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Klamath River, California

Canoe West
of California 

 Canoe Runs On The Middle Klamath River

Levels on the Klamath River
Sections of the Klamath River
Canoeing Tips & Tales

The Klamath River begins at Klamath Lake in Oregon, flows to John Boyle Reservoir, then to Copco Reservoir in California, then to Iron Gate Reservoir, and then flows free 180 miles to the ocean. To whitewater boaters the stretch from John Boyle Powerhouse to Copco Lake is known as the "Upper Klamath." Since this run has class 3, class 4, and class 5 rapids, it is not the place to learn to canoe. For most of us it is not a place to canoe at all! However, you can drive up Agar Beswick road to Stateline Falls and put in there ( above or below this rapid, as you please). From this point to Copco Lake is a 6 mile class 2 run. If you are appropriately vague about your put-in point, the rafters who catch up with you will assume that you are one mean canoer. You can talk about the difficulties of Caldera and Hell's Corner without actually saying that you ran them. Seriously, I would not recommend the Upper Klamath run for canoers. Not only are the rapids difficult, but the water is often shallow and the rocks "toothy." Not a good place to be out of your boat, and the chances are excellent that you would be.

The Middle Klamath (according to me) begins at the base of Iron Gate Dam and ends at Somes Bar, 124 miles away. Actually, a run on the lower end of this stretch must end at Green Riffle (mile 120), the last take out before Ishi Pishi. Don't canoe beyond this point. The results of such action would be bad for the sport of canoeing - and bad for you, too.

The part of the river that is left I call the Lower Klamath, but I bet you already figured that out.

But back to the top. We will consider Iron Gate to be the beginning of mile1 of the Middle Klamath and compute the other runs from this point. This first one is a pretty easy class 1/ class 2 run that has optional take outs: Klamathon Bridge (5 miles), Collier Rest Stop (11 miles - take out river left before the first bridge), and Snag Hole (14 miles - one mile below the confluence of the Shasta River, not marked).

If you opt for the long run, pay special attention to the river left drift of the mid-stream current as you approach the Freeway bridge just before Collier Rest Stop (mi 10.5-although I don't know how you are going to know that). Also, be prepared to do a little maneuvering below the 263 bridge (mi 13). And just before Snag Hole (mi 14) be sure you are at river right. There is a weir type ledge of rock across most of the river with a chute at the right. And there is a rock just below the chute just to keep things interesting. Nice place to swim if it comes to that.

Since we have a tendency to play a bit, we seldom travel over 10 miles a day. Everybody does it different, so you will have to make up your own runs, but here on paper we're going to do it my way. When I talk about you canoeing the river, I am making the assumption that you know basic canoe strokes, can control your canoe in fast water, can ferry, catch eddies, and have enough sense to lean into obstacles rather than away from them. If any on this sounds strange to you, get some instruction. I would recommend American Canoe Association Instructors. Naturally, I'm one of those. Next time: Snag Hole to Skeehan Bar.

Neil Rucker, head instructor for Canoe West

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