Loading...
Upper Klamath2021-01-05T10:55:04-08:00

Upper Klamath

Spilling out of the J.C. Boyle Dam a few miles upstream, the Upper Klamath River has remarkably consistent flows throughout the year. This section of whitewater, offers some of the best continuous action for a Class IV river. In addition, the scenery is incredible, and the area is known for its excellent birding, so keep your head on a swivel. Tackling this river will take you through the notorious Hell’s Canyon, marked by almost continuous Class IV whitewater. This trip can be run as a single day trip, or an overnighter. The Upper Klamath begins in Oregon, but ends up in California, marked by a fitting surf wave right on the California border.

About this guide

This guide outlines the most common run of the Upper Klamath River from the Spring Island Klamath River Access to Access #6.

All data points were collected using GPS. This location information is provided. These locations were checked against Google Earth for accuracy. Distances are the averages of repeated trips that were GPSed.

Put-ins and take-outs include links to their Google Map locations. Use this to accurately build shuttle directions.

River Info

The Upper Klamath is a challenging Class II-IV+ run, with continuous whitewater for much of the river. It is just downstream of the J.C. Boyle Powerhouse and Dam, which release water from Klamath Lake.

Safety

The Upper Klamath is an intermediate to advanced river run. While there are sections that are mellow Class II and III, take into account numerous other challenges such as strainers, and sieves. As a private boater, make sure you join a party that has recent Upper Klamath experience. Please note that the Upper Klamath river has many rapids that are shallow, and the rocks are sharp, so having swimmers here can be very dangerous.

Permits

There are no permits required for the Upper Klamath River, but it’s still a good idea to tell someone where you’re at.

Flows

The Upper Klamath River has very consistent flows throughout the year, with the summer flows generally hovering around 1,500-1,700 CFS. In the springtime, flows can jump up to 3,000 CFS, which is considered to be Class V. It is runnable from 1500-3000 CFS, but please note the increase in difficulty as the flow increases.

Hell’s Canyon

The Upper Klamath begins with several miles of flatwater mixed with Class II & III whitewater. Around mile 4.5, the river constricts and you enter “Hell’s Canyon”, consisting of several miles of very continuous Class IV/IV+ whitewater. This section is sure to be the highlight of your trip, but note that it is notorious for its’ shallow rapids, with sharp rocks, so be very cautious in this area, as you do not want swimmers here. Be sure to scout all three of the big Class IVs in this section (Caldera, Satan’s Gate, & Hell’s Corner).

Shuttle Info:

Unfortunately, Google Maps, is unable to provide accurate routes directly to the Put-In, so please see these directions to arrive to the Put-In. From Ashland, Oregon, travel east on State Highway 66 for approximately 43 miles. Turn right onto J.C. Boyle Powerhouse Road (40-6E-1.2). Follow J.C. Boyle Powerhouse Road (40-6E-1.2) for approximately 4 miles to Spring Island Day Use Site. From Klamath Falls, Oregon travel west on State Highway 66 for approximately 30 miles. Turn left onto J.C. Boyle Powerhouse Road (40-6E-1.2). Follow J.C. Boyle Powerhouse Road (40-6E-1.2) for approximately 4 miles to Spring Island Day Use Site.

Upper Klamath River Flow
Gauge data provided by Dream Flows

Based in Southern Oregon, Indigo Creek Outfitters offers one day trips on the Upper Klamath. Additionally, they offer trips on the Rogue and Lower Klamath.

Click here to learn more.

Upper Klamath River Map & Guide

WARNING: Conditions change frequently and may make this guide useless. This guide is NOT a replacement for sound judgment. Go with someone with recent Upper Klamath experience.

Class II Rapid

Class II rapid or river feature.

Class III Rapid

Class III rapid or river feature.

Class IV Rapid

Class IV rapid or river feature.

Put-In / Take-Out

The most commonly used access points.

Point of Interest

These include hot springs, notable private property and more.

Fun Zone

Well known surf waves, jump rock locations, and safe swim areas

Campgrounds

Riverside camping locations.

Upper Klamath – Class II, III, & IV

The Upper Klamath is a Class II, III, & IV run from the Spring Island River Access Point and winds its way through Hell’s Canyon to the Access 6 Take-Out

Length

Spring Island to Access #6 is 12.1 miles.

Difficulty

Moderate to Advanced.

Feet per Mile

Spring Island to Access #6 is 48 FPM.

Shuttle Time

Spring Island Klamath River Access
to Access 6 is roughly 2.5 hours round trip.
See “Upper Klamath Information Tab for detailed Shuttle Info”
Directions to J.C. Boyle Powerhouse Road from Take-Out:

Mile 0.0 – Spring Island Klamath River Access: River Right. This Put-In is a pretty rough road, and we definitely recommend a high clearance 4WD vehicles. The put-in is just downstream of the J.C. Boyle Powerhouse. The water usually has brown, foamy, “root beer” look to it, caused by algae from Klamath Lake.. Klamath Lake is sitting just behind the J.C. Boyle Dam, so the water is relatively warm.

