SLIDE CITY - Josiah Darr

SLIDE CITY - Josiah Darr

“Make sure your rope is 3/8” diameter at the minimum and I mean bare minimum. I use a 1” rope, I could lower my truck down any slide ramp with it.”


Siskyville on the Wilson.

Coastal salmon and steelhead fishermen are a resilient breed. When we get knocked down, we get back up. When we lose a big chinook into a logjam or pull the hook on a big steelhead at the net, we don’t dwell on it or cry about it for the rest of the day. We retie our gear, turn our faces back into the elements and keep casting because there’s no better way to get over a lost fish than to rip into another one.

It doesn’t matter if we’re faced with bitter freezing temperatures, Noah’s Ark-style downpours, long drowsy drives through icy mountain passes or fruitless hours probing the water waiting for an indescribable tug on the line…we fight on.







So, when those of us lucky enough to own drift boats want to get our boats into a particular stretch of water, that boat is getting in there one way or another. Especially if we know there’s a pile of bright fish stacked downstream.

Enter the boat slide.

There are a variety of different styles of boat slides. They range from well-constructed wood slides built by guys with engineering degrees, to rock faces cut between downed trees built by guys holding Busch Light cans. To a hardcore steelhead fisherman, either one is fine. We know our boat is a transportation tool, not a garage princess sitting there to look pretty. Leaving a little gel coat on the riverbank or some aluminum on the side of a hill is a small price to pay for access to a fishy stretch of water. If there’s one place you absolutely have to be willing to dangle your boat off a cliff to get into some of the best stretches of river, it’s Tillamook County. There are nine main boat slides on Tillamook-area rivers that are commonly used and another handful less publicized. Some are super simple while others are flat-out dangerous, but each of them can be used successfully with a little information and common sense.



Siskyville - This is probably the busiest slide in Tillamook County because it’s the easiest to use and gets you into so much good water, but there are still boats lost down the slide yearly. There’s ample room to turn your truck around so make sure you line your boat up with the long wood slide in such a way that you can get your boat between the rails on both sides of the ramp. There’s also a newly constructed metal staircase along the side of the ramp. Use the strap on your trailer to get your boat onto the flatter part of the slide at the top. Once it’s on the flat part, wrap your rope around the wood beam at the top of the ramp at least once, twice if you have a heavy boat or the ramp is wet or icy. Attach your slide rope BEFORE taking off your winch strap, get the rope tight and then detach your winch strap. After that, simply lower her down a little at a time. Make sure you have at least 100’ of rope for this slide or you’ll find yourself in a world of hurt.

Difficulty: Easy if you’re careful, take your time and don’t do anything dumb.
Boat Damage: None, unless your rope breaks or you don’t wrap it enough around the beam at the top.


Vanderzanden - Like Siskyville, Vanderzanden is a wood slide with rails on both sides to keep your boat on. Unlike Sisky, Vanderzanden is very short and doesn’t have a nice gravel bar to lower your boat onto at the bottom. Instead you’re dropping your boat down a much steeper slide right into deep, fast, churning water. And there’s not a nice staircase along the slide either. This ramp isn’t for the faint of heart and I’d strongly suggest if you try to launch here, you do it with someone that’s done it before.

Another EXTREMELY IMPORTANT detail about Vanderzanden is that if you’re going to lower a boat with lower than 28” side height at the oarlock, you must turn the boat around and lower it down the ramp BOW FIRST. Eastside Drifter, older Alumawelds and a handful of other boats are susceptible to sinking too. If you don’t lower the boat bow first, the water will fill up the back of the boat and swamp you or worse. It only takes a second to flip the boat around, but not doing it will cause a lot longer delays.

Difficulty: Extreme
Boat Damage: No chance of boat damage because the slide won’t damage your boat, but the boat will flat out sink if you do it wrong.





10 Mile

To say that 10 Mile is an unimproved slide would be a huge understatement. It’s nothing more than a 100’ gap in the trees wide enough to get the boat to the water, but you’re going to be jostling the boat over microwave-sized boulders. You’ll absolutely need some big-boy arms to get your boat down this sucker and even then it’s tough. Not for the faint of heart, and personally I don’t think the juice is worth the squeeze, but some guys do.

