Upper Klamath, What do I need to know? - Mountain Buzz
 



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Old 08-27-2016   #1
 
UriahJones's Avatar
 
Salem, Oregon
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Upper Klamath, What do I need to know?

Hi All,

I'm about to head down to run the Upper K for the first time on Sept. 17th. I've assimilated the information on the AW website. What else do I need to know about this trip?

I'm a Class III-IV paddler and moving up quickly (I think). So I don't think that this is way over my head, but it will be a bit tougher than some of the other stuff that I have done (Clackamas, White Salmon, North Umpqua, Rogue). I'll be paddling a SDP (Super Duper Puma, 14') with 3 other guys, all decent paddlers of similar skill levels and experience.

How is the shuttle? Is Topsy Grade Road the way to go?

Should we go all the way to the Copco Reservoir, or take out at the Stateline Access? How long does it take to make the trip from Frain to Stateline?

Am I right in my understanding that this will be more of a technical river, with only a couple big holes?

Your experience, suggestions, and opinions all welcomed here!

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Old 08-27-2016   #2
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Old 08-27-2016   #3
 
Jackson County, Oregon
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Quote:
Originally Posted by UriahJones View Post
Hi All,

I'm about to head down to run the Upper K for the first time on Sept. 17th. I've assimilated the information on the AW website. What else do I need to know about this trip?

I'm a Class III-IV paddler and moving up quickly (I think). So I don't think that this is way over my head, but it will be a bit tougher than some of the other stuff that I have done (Clackamas, White Salmon, North Umpqua, Rogue). I'll be paddling a SDP (Super Duper Puma, 14') with 3 other guys, all decent paddlers of similar skill levels and experience.

How is the shuttle? Is Topsy Grade Road the way to go?

Should we go all the way to the Copco Reservoir, or take out at the Stateline Access? How long does it take to make the trip from Frain to Stateline?

Am I right in my understanding that this will be more of a technical river, with only a couple big holes?

Your experience, suggestions, and opinions all welcomed here!


UJ,

I'm by no means an expert on the Upper K, but I have done it a few times over the years. Most recently as a paddler on a guided trip a few years back. It's an absolute blast, maybe one of the best day runs in Oregon. I've been on the rivers you mentioned above and think it's a fair bit more difficult than those (Husum & Rainie excluded), but I could be wrong.

I haven't been on the Topsy road in over 20 years, so my memory has faded. Is that the road on river left? If so, from what I remember, it's a ball buster. Slow going and bumpy. But maybe it's been improved since then. The other option would be to start below the power plant and drive back to Hwy 66 to Ashland, and take I-5 south and back around to Copco. There's no easy way to get your vehicles back and forth unfortunately.

We floated down to the upper end of Copco reservoir many years ago. I think there was a store with a boat ramp or lawn that you could take out at. On my last trip, we took out just below State Line Falls on river left. It saves you time from floating down to the reservoir. I'd take out below State Line if I were to do it again. I think total time on the water was around 4 hours from the power plant to State Line, but I could be wrong. Shorter if you launch from Frain.

As to your last question, I think it's both technical and big. Long rapids, some big holes, sharp rocks. Not a great place to go for a swim, though the water is relatively warm.

You may want to contact one of the guide services in Ashland that runs day trips on the river and pick their brain a bit. Noah's and Momentum come to mind. Maybe you could tag along with one of their trips, follow their lines, and let them shuttle your vehicle. Just a thought. If you want to see some head cam footage from my last trip, pm me with your e-mail address.

Regardless of what you decide, have fun. It's a hoot for sure.

Enjoy-

Casey
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Old 08-27-2016   #4
 
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Fresno, California
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Upper K is a great run. I ran it a few times as a comm. guide years back. On par with the Lower T in Cen. Cal. Rocks were sharp. I would wear a wet suit even though the water is warn. Caldera is the 1st big rapid, it is long and a swim there would suck. Was looking at run on Goog Maps and u can kinda get an idea of the road. Hear it can be a tad rutted out. Good camping right above Caldera. When are u going? Trying to rally a trip a labor day weekend on K myself but I just noticed that BRG has water in it. Himmmm… where to go?
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Old 08-28-2016   #5
 
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The water doesnt get to Frain Ranch till 1100ish due to the dam schedule. Camping at Stateline is a good way to go. If you stash your lower shuttle rig at stateline, dump your drivers there and cont to the lake. This keeps your crew from standing at stateline in the heat for 2hrs waiting for shuttle. Your crew will only be at the lake take out for about 10-20. The water is Big and technical and rock are Basalt so as stated its a no swim zone.

