UNDAM THE KLAM!!! by Spencer Lacy

 In Adventures


By Spencer Lacy

Photos by: Lance Ostrom and Spencer Lacy

The 4 lower dams on the Klamath River in Southern Oregon / Northern California are slated for complete removal by 2024 in the largest dam removal project in history, so naturally two buddies and I decided to paddle (and portage) the entire section that will become free flowing… all the way to the ocean. We plan to repeat the trip after the removals and get the full before and after picture from the river runner’s perspective.

Get the full story from Spencer himself in a interview on the Badfish SUP Journal podcast!

Irongate Dam. The largest and downstream-most of the 4 dams slated for removal.
The boys mid-portage around J.C. Boyle dam… this was the start of the 5-mile portage. You can tell because we are still smiling.
Below J.C. Boyle dam, almost the entire river flows through a 5-mile canal that is inaccessible. The canal ends at the J.C. Boyle powerhouse where the Hell’s Corner section begins.
Filling up from a crack in the 65-year-old canal. The water is not safe to drink, so we had to filter it.
SUPin the gnar. This rapid is called Caldera, class 4+ and is part of the Hell’s Corner section between J.C. Boyle dam and Copco reservoir. Super bony with a lot of drops and some tough moves… definitely got some bruises.
The landscape in the upper Klamath is dry and arid.
Driy captaining the Mini-Me through Hell’s Corner after a full day of portaging.
Break time partway through the 4-mile portage around Copco dams 1&2. The axel is looking real sketch!
Truly an all-terrain vehicle! Cruising across Irongate reservoir.
Lance looking triumphantly at Irongate Dam as the boys come into the home stretch of our final 1.5 mile portage.
With 200 miles to go below the dams, the landscape began to change dramatically, and with many tributaries, the river began to grow. Although there is a small highway following the river for much of the trip, you honestly hardly ever know it is there, and sometimes you get to see cool bridges.
The scenery just kept getting better and better. I can’t believe we didn’t see anyone else on the river!
Boy was there some fun whitewater! The paddling in the lower Klamath downstream of where the California Salmon river comes in is big water style… primo for whitewater SUP and epic in the Mini-Me.
Would you sleep there? Or course you would. The camping was pristine… unlike the camping you get on the popular recreation.gov rivers.
We averaged 30 miles per day, with 12 miles of portaging and 3 reservoirs… and that is with a fully-loaded raft. Our longest day was 50 miles on the river.
We found plenty of time for goofing off… especially when food was in our bellies!
Talk about a dialed setup.
Driy making the Mini look good… notice the wheels on the back. Rowing big water in a 9-foot raft is So. Damn. Fun.
14,000 CFS. Not pictured are the many awesome surf waves.
The Klamath river flows through the Yurok Indian reservation. We stopped in at a few tiny villages and it was very depressing. The residents are living off of very little, and it felt like we were stepping back in time. Trashed vehicles along the river are quite common throughout the reservation.
The Groover!! A PVC pipe is the way to go for a groover on a self-support or mini-support trip. Pro tip: use doggy bags too for easy cleaning!
Absolutely stoked to be at the ocean!!!
Literally hundreds of sea lions were guarding the mouth of the Klamath…. And we showed up during feeding hour.
This was a very satisfying moment!
And then I got worked. This was a super intimidating spot… huge river, tons of scary sea life, pounding surf, rip tide.
The crew enjoying a well-deserved beer at the beach.
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  • Nigel Steere

    Very epic trip fellas. Well done and can’t wait to read/hear more!

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