The Klamath River begins in the Cascade Mountains of southern Oregon and flows more than 240 miles to the Pacific Ocean at Requa, CA. Along the way it gains some serious volume by contributions from the Scott River, Cal Salmon River, and Trinity River.
Boating on the Klamath River varies greatly from mellow class I and II stretches to intense Class IV+ whitewater rapids. The varied geology and climate changes the scenery and wildlife drastically from the headwaters to the lower stretches of the river.
The Klamath is California’s biggest and longest whitewater river. Its name comes from the Chinook word for “swiftness.” Many Indian tribes including the Shasta, the Karok and the Yurok made the Klamath River valley their home and lived on plentiful salmon and steelhead. Their way of live was profoundly interrupted in 1850 when gold-seeking whites overran their remote homelands. The construction of a Pacific Power dam just south of the Oregon boarder in 1917 also drastically altered the river’s flow and killed off much of the fish population, leaving the natives without a food source. Numerous initiatives have since been passed in the State of California to protect fish populations, and a second dam was built (Iron Gate) to help even out the releases of the first.
The Hell’s Corner Run on the Upper Klamath in Oregon is a favorite with expert boaters. It flows through a volcanic high desert canyon, and is also on a major migratory route for birds ranging from eagles to falcons to herons. There are also many sites of historical interest to check out including old mines, ranches and mills.
The recommended 100-mile scenic section of the Klamath below Iron Gate in California is between Sarah Totten and Weichpec. Here boaters will find a great combination of exciting whitewater, beautiful scenery and easy access. Paddlers can plan an extended overnight trip and float the whole 100 miles, but with the highway close to the river, this section is perfect for boaters to tailor their trips to their own tastes and capabilities.