Upper Klamath River, CA

Anyone have experience paddling the upper Klamath R below Iron Gate Dam? Flows are high this year so we are staying the upper watershed. Recommended flows are under 15,000 cfs on the Orleans gauge. It is much higher than that now but should recede over the next month.

No experience but a quick look at American Whitewater suggests that part of that section was affected by fires, there may be an increase in obstructions, and you should check to see if there are still some Forest Service closings in the area. According to AW there is a gauge at the Iron Gate dam & that gauge puts the section in the middle of AW’s recommended runnable range.

Below Iron Gate Dam the river is controlled. The River gains considerable flow as large creeks and tribs add flow. The standard max runnable flow is 15,000 cfs on the Orleans gauge. It is currently running around 20,000 with some warm weather on the way.

Just talked with the Klamath National Forest. The closure was from last August. They are no current closures on the whole River.

Current discharge near the mouth is 50,000 cfs. It is a large river. We will be doing the upper section where the flow is now around 6,000 cfs.

Three dams are coming out this summer. The Klamath R is a great salmon fishery. The local Yuroks and other Tribes are enthused about the prospect. They will be having a festival to celebrate the returning of the salmon.


Just dragged off the Klamath. The river was fast, high and pushy. Rapids were frequent. There were five bridge abutments and only one was mentioned in the guide books. The I-5 bridge had large concrete slabs supporting it that were 20 feet wide and nearly perpendicular to the current. Most rapids were 3s at 4,000-5,000 cfs.

We had aluminum drift boats and made a couple of rock hits. We pulled off early and shortened the trip. I cannot recommend the upper part. The few boat ramps were brushed in and hard to find. The beaches were all under water and the river is lined with willows, cottonwoods and black berry brambles.

At 73 this trip was way too much work and dangerous. I dipped a rail and half filled my boat with water on a simple little side channel. My brother smacked one of the bridge abutements, but avoided getting pinned.

Now the idea of easier rivers is becoming attractive. Maybe a commercial trip with some younger people to do a lot of the work. Be careful out there.

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