The watershed drains more than 940 sq miles, or 600,700 acres. More than half of its length it runs through forested areas over rugged terrain. The lower reaches flow through agricultural and densely populated areas. The watershed crosses two counties and includes federal land administered by the US Forest Service and BLM, state land, and private land.
Unlike the Bull Run Watershed, which is federally owned and managed by the City of Portland, 72% of the of the Clackamas watershed is publicly owned, 3% is tribally owned, and 25% is privately owned. The watershed can roughly be divided in half, with nearly all of the upper watershed in the Mt. Hood National Forest and managed by the USFS. In contrast, most of the lower watershed is privately owned. The area in between the national forest and the lower watershed include parcels of land owned by private timber companies and the BLM. The estimated population within the watershed in 1995 was 63,702.
The Clackamas River supplies high-quality drinking water for nearly 300,000 people in Clackamas County and is targeted in the Regional Water Supply Plan as a source to meet future demand.
There are five municipal surface water intakes on Clackamas. They include:
- City of Estacada
- City of Lake Oswego
- Clackamas River Water
- North Clackamas County Water Commission
- City of Gladstone,
- Oak Lodge Water District
- Sunrise Water Authority
- South Fork Water Board
- Oregon City
- West Linn
PGE operates three hydroelectric dams on the Clackamas River mainstem: Faraday (just east of Estacada), River Mill (west of Estacada) andNorth Fork (upstream from Faraday). These dams have adult fish passage facilities; Faraday and River Mill also have juvenile fish bypass facilities. The Oak Grove Fork of theClackamasRiver has two dams, at Lake Harriet (23 miles east of Estacada) and TimothyLake.
In 1988 Congress incorporated approximately 50 miles of the Clackamas River into the Federal Wild and Scenic River System. Four sections of the River are also designated as State Scenic Waterways. The purpose of these designations is to manage designated segments by protecting their outstandingly remarkable values and maintaining and enhancing the natural integrity of river related values.
The watershed supports naturally spawning anadromous fish including steelhead, chinook, coho salmon, as well as lamprey and sea-run cutthroat trout. It also provides important habitat for many wildlife species, both game and non game, and offers a wealth of recreational activities such as fishing, hiking, camping, white water rafting, kayaking, and hunting.