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Klamath River, Northern California - Gold Prospecting in CA, and Dam Removal

Updated on September 21, 2017

Where is the Klamath River?

The Klamath River is the northernmost river in California. It flows 260 miles from Klamath Falls in South-East Oregon, across the top of California from Dorris to Hornbrook, from Horse Creek to Happy Camp, and on to the Pacific Ocean. It empties into the sea north of Eureka, California.

The Klamath is a swiftly flowing, deep river that carved a path through the rocky, inhospitable Klamath-Siskiyou Mountains. These mountains are on the southern edge of the Cascade Range.

Note: The photographs on this page are mine. I lived in Happy Camp from 2000-2013.

The Klamath River in Northern California

The Klamath River - Four Miles downriver from Happy Camp.
The Klamath River - Four Miles downriver from Happy Camp.

Klamath River history

Original inhabitants of the Klamath River area were the Klamaths, Shastas, Karuks, and Yuroks. Karuks were "Upriver People" and Yuroks were "Downriver People". The Karuk word for the Klamath River is Ishkeesh; the Klamaths called it Koke.

Gold prospectors arrived in the Klamath River Valley in the 1850s, traveling up the river from the coast until they reached the Happy Camp area.

Highway 96 is the Klamath River Highway

Recreation on the Klamath River

The Klamath River is popular for river rafting, kayaking, fishing, and recreational gold mining.

Rafting on the Klamath River: passing through Wingate

Rafting at Wingate on the Klamath River - about five miles southwest of Happy Camp.
Rafting at Wingate on the Klamath River - about five miles southwest of Happy Camp.

Klamath River controversies

In recent years the communities along the Klamath River have been deeply divided over two major issues:

1) Dam removals east of Interstate 5

2) Gold dredging banned as of 2009

These issues have caused harsh feelings pitting environmentalists and Karuks (Native Americans) against farmers and gold prospectors.

Klamath River's Iron Gate Dam, completed in 1962, is now one of four dams expected to be torn down after 2020.

Iron Gate Dam
Iron Gate Dam

Klamath River - Issue #1: Removal of four hydroelectric dams

Editorial note about these Klamath River videos...

When looking for videos about the dam removal issue, I couldn't find anything against dam removal! Therefore you're seeing only the pro-dam removal video.

Conversely, when looking for videos about the gold dredging issue, I couldn't find videos in favor of ending dredging, therefore you will see, below, only a couple videos in favor of dredging.

I'd like to cover both sides of each issue. If you have links to videos explaining the opposition to each of these issues please leave your links in the comment area below.

Klamath River - Issue #2: Gold Dredging is now banned in California due to lawsuits filed by environmentalists concerned about the Klamath River

What gold dredging was like before the ban in 2009

Fish found in the Klamath River

Klamath River fish include:


Rainbow trout, Redband trout, Steelhead trout, Coastal cutthroat trout, Bull trout

Colo salmon, Chinook salmon (Spring Chinook and Fall Chinook),

Chum salmon, Pink salmon - both now extinct in the Klamath


Green sturgeon, White sturgeon


River lamprey, Pacific lamprey


Eulachon (Candle Fish) - extinct in the Klamath

Pelicans on the Upper Klamath River near Iron Gate Dam

Pelicans on the Klamath River, not far from Iron Gate Dam.
Pelicans on the Klamath River, not far from Iron Gate Dam.

Your comments are welcome! How do you feel about the issues of dam removal and the ban on gold dredging?

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    • GoldenRod LM profile image

      John R Wilsdon 

      4 years ago from Superior, Arizona USA

      Seems to be a lot of hubub about the recreational gold prospectors. As I understand it, there has been no scientific evidence that the dredging done hurts fish or wildlife. In fact, there is some evidence that it may actually help the fish. The Karuk Indians over fish the river. They are not constrained by the state laws regarding the taking of fish. They can claim that overfishing is "cultural". If folks understood the nature of the dredging it would certainly be helpful. As of today, 1/20/2015, it looks like the environmentalists and the rest are about to lose this court case. Yes, I prospect for gold for a recreational hobby, but that doesn't mean I value the environment less than an environmentalist.

      This whole issue is a native American ploy to segregate the area - it has also become nothing more than political hysteria as so many other issues in America.

    • profile image

      Phil m 

      5 years ago

      The Republicans are taking our freedoms away! Why did

      Schwartsaneger sign this bill banning dredging???

