By Bonnie Ryan
June 26, 2014
In May, you “may” have read my “Part 1” blog on Indigo Creek Outfitters, as I toured around the Medford breweries with the owner as well as a semi-rowdy bachelor party, and the birthday boy (my boyfriend). What I would like to do today is give you the “Part 2” version of the story with the same awesome company, located in our very own city of Ashland. This time around, we took on what many locals call the “Wild West” or the “UK”. The Upper Klamath offers constant whitewater rapids, dramatic drops and breathtaking scenery.
Meeting in Ashland at the raft shop early Saturday morning, we were greeted by the Indigo crew, as well as some other happy campers who were as excited as we were to get on the river. As we munched on the complimentary breakfast and drank the yummy brew, we geared up and made sure our safety bases were covered and two boats worth of people piled in the van. With less than an hour drive to the put in point, we stopped half way for a potty break and some of the best fresh spring water at Tub Springs State Wayside.
As we arrived, I thought back to a time only a few weeks before when I met my long time buddy, and rafting stud, for a beer and he was telling me how he always wanted to “conquer the UK” and for the first time I realized I had done zero research on the river. This was my first time on the Klamath River, ever. All I knew was that I was in good hands, and the word on the street was that this was the best trip in the state. Not bad, I thought. Either I am starting to get an ego, or I just trust the guides so much to not think about the dangers of being on the river. Mehh, I thought to myself. What’s so bad about a swim?
Upon boarding the boat, I realized that my tiny ego had been justified. Yes, I grew up on the river, but I am no professional. Although this is true, I quickly learned that our fellow rafters were getting on the river for the first time (at eighty something years old) and the other two (also quite older than Ty and I) had only been on what we call a “float” a couple of times in their life. The Upper Klamath, my friends, is not considered one of these leisurely floats.
Don’t get me wrong, this river is no death trap, but it definitely gave me a run for my money. Running 14 miles in length, this rafting trip features extremely fun and engaging Class IV+ rapids and continuous Class IV whitewater framed by spectacular canyon scenery and history-rich lands. Speaking of history, our guide was full of knowledge (and jokes) which always makes for a great trip. You may already know this, but guides can make or break your trip. They not only hold your safety in their hands, but it is their job to essentially entertain you from the minute you enter and exit your journey. Hands down, I thoroughly enjoyed Nick as our guide. Not only did he exceed his expectations of a guide, but he even fed us an organic and scrumptious lunch half way through our trip. Speaking of being pampered, our driver/company owner, Will, even had root beer floats at take out. I seriously was in shock and this tiny gesture made my experience an even better one. Speaking of enjoyment, you know what else I enjoyed? The river! Speaking of the river, let me tell you more about it…
The temperature was extremely warmer than what I am used to on the Rogue, and the sheer mystery of a new river adventure gets me every time. This river begins in the Cascades of Southern Oregon at John C. Boyle Powerhouse and runs down to Copco Lake just south of the California-Oregon Border. It carves its way through the volcanic Cascades and is one of two Oregon Rivers to cut its way through two mountain ranges. The canyon flows through the huge red and black rock crags of Klamath National Forest. The Upper Klamath is along the Pacific Flyway; providing an abundance of birds such as eagles, osprey, pelicans, herons and more...a definite treat if you're into bird watching. But if you are interested in this you have to wait until near the take out point as you are hauling down the rapids through the other ten or so miles upstream. From Caldera to Stateline Falls, the whitewater is non-stop. Picture this: the elevation at put in is 3300ft and drops down to 2600ft at take out! As you can imagine, that drop in elevation is fully experienced by the rafters and loving every minute of it.
The following mile-by-mile guide provides the approximate river mileages and difficulty of each rapid starting from John C. Boyle Powerhouse. Descriptions and hazards are provided only for the most difficult rapids.
- Mile 0: Put-in John C. Boyle Powerhouse
- Mile 1.0: Osprey Rapid (class III)
- Mile 2.1: Gunslinger (class II+)
- Mile 2.5: Alternate River Access- BLM Campground on river right
- Mile 3.8: Old Hooch (Class II+)
- Mile 4.5: Blue Heron Riffle (class II)
- Mile 5.5: Frain Ranch on river right, good side hike.
- Mile 5.7: Caldera (class IV+); Scout this rapid from either bank. This 100 yard, boulder choked chute is best run down the left side but watch out for the big hole up top. Make sure everyone in the raft knows how to hold on well...this could be a devastating swim.
- Mile 5.9: Bermuda Triangle (class III).
- Mile 6.1: Branding Iron (class III+)
- Mile 6.3: Satan’s Gate (class IV); the river turns hard to the right into boulder with steep drops. Eddy out at the bottom on river left to scout Hells Corner.
- Mile 7.2: Hell's Corner (class IV+); Walk the entire length of this sinuous 600 yard rapid before you run it. Watch out for the submerged rock about 15 yards off the right bank near the top of the rapid. The river bends first left, then back to the right, but the current sweeps boats left toward impassable boulders. Boaters try and stay right and catch an eddy before the river swings left again into its final drop, called the “Dragon."
- Mile 7.3: The Dragon (class IV); two submerged rocks at the bottom create the teeth of the Dragon.
- Mile 7.5: Scarface (III+).
- Mile 8.2: Ambush (class IV); The River turns right and leads into several wrap rocks blocking the left and center. Scout from river right.
- Mile 9.9: Snag Island Falls (class IV); Hug the left side of the right channel as the river splits around an island. The right side is an un-runnable rock sieve.
- Mile 12: State Line Falls (class III+); Rafts usually run the glassy pour-over just left of center...it’s more forgiving than it looks.
- Mile 13.8: Shovel Creek enters on river left.
- Mile 17: Take-out - Copco Lake Store (take-out fees required)
Have I convinced you yet? I sure hope so. This all day adventure packed river trip is awesome and anyone can do it. You can be a total river rat expert or a whitewater virgin and still have a great time. Heck, you don’t even have to paddle if you don’t want to as the guide will pick up your slack. It is their job, you know!
For more information about Indigo Creek Outfitters, such as another awesome trip called “Pints at Paradise” down the Wild & Scenic Rogue River, visit their website or call 541-282-4535. Also, make sure to check out the videos my trusty GoPro took during my UK adventure with Indigo, and the rest of the photos on our Facebook album called “Upper Klamath Rafting with Indigo Creek Outfitters”.
Do you have an idea or event you want to share with Bonnie for her Out & About column? Send her your thoughts.