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Kayaking in the Klamath Basin

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The Klamath Basin is an ideal location for flatwater kayaking. Upper Klamath Lake is the largest natural lake either west of the Mississippi River or west of the Continental Divide. There seems to be some disagreement about this, with Flathead Lake in Western Montana apparently providing the competition. Many of the rivers in the area are quite navigable by kayaks of all designs including river kayaks, sea kayaks and sit-on-tops. There are a few cataracts, rapids and falls in the neigborhood, so be sure and check your route in detail before you go. I'm hoping to get this information organized and posted, but it's not ready yet! ;-)

Pelican Butte off the Bow
On Agency Lake, Pelican Butte off the Bow...
©2009 Jim Litts

In the Chiloquin Area, both Agency Lake and the Upper Klamath Lake offer great canoeing and kayaking. On Agency Lake there are put-ins along the Eastern Shore at Petric Park, the Wood River Wetland, and Henzel park. All of these are accessed off of Modoc Point Road.

Upper Klamath Lake has several good places for put-ins. On the west side of the lake at Rocky Point, there is a boat ramp and dock immediately south of the Rocky Point Resort. There is also a small launch site at the end of Pelican Canal, just south of Rocky Point, immediately off of Highway 140 near where Rocky Point Rd had intersected Hwy 140 before it was rerouted a bit to the west.

Some of the best kayaking destinations in the area are provided by the wetland areas. The most obvious is the Upper Klamath Lake Canoe and Kayak Trail in the Upper Klamath Lake Wildlife Refuge. This trail is a loop at the south end and then comes together to go up Crystal Creek on the north end. The flow in Crystal Creek is quite slow, so you can paddle both up and down. You can put in at Crystal Wood Lodge if you're staying with them at their B&B. There is a trail to Crystal Creek just to the south of Crystal Wood Lodge. A few miles further to the south are Malone Springs. These deep bowls of fresh, cold spring water are beautiful in their own right, but the small park area also provides a very nice access point from which you can go either upstream or down on Crystal Creek.

To facilitate your finding access points, we have created a GoogleMap of the these launches. Please drop me a line if you have any comments on this map, would like to see something added, have info or photos along the way, etc.

Cruizin Agency
On Agency Lake, just west of the Wood River...
©2009 Jim Litts

There are also several areas surrounding Agency Lake that are in the process of being restored to wetland after having been farmed, mostly as grazing land, for many years. The Williamson River Delta levees were blown quite dramatically in 2005 by The Nature Conservancy. The Nature Conservancy website has video showing the explosions as they ripped through the levees allowing the fields that had been farmed for years to flood. A Wetland page on our site discusses the Wetland Restoration Projects in the area.

The Wood River Wetland was flooded in the mid-1990's, though in a less dramatic way. This wetland is bordered on the east side by the Wood River. Paddling up this meandering river from Agency Lake is not too difficult. This area is managed by the Bureau of Land Management. Scott Haefner has published some very interesting "kite photographs" taken in mid-June looking south from the wetland toward the mouth of the Wood River where it empties into Agency Lake.

Through the efforts of landowners in cooperation with the Bureau of Reclamation and the US Fish & Wildlife Service, two additional acreages will probably be inundated in the near future: the Agency Lake Ranch and the Barnes Ranch. Flooding of this land will eventually expand the Upper Klamath Wildlife Refuge and provide a wetland connection between the current refuge and the Wood River Wetland. There will then be a continuous band of wetland approximately two miles wide across the entire north end of the Upper Klamath Lake. A total of almost 20,000 acres of wetlands. As this wetland matures over time and begins to restore itself as a functioning, it will substantially improve the habitat for endangered fish, may eventually improve water quality in the Upper Klamath Lake and Agency Lake, and store a bit more water for the Klamath Basin in the Bargain.