Updated: March 24, 2006
Rafting the Upper Klamath River
The Hell's Corner run of the Upper Klamath is a wonderful big water run that begins in Oregon and ends in California. This run can usually be done year around due to the dependable dam releases from John Boyle Powerhouse. Most people run the river when one turbine is releasing water (1500 cfs) and a few lucky rafters report an especially exciting trip when two turbines are pumping out the flow (2700 cfs).
This is a high desert volcanic canyon. The volcanic rocks here are sharp, so most kayaker types avoid this run. Additionally, the brownish color of the water released from the powerhouse makes these sharp rocks difficult to see. It's nice to boat this section with a commercial outfitter since the professional guides know where the sharp rocks are and how to avoid them.
The river starts off with several miles of Class II and III rapids as well as pleasant campsites before dropping into a five mile gorge. The first big rapid is the Class IV+ Caldera, a long and steep rapid with many rocks and holes. Below here are several Class III rapids followed by the Class IV Satan's Gate.
Next comes Hell's Corner which most people consider the the highlight of their trip. This is an awesome half mile long Class IV+ rapid that ends at a drop called The Dragon or Dragon's Tooth due to a couple of submerged rocks.
Hell's Corner is soon followed by the Class III and IV rapids Jackass, Scarface, Ambush, Bushwacker, Pony Express, Captain Jack, Roughshod, Snag Island Falls, Wells Fargo, and finally State Line Falls. Below State line Falls is about six miles of fairly straightforward whitewater before taking out just above Copco Reservoir.
If you're interested in pictures and the perspective of an inflatable kayaker, check out cacreeks's Upper Klamath description.
Take a look at allaboutrivers.com for more information on the Upper Klamath run.
To reach Fishing Access #1 above Copco Reservoir (take-out): If you're coming from California, get yourself on Interstate 5 and head north to Oregon. Seven miles south of the border, take the Henley-Hornbrook exit and drive east about 2.5 miles and hang a right on Ager Road. You'll cross the Klamath River and drive 3.5 miles before taking a left on Ager-Beswick Road. Then drive another 15 miles and pass Copco Reservoir where you'll leave a car at fishing access #1.
To reach John Boyle Powerhouse (put-in): You've got several good options here depending on your adventurous attitude, your transportation, and your maps. The easiest is to drive back to Interstate 5 and head north to Ashland, Oregon. Once you're in Ashland take exit 14 and drive forty-five miles east on Oregon Highway 66 to John Boyle Powerhouse. Just before you cross the reservoir, hang a right onto a dirt road that travels five miles down to the powerhouse. Put-in is a quarter mile below the powerhouse.
A quicker way to reach put-in is to drive to the north shore of Copco Reservoir and after five miles head north on Copco-Pinehurst Road. After ten miles you'll reach Oregon Highway 66 and you can follow the directions above!
All Oregon River Company
ARTA River Trips
High Country Expeditions
Disclaimer: River descriptions and classifications may change due to natural events that may create new hazards or flows. C-W-R advises that any paddler that uses this site be additionally informed by seeking out local news and updates for changes on this river.
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