    • profile image

      Edwin Brown 

      8 years ago from Oregon, USA

      I have done some gold panning on the Klamath River. A gorgeous place. I most emphatically disagree with those who want to ban gold dredging. Most of the opposition in my experience is poorly informed about the true nature of recreational gold dredging. There have been numerous environmental studies done in the past 20 years, and they do NOT support the claims of some people who say that dredging is wrecking the river and killing fish.

      We are not talking about the monstrous floating building type dredges that did such damage in some rivers many years ago. Recreational gold dredging is something altogether different, and on a very small scale. This kind of dredging actually loosen hard packed gravel and offers prime gravel areas for spawning salmon.

      The gold dredgers I know are responsible people, and have a great love for the river and the outdoors. Many are also fishermen.

    • LindaJM profile imageAUTHOR

      Linda Jo Martin 

      8 years ago from Post Falls, Idaho, USA

      Thanks so much, Sherry! I'm glad I've found HubPages. It is a great place to write about things I really care about - like the Klamath River Valley...

    • profile image

      Sherry Venegas 

      8 years ago

      Congratulations on this new venture. You have really took it to heart.

    • LindaJM profile imageAUTHOR

      Linda Jo Martin 

      8 years ago from Post Falls, Idaho, USA

      @Peggy, thanks! So, next time you're in the neighborhood hope you get to see the rest. It is a worthwhile drive.

    • LindaJM profile imageAUTHOR

      Linda Jo Martin 

      8 years ago from Post Falls, Idaho, USA

      @daybreak - you would be surprised how divided our community is on this issue. A lot of people don't want things to change; they're worried about flooding and higher electric bills. At this point it is still undecided, though the electric company agreed to cooperate.

    • Peggy W profile image

      Peggy Woods 

      8 years ago from Houston, Texas

      We saw part of the Klamath River in Oregon. Your photos are superb! Enjoyed reading this and learning more...

    • daybreak profile image


      8 years ago from Atlantic Coast of North America

      As this is one of the most important rivers in the world for fish and wildlife, I would like to see all dams removed and the river protected.

    • LindaJM profile imageAUTHOR

      Linda Jo Martin 

      8 years ago from Post Falls, Idaho, USA

      @WannaB Writer - I agree! I read Dear Mad'm and wanted it never to end - I got so caught up in her story of living on a mining claim. It was amusing and well-written.

      I liked Land of the Grasshopper Song too. I wouldn't say it was as well written, but it certainly was intriguing and kept my attention!

    • LindaJM profile imageAUTHOR

      Linda Jo Martin 

      8 years ago from Post Falls, Idaho, USA

      @ahorseback - yes, the Northern California coast is beautiful! We love to be able to go see it once in a while.

    • WannaB Writer profile image

      Barbara Radisavljevic 

      8 years ago from Templeton, CA

      I loved Dear Mad'm. It's a great read.

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      Linda, I've been to Eureka ,Arcata , Cresent city and the surrounding area once for a week. So much beauty there, I was extremely impressed. Nice hub and great info , we do not need the little hydro-electric dams. They should all come out. Keep up the great work.

    • LindaJM profile imageAUTHOR

      Linda Jo Martin 

      8 years ago from Post Falls, Idaho, USA

      Thanks for your comments, travel_man and Denise!

      @Denise: I was raised in Richmond, California... mostly in the El Sobrante area of Richmond, so I know that area well (and I miss it too). Klamath Falls, Oregon is near the start of the Klamath River. I live downriver... about 70 miles west of Highway 5.

    • Denise Handlon profile image

      Denise Handlon 

      8 years ago from North Carolina

      Hi Linda,

      Your photography is awesome. Thanks for sharing this info about the Klamath River. I used to live in Richmond, CA and would travel north. I miss CA very much. It's a beautiful state, as is NC. Lots of diversity. I have friends in Klamath Falls OR--is this part of the same?

    • travel_man1971 profile image

      Ireno Alcala 

      8 years ago from Bicol, Philippines

      I share your sentiments, Linda, regarding dam removal and ban on gold dredging. Klamath River is nature's gift to the inhabitants near the place. Why did some people continue or plan to exploit it. I hope the US government will act on harsh issues you've brought out immediately. The ecological balance of the place will be affected badly.


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