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The Chetco River is a 56-mile (90 km) long stream located in the southwestern portion of the U.S. state of Oregon. It drains approximately 352 square miles (912 km2) of Curry County. Flowing through a rugged and isolated coastal region, it descends rapidly from about 3,200 feet (975 m) to sea level at the Pacific Ocean. Except for the lowermost 5 miles (8 km), the river is located entirely within the Rogue River Siskiyou National Forest. The river rises in the Kalmiopsis Wilderness, northwest of Chetco Peak at the junction of the Oregon Coast Range and the Klamath Mountains. It flows generally north, west, and then southwest, before emptying into the ocean between Brookings and Harbor, approximately 6 miles (10 km) north of the California state line.
Supporting a large population of salmon and trout, the Chetco's water is of very high quality.
The Chetco River begins about 4 miles (6 km) east of Chetco Peak, approximately 3,201 feet (976 m) above sea level. It flows north, gathering small tributaries such as the Little Chetco River and Babyfoot Creek. The river turns west near the 5,098-foot (1,554 m) tall Pearsoll Peak, the highest point in the watershed. It receives Box Canyon Creek on the left bank, Tincup Creek on the right bank, and Boulder Creek on the left. It then flows south, gathering the South Fork Chetco River. A few miles farther south, the river passes through a Redwood grove. It flows between Bosley Butte to the north and Mount Emily to the south; the latter is the site of one of only four bombs dropped in the continental United States by an enemy aircraft. This occurred during the Lookout Air Raids of 1942.
Turning southwest, the river flows through Alfred A. Loeb State Park and collects the North Fork Chetco River on the right at river mile (RM) 5 or river kilometer (RK) 8. The Chetco becomes an estuary about 1.7 miles (2.7 km) from its mouth. It passes through the communities of Brookings to the north and Harbor to the south, and discharges into the Pacific Ocean.