Fork during the summer months because of the growth in Cottage Grove. And because a lot of water is used in Cottage Grove the water gets too warm in the summer. If the volume of water was the same as it was 35 years ago I'm sure this river could support trout throughout the year. There is still trout in the Spring when the water is cooler with more flow.
Moving up the Coast Fork from Creswell the river is on the left side of I-5 for a couple of miles. Then it flows under the freeway and you will see the "Coast Fork" sign on I-5. Now the Coast Fork is on your right side. There is access to this area off Davidson Road off Highway 99 which is running parallel to I-5 on your right (west). You can get to Highway 99 by entering Creswell and driving south. The next point of interest is the confluence of the Coast Fork and the Row River. If you are on I-5 and approaching Cottage Grove you will see a sign that says "Row River." The river is flowing west. If you are on Highway 99 you will cross the Coast Fork just a few hundred feet from town. The river is flowing east. The confluence of the two rivers is between I-5 and Highway 99 just north of Cottage Grove. If you continue going past Cottage Grove on I-5 or Highway 99 you will cross the "Coast Fork" again since Cottage Grove Reservoir is further south than Dorena Reservoir. The Row River outlet is at Dorena and the outlet for the Coast Fork is Cottage Grove Reservoir. There is trout to be caught the whole length of the Coast Fork from the dam at Cottage Grove Reservoir to Highway 58 but you must move upriver as the season gets warmer and the flows get lower. The best trout fishing below the dam on the Coast Fork was downriver from the road below the dam but I haven't been there in many years and I am not sure about the access. Years ago the landowner let you past his fence and you could walk the river a short distance. There were lots of nice cutts there. I have put in my canoe below the dam and floated to Cottage Grove. This river is too small for a drift boat. After the Coast Fork meets the Row River there is more flow. I have also canoed on the Row River from Killion's Market off Row River Road to it's confluence with the Coast Fork and then onward to Creswell, then down to Highway 58. But this was years ago. There is one wild rapid in high water below the freeway bridge about two miles south of Creswell.
The best trout fishing is not the Coast Fork but the Row River from the dam at Dorena Reservoir to the confluence. I could never understand why the river was called the Coast Fork after it's confluence with the Row River because the Row River is the bigger of the two. The first easy access going upriver on the Row from it's confluence with the Coast Fork is at Killion's Market.
You can put in below the bridge at Killion's in high water if the water is high enough
You can take Row River Road from Cottage Grove heading east until you come to the first bridge. Just before the bridge you can get off at the BMX bike track on the left and park next to the river on the west side below the bridge. If you are short on time you can fish right here. Walk downriver about 40 feet and the main flow of the river will be on the other side (the market side). This little area from the top of the run to about 50 feet down can hold some nice trout. Cutts and Rainbows. If you have a little more time you can walk downriver a few hundred feet until you come to the next small rapid and run. It's tough walking on the left bank (looking downriver) but there are usually fish down there because it is tough walking. I haven't walked down there in many years but I recall that you will not be able to wade and fish beyond this point. It is too deep on either side to continue downriver so this is why I started using my canoe. I also used my one man pontoon boat. If you have a canoe or a pontoon boat you have to know where to take it out. Go across the bridge and immediately take a left turn on to Sears Rd. About a half mile down this road you will come to a small hill. When you start down this hill the road will veer left and the Row River will come next to the road at the bottom of this hill. This is where you can take out your canoe or pontoon boat. This take out point is at the top of a long pool and you cannot walk to the next good fishing spot. But you can paddle down to the end of this pool and get out to fish the next run. If the water is low you can leave your canoe here and continue to walk and wade fish all the way to the freeway bridge. There is good trout fishing here. You will have to walk back to your canoe and then paddle back upriver to the takeout point. I should tell you that you must be an expert on the canoe to fish from Killion's downriver.
A downriver picture taken from the bridge at Killion's. This is 1984 but is still about the same
The next good stretch of water for trout fishing is upriver from the bridge at Killion's. This is my favorite walking and wading stretch. You have to wade this stretch when the water is low enough to wade. From June to the first week of September usually provides good wading conditions. If you can wade across the river (using chest waders) to the Killion's side of the river after you parked on the west side you will find that the water is low enough to wade upriver and fish. In fact you need to start on the Killion's side of the river when you go above the bridge.
Here is my latest update from Killion's to Mosbey Creek ... click here.
Looking downriver toward the bridge. Killion's is on the right side below the bridge
My friend Allen who owns Killion's (I heard he had cancer and might not be alive) used to let me park next to the store and I could walk down to the river from here. There is a small slough you have to cross and then you will be right above the bridge. There is a deep pool below the bridge and this pool holds lots of trout. In the summer you will see lots of trout rising right below the bridge. They can be caught but if you are into catch and release as I am they get harder and harder to catch. You will start fishing right at the bridge. As you walk upriver you will see that you can wade across the river in many places. And you will have to do this. And you will fish any area that has some depth. These areas all hold fish. Even some places that look too shallow will hold fish. I have to tell you now that this is not easy walking and wading. But often the effort is worth the trouble.
The "Little Falls" is a good fishing area. Just a little ways above is the confluence of the Row River
and Mosby Creek
If you are a strong wader you will come to the confluence of Mosby Creek and the Row River about a half mile upriver (it will seem like a mile). I don't know why but Mosby Creek doesn't fish well. It is a good looking stream but I have never had any luck on it. Many years ago a person could drive up Mosby Creek Road and turn off on Jenkin's Road and access the confluence at this point. It might be worth it to check this out again. Continue walking and fishing above the confluence. When you come to a deep pool with a house on a cliff across the river you have come to the end. I have made this walking - wading trek last year so I know that it is as doable as it was 20 years ago.
My buddy Brandon when he was a boy with a sixteen inch rainbow
I have many great memories on this stretch. Here is one that comes to mind. One year the water was wadeable in March which is not the norm since the water tends to be too high for wading until later in the year. On this memorable day I caught over 10 trout (cutts and rainbows) with the average size at 16 inches. I caught rainbows up to 21 inches and my largest cutthroat of 19 inches on this day. What I discovered that day was that some of the largest fish move upriver to spawn in March and April. These large fish are never on this stretch at any other time of the year. At least not in these numbers. Even the famous Mckenzie hasn't produced fishing as good as that day. Your average fishing on this stretch might net you 10 trout from 10 to 12 inches. Occasionally you might see some 14 and 16 inch fish. Rainbows and Cutthroats. Even with this good trout fishing this section of the river gets little pressure. I have probably seen only 6 to 8 anglers in all the days I have fished this stretch. Of course you will always see people fishing around the bridge because of the easy access but once you start moving away from the bridge you often have the river all to yourself. Who could ask for more?