Have fun and be Safe
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Old 08-29-2016   #6
 
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Thanks for the replies gentlemen!

Villanista: I'm headed down on for a trip on the 17th.

It was a good comment to think about camping at Stateline, that saves a leg of the shuttle on Saturday morning before launching. I haven't decided where to camp yet, but I think that will now enter the discussion.

Also good suggestions on calling the commercial guys. I was planning on doing so to find out what a shuttle will cost, and if they even offer the option.

Has anyone recently been down the Topsy Grade Rd? (Road on river left). It is so much shorter than the alternate 50 mile loop around. But if its just totally gutted, the longer mileage might be worth it.

Sounds like the consensus is not to swim . I'll try and keep that in mind!

Thanks again, and if anyone else has any input, I'd be glad to hear it!
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Old 08-30-2016   #7
 
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You will have a lot of fun, guaranteed! After 30+ years and probably in excess of 1500 commercial runs up there, it is just as much fun now as it was on the first.

What to know, the Topsy grade shuttle is doable in a 4x4 pretty handily when dry, if wet can get pretty miserable. Expect about 75-90 minute shuttle from Stateline to Frain. You can camp at either location which is put-in as well as take-out. Over the years have done as many as 3 laps in a day through Hells Corner Gorge which is the 8 mile section roughly from Frain to Stateline.

As for the river, fast, steep, and technical. There are a few places not to be, but for the most part is pretty forgiving compared to how it looks. That said, there are a number of places where you should avoid, mainly due to ill placed rocks. At one turbine which is normal flow(1800-2000cfs), not much comes to mind in terms of any holes being retentive. I would say the main place that gets me a little uptight is Hells Corner. It is long, technical, fast, and chaotic….and to top it off it is a blind entry which is perhaps 75-100 yards past the end of Satans Gate. Certainly worthy of a scout on river left for the first time. Due to the blind entry, very difficult to follow someone, you are on your own. Caldera is intimidating, but can be scouted on river left and for the most part you can see the line from the top, with the main feature being Mushroom Rock which is located 75 yards into the rapid slightly left of center….go to the right or go to the left pulling behind it, once that is accomplished the rest is fun. There is a lot more to it than what I describe obviously, but Caldera & Hells Corner are the two that have the most pucker factor involved, there are a number of places that the unwary can have a bad day at, probably too many to list but if you are following someone most of these are alleviated.

Someone else recommended tagging along with a local company….great idea if you can manage it. If you need a contact at Noahs let me know(have worked for them for quite a few years until moving to Colorado last Winter), can get you in contact with someone there who can possibly help you out. Also have a number of local guys who possibly would be down for going with you, just let me know.

Biggest thing I will caution you about, once you do it you will want to do it again and again! If you want talk, PM me and I will give you a call.
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Old 08-31-2016   #8
 
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Portland, Oregon
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I haven't done the run, so definitely listen to the guys who have but I'll share my own feelings on what I know as you asked. My estimation from what I have heard about it and having done the other runs you mentioned is that it is a significant step up from them. If it is comparable to the Lower Tuolumne, as some one above stated, then it is definitely a big step up from those other runs.

That is not to say you couldn't handle it and have a blast. And while those other class III runs can be challenging, there is a big difference between Toilet Bowl and Caldera or Grey's Grindstone and other IV+ rapids.

Just sharing my .02. Too bad I can't join you-- I think the key to good Upper K trips is getting good crew together for the shuttling shenanigans.
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Old 08-31-2016   #9
 
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Thanks for the input JakeBrown. I agree that it is a step up. And probably a big one. Which is exactly what I'm looking for. There is nothing on any of those other rivers that I don't feel that on my worst day I couldn't handle, and probably handle easily. I'm specifically looking for a challenge to my skills and a chance to improve. The only way that I know how to do that is get good info, take safety precautions and find more difficult rivers to run

Thanks to everyone for the input, I really appreciate it. Especially to RiverMan for taking the time to chat with me about some of the finer details of the Upper K.

I'll post back after the trip and let everyone know how it went. Till then I'm off to Idaho for Labor Day. I'm taking my extended family out for a little day trip on the Payette. Should be fun, and hopefully not too chilly!
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Old 09-03-2016   #10
 
Eugene, Oregon
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I will be floating the Klamath September 17th and 18th. If you want help with shuttle or fallow someone down the river we will be camped at stateline Friday & Saturday.
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