Difficulty: High
Boat Damage: Extreme


10 Mile on the Wilson.



Cedar Creek - Cedar Creek as it’s commonly referred to will unlock some water above the Trask River Hatchery, but it does take some caution. The slide itself is steep and makes a turn half way down so you need to make sure one of your buddies isn’t between the boat and the wall or the tree for risk of getting pinned. Another major hazard of the Cedar Creek slide is the fact that log trucks are often screaming up and down Trask River Road and they’ll be making a fairly blind corner coming down the hill as you back your boat across the road. And of course you can’t see them coming from where you have to pull to back up to the slide so make sure you use a buddy to spot for you when backing up. Don’t hang out in the road too long because a loaded-down log truck will have almost zero chance of stopping in time and it’s likely the truck driver will barely hit their brakes before things go from good to tragic.

Difficulty: Moderate
Boat Damage: Minimal unless you get clobbered by a truck barreling down the hill.


Cedar Creek Slide on the Trask.


Stone’s Camp - A lot like Vanderzanden in that it’s another short wood slide and it’s not a horrible idea to flip your boat bow first before lowing it into the river. This slide doesn’t get as much use as some of the others because it only allows access to a short stretch of water down to the Upper Peninsula take-out; or the Last Chance take-out if you’re willing to row through the giant rapid between the two. I can tell you from personal experience, I’ve rowed around the peninsula to Last Chance once and have zero desire to do it again. If you do decide to do it, don’t miss Last Chance or we’ll be reading about you in the obituary section of the Headlight Herald.

Difficulty: Moderate
Boat Damage: Minimal, but don’t miss the take-out or it goes from moderate to imminent right away.






The 5 ½ slide on the Nestucca is a fairly simple short wood slide off Borba Road. There’s not much to worry about sliding in at 5 ½. Just make sure there’s enough water in the river to get down from there. There are a lot of exposed rocks down stream from 5 ½ if there’s not enough water to cover them or you’re not experienced on the sticks.

Difficulty: Easy
Boat Damage: Very little at the slide, but if there’s not enough water you’re going to be trading paint for a few miles.


6th Bridge

6th is another unimproved ramp off Blaine Road. It’s really just a steep dirt slide with tree roots protruding from the ground to get in the way. There’s a risk of the boat pinning someone against the dirt hill on one side or the tree on the other so make sure you stay out of there. Like 5½, there better be enough water in the river or you’re going to have a bumpy ride down.

Difficulty: Moderate
Boat Damage: Moderate at the ramp, but much higher once you get moving down the river.



The Blaine Slide is a fairly simple dirt and gravel slide off the shoulder into the river, but the water downstream from here is very tough to row. If the water is moderate or low, you’re going to hit rocks all the way down, but if it’s high your chances of not making one of the corners and smashing into a solid rock wall are much higher. This launch isn’t heavily used by guys in hard boats, due to the risk of boat damage being seldom worth the reward.

Difficulty: Easy
Boat Damage: The dirt slide itself will scrape you up a little bit, but the water below can do a heck of a lot worse.







Beaver Slide - The Beaver Slide off of Foss Road is one of the worst ramps I’ve ever used. Not only is it very unimproved, your boat slides a long way and the last 40’ it travels before it gets to the water is solid jagged rock. You will absolutely bang up your boat launching here. Make sure you have at least 150’ of rope. This is the longest out of all of them and there’s no wood beam to wrap your slide rope around so I like to use the axel of my trailer. I’ve used the roller and the bunk before, but it tears up the carpet on the bunk so stick with the axel.

Difficulty: Moderate
Boat Damage: Severe. You will absolutely chew your boat up on the rocks at the bottom of the slide. There’s no way around it. If you decide to start using the slide ramps around Tillamook County you’ll instantly gain a lot more water to fish.


Beaver Slide on the Nehalem. 


If you practice and are careful, you shouldn’t have too many issues. That being said, it doesn’t matter how many times you’ve been using the slide ramps or how heavy your boat is, if your rope is too thin or too old you are going to lose a boat at some point. Make sure your rope is 3/8” diameter at the minimum and I mean bare minimum. I use a 1” rope and I could lower my truck down any slide ramp with it. Sure you can do it with a smaller rope, but why even take the chance? Rope strength is one of those things where if some is good, more is better. 








Back to blog

Leave a comment

Please note, comments need to be approved before they are published.