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Most reliable rafter's river? Perhaps the Klamath.

From its origin at Oregon's Upper Klamath Lake, the Kiamath River cuts southwest through both the volcanic Cascades and the convoluted ranges of the Klamath Mountains, ultimately pouring more water into the Pacific than any other California river except the Sacramento. Remote yet easily accessible, the Klamath has been the salvation of some river-runners in the past few drought-plagued years. While other more popular runs petered out before summer's arrival, the Klamath maintained a reliable flow throughout the year. With California water supplies low again this year, the Klamath remains a good bet. Our information will help you plan a river trip.

Three dams stem the natural flow of the Klamath through the Cascades; another dam proposed by the City of Klamath Falls would eliminate the only whitewater run remaining between the existing dams. But the undammed 135-mile stretch between 1-5 and the Trinity River confluence offers boaters a playful and scenic ride, with enough rapids to keep things lively.

Relatively slow flow combined with warmer water than in most raftable rivers makes swimming an inviting, rather than bonechilling, prospect. State Highway 96 follows the river along this entire stretch, allowing easy access while detracting little from the beauty of the rugged and thickly wooded canyon.

Among the first rivers to be protected under the state's Wild and Scenic River Act (it later received federal protection as well), the Klamath supports more wildlife than you're likely to see on almost any other Western river. Most conspicuous are large birds such as ospreys and blue herons, which feast on the plentiful fish that also draw many anglers to the river. Sightings of the elusive Bigfoot, also rumored to inhabit this region, are considerably less, frequent.

Long before sparkling water or leaping fish attracted sportsmen to the Klamath, the glint of gold lured fortune seekers to its banks. In recent years, interest in gold mining along the river has revived; as you paddle downstream, the whine of gaspowered dredges might from time to time drown out the river's more subtle sounds. Although whitewater guides complain about the noise and congestion caused by the new generation of miners, Klamath National Forest administrators have been reluctant to restrict time-honered mining rights.

Rafting trips for tots or thrill seekers

Easy access along much of the Klamath allows guides to offer trips of varying lengths and degrees of difficulty. Choose a twoday outing gentle enough for small children, or a three-day run through boiling rapids with fear-inspiring names like Rattlesnake, Devil's Toe Nail, and Dragon's Tooth.

Experienced boaters with their own canoes, kayaks, or rafts can plan a river run with the help of maps and brochures available at Klamath National Forest headquarters in Yreka. The maps show river access points and rapids, as well as the technical difficulty of each rapid. To order, call (916) 842-6131, or stop by the office (open weekdays only), at 1312 Fairlane Road.

Put-ins at or near Happy Camp, 65 miles west of 1-5, are the most popular for three-day runs on a stretch of river rated class 3. (Officially defined as "difficult," class 3 rivers actually make challenging but safe runs for novice paddlers, if they go on guided trips.) The milder trips usually float sections between 1-5 and Happy Camp.

In the box below, we list the guides that offer the most trips to individuals or small groups. Most companies use oar and paddle boats, with a guide in each. The forgiving Klamath is also well suited to one-man inflatable kayaks. One company we list specializes in trips using these agile craft; most others bring some along for customers to try out.

On overnight trips, you camp on the riverbanks, so you'll need basic camping gear, although one company provides stays in lodges. Prices include meals, rafting equipment, and shuttle. Learn whitewater canoeing or kayaking

Within the last few years, two lodges have established boating schools on the Klamath and its Salmon River tributary. Each offers intensive clinics for novices to experts.

Otter Bar Lodge, Forks of Salmon 96031; (916) 462-4772. This hospitable hideaway on almost a mile of Salmon riverfront has earned a reputation as one of the country's top kayaking schools. The hard work of mastering kayak skills is balanced by such amenities as a hot tub, sauna, and excellent meals. Beginning, basic intermediate, intermediate, and advanced sessions are offered mid-April into August.