Mile 0.89 – Osprey Rapid: Class III. Read and run rapid, keep your eyes peeled for Osprey nests and Osprey. Look towards the tops of the trees on river left for your best chance.

Mile 4.97 – Frain Ranch Put-In: River Left. Another put-in comes in on river left. This is also a very rough road, and is only passable by high clearance 4WD vehicles

Mile 5.76 – Caldera Rapid: Class IV. This is a long rapid that we recommend you scout. Scouting can be done on river left. The typical run is to the left, but mindful of a very large pourover/hole on river left called “The Mushroom”. After the Mushroom, work left again to avoid some shallow rocks on river right. At this point, the rapid is full of rockin’ waves, and holes, so stay on your toes!

Mile 6.38 – Bermuda Triangle Rapid: Class III. Enter Bermuda left of center (lots of rocks to the right). There’s a big wave on the bottom left and right of this rapid.

Mile 6.61 – Branding Iron Rapid: Class III. Like many rapids on the Upper Klamath, Branding Iron is a big wave train. However, about 2/3 of the way down is a large wave, that you’ll definitely want to hit straight.

Mile 6.94 – Satan’s Gate Rapid: Class IV. The river bends to the right in this long rapid. Rocks on both river left and right force a down the middle entrance. Work right (keep your eye out for holes) to avoid a large sieve on river left roughly halfway through this rapid. There is a nice eddy to catch on river right after this rapid, which you should catch, as Hell’s Corner is just around the bend.

Mile 7.16 – Hell’s Corner Rapid: Class IV. This is an epic rapid. Luckily you can scout the entire thing from river right (which is recommended). Over the course of around a half-mile, the river bends to the right, then to the left, then finally back to the right. In general, you’ll want to stay to the right, especially towards the middle of this rapid, as the current will push you left into shallow, impassable rocks. At the bottom of this rapid, you’ll see and eddy on river right, which you’ll want to catch to take a look at the Dragon (2 large pour overs just downstream of this eddy).

Mile 7.42 – Fluffy Bunny Rapid: Class IV. Known by some as “The Dragon”, just downstream of the Hell’s Corner eddy, there’s a large pour over on river right, keep left of this, then enjoy some fun waves for this splashy Class III+! Watch out for 2 submerged boulders at the bottom right of this rapid.

Mile 7.61 – Jackass Rapid: Class III. Enter right for this read-and-run rapid to stay clear of boulders on river left.

Mile 7.81 – Scar Face Rapid: Class III. Enter left of center for a fun large drop! Watch out for some boulders in center channel.

Mile 8.02 – Dance Hall Rapid: Class III. The river bends to the right and splits into 2 channels going around an island,.Stay in the left channel, but keep inside on this turn. Lots of fun waves at the bottom of this rapid!

Mile 8.15 – Ambush Rapid: Class III. Rocks at the top right of Ambush force a left entrance. Stay left and hit the big waves straight!

Mile 8.24 – Ol’ Bushwhacker Rapid: Class III. Run Ol’ Bushwhacker down the middle, and enjoy an awesome wave train!

Mile 8.43 – Salt Caves: River Left. On River left, you’ll see some beautiful caves with salt that has precipitated out of the walls. This is a native sacred site, so there is no stopping allowed. Please be respectful!

Mile 8.66 – Rainbow Rock Rapid: Class II. Rainbow Rock is read-and-run rapid

Mile 9.21 – Captain Jack Rapid: Class III. Captain Jack is a read-and-run rapid as the river bends to the right.

Mile 9.74 – Snag Island Rapid: Class IV. Snag Island is a long fun rapid. A gentle left bend suddenly sharpens to the left. Stay inside on this turn to avoid getting pushed into the riverbank.

Mile 10.23 – Wolf Camp: River Right. Good spot to camp on river right.

Mile 10.46 – Wells Fargo Rapid: Class III. The river again splits into 2 channels around an island in the middle of the river. Stay to the right channel at most flows, then work to the left.

Mile 10.77 – No Look Falls Rapid: Class II. Read-and-run rapid.

Mile 10.85 – Don’t Kill The Piano Player Rapid: Class II. Read-and-run rapid.

Mile 11.05 – Stateline Falls Rapid: Class III. Straddling the Oregon-California border is Class III Stateline Falls. River bends to the left, lots of fun waves. Just downstream is a surf wave, so be ready to eddy out. Welcome home if you’re a Californian!

Mile 11.12 – California Beach Boys Surf Wave: River Right. This is a fun surf wave just downstream of Stateline Falls. There are eddies on both river right and left. It’s worth hitting this wave!

Mile 11.23 – Stateline Access: River Left. Take-Out point on river left. Tough access, especially compared to Access 6.

Mile 11.87 – Arden’s Folly Rapid: Class II. Read and run rapid (stay alert though, it is possible to wrap a boat here, which would be an unfortunate end to your day.)

Mile 12.15 – Access 6 Take-Out: River Left. Take out on river left at Access 6. You’ll stay on Ager Beswick Road for quite some time. It winds in tandem with the Upper Klamath, and is quite scenic.

Posts related to the Upper Klamath River