The Klamath River begins its course near Crater Lake in southern Oregon, flowing almost 300 miles though mountain ranges, hydroelectric dams, high-desert and temperate rainforest before reaching the Pacific Ocean south of Crescent City, California. Native American tribes including the Klamath, Shasta, Yurok, Hupa and Karok have made this area their home for more than 7,000 years, and some continue there to this day.
The Klamath River is the longest “Wild and Scenic” river in California, designated as such due to its numerous anadromous (migrating upstream to spawn) fish species: Chinook and Coho salmon, steelhead and coastal cutthroat trout, green and white sturgeon, and Pacific lamprey. Efforts to preserve these fish populations have created some controversy as much of the water on the Upper Klamath (above Iron Gate Dam in Humbrook, CA) has been diverted for irrigation or hydroelectric use. There is currently an agreement, beginning in 2020, to remove four dams on the river.
Don’t forget to look up and take in the surroundings. Over 250 species of birds including the Blue Heron and Bald Eagle soar overhead while mule deer, elk, pronghorn antelope, cougar and black bear roam the rugged mountain ridges. This biodiverse temperate region is also home to over 3,500 plant species.
It may be the 3rd largest river after the Sacramento and Colombia but it will be number 1 in your heart. With year round kayaking and rafting from splashy Class II to thrilling Class V whitewater the Klamath is a remote hidden gem you will never forget.