Taught by expert instructors, seven-day beginning sessions progress from dry-land orientations to Eskimo-roll andstroke practice in a reassuringly warm and still pond. Next, students venture onto the Salmon River, where they learn to apply their new skills in moving water. Videotape reviews help identify each student's strengths and weaknesses. The sessions culminate in a raft-supported overnight trip down the Klamath. The $850 cost covers equipment, instruction, meals, and lodging.

Bigfoot Recreation, 30841 Walker Rd., Horse Creek 96045; (916) 496-3313. More rustic than Otter Bar, this retreat offers whitewater canoeing instruction (both solo and tandem) in addition to kayak clinics from April through September. Cost of $125 a day includes equipment, instruction, meals, lodging; $80 for equipment and instruction only, A few rooms are available in the ranch-style lodge where hearty meals are served; otherwise, guests camp in willow-shaded riverside sites.

Guided whitewater day trips on the Klamath and other rivers in the region cost $25 to $70 a person. If you'd like to run part of the river on your own, you can rent a raft ($30), inflatable kayak ($15 or $25), or canoe ($40); Bigfoot shuttles you back. Groups looking for a unique outing can re-create the 19th century of Hudson's Bay Company voyageurs in the West Wind, Bigfoot's 36-foot canoe. Up to 20 passengers can ride in the impressive replica, deftly steered by guides at bow and stern. For information on other lodging along the Klamath, write or call the Yreka Chamber of Commerce, 1000 S. Main St., Yreka 96097; (916) 842-1649.

Raft trips for all ages, a day to five days

Unless otherwise specified, trips are offered May through September. River Travel Center can quickly give you information on available dates from these and other outfitters; call (800) 882-7238.

Orange Torpedo Trips, Box 1111, Grants Pass, Ore. 97526; (800) 635-2925. Floating squadrons of the orange inflatable kayaks used by this company are a common sight on the Klamath. Three-day outings with overnight stays in lodges along the river cost $310 when starting on Mondays or Tuesdays, $335 on Thursdays or Fridays. Camping trips cost $255 and $280.

Outdoor Adventures, University of California, Davis 95616; (916) 752-1995. Nonstudents looking for an inexpensive run are welcome on three-day trips ($150). Shared responsibility for chores keeps cost down, Beginning kayaking is also offered.

Outdoors Unlimited, Box 854, Lotus, Calif. 95651; (916) 626-7668. From mid-June through August, three-day trips depart Wednesdays and Saturdays ($270).

River Country Rafting, Box 319, Happy Camp, Calif. 96039; (916) 493-2207. Based near the most popular put-ins, this outfitter caters to groups of 2 to 20. Day trips with lunch cost $40; overnight trips cost $160 for two days, $245 for three days.

Sierra Whitewater Expeditions, Box 1330, Springfield, Ore. 97477; (800) 937-7300. Mid-June into September, Oregon's biggest outfitter offers two-day trips Thursdays and Saturdays ($180), three-day trips Mondays and Fridays ($260).

Trinity River Rafting Center, Star Route 5, Willow Creek, Calif. 95573; (916) 629 3646. Guides encourage guests' involvement in all aspects of one- to five-day trips, from Dutch oven cooking to navigating rafts through rapids. Cost ranges from $55 to

$65 a day, depending on group size.

Turtle River Rafting Co., 507 McCloud Ave., Mount Shasta, Calif. 96067; (800) 726-3223. Choose from one- to five-day trips on various stretches of the Klamath ($55 to $370). Parents can bring children as young as 4 years old on specially designed two-day trips ($150 for adults, $90 for ages under 18; $120 and $75 for co-op meals trips). Storytellers or musicians accompany some trips.

Whitewater Voyages, Box 906, El Sobrante, Calif. 94803; (415) 222-5994. Three-day trips ($296) are offered July through September. An accomplished watercolorist teaches landscape painting techniques on special four-day trips ($430). Independent spirits with some rafting experience can sign up for a row-your-own trip; you and a companion take turns at the oars of a 10or 12-foot raft ($296 for three days, $394 for four days).
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Title Annotation:includes related article on raft trips
Date:May 1, 1989
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