It rises in the mountains east of Lincoln City and west of Dallas along the Lincoln-Polk county line. It flows generally WSW, long the border between Lincoln and Tillamook counties, through the Van Duzer State Forest and the Siuslaw National Forest. It enters the Pacific approximately 4 mi (6.4 km) north of Lincoln City on the Tillamook-Lincoln county line.
The river valley provides the route of Oregon Route 18 to the coast, which crosses from the valley of the South Yamhill River to the east. As it flows along the river, the highway passes through Van Duzer Forest Corridor State Wayside, a region of uncut forest amidst a surrounding timber region.