Wild River Ride: Rafting the Klamath

by Linda Martin

This is the real thing – not some manufactured thrill in a materialist theme park in the middle of a heavily populated city area. No? this is the real thing – a wild river ride created by nature itself.

Running west from Southern Oregon to the Pacific Ocean on the California side of the border – the Klamath River was originally called Ishkeesh by the local Karuk tribe. Upriver, the Shasta tribe called it Klamet.

Joe Cote’ Giera and his wife, Becca, came to Happy Camp about ten years ago, setting up a whitewater rafting business at their home on the bank of the Klamath. River County Rafting is a full service rafting company offering both day and overnight excursions. I chose a day trip as a celebration of my son’s eleventh birthday.

Arriving at 10 am, we met Joe and Becca. They are neighbors and we’ve seen them many times before, but this was different.

The first thing we found out was that we were dressed wrong. “We’re going to get wet.” Joe informed us. We refused the opportunity to go change from long pants to shorts. I also refused the very nice water resistant clothing that they have on hand to protect rafters from the elements. Later I would regret that, as this Spring day had a few cold moments.

The one thing we didn’t (and couldn’t) refuse was the life jackets, which would keep us buoyant in deep water even if we did everything else wrong.

Becca and another rafter drove their cars down to Ferry Point, our destination. During the half hour they were gone the kids and I watched Joe prepare the raft at the Indian Creek river access. First he pumped up the raft, explaining that at the end of each trip it was deflated a bit. He attached an oar brace and seat apparatus and plenty of straps for us to hang onto. Everything was put into plastic bags or waterproof boxes (sweaters, cameras, food, etc.) and tied securely down. The only things that wouldn’t be firmly attached to the raft were people.

When Becca got back from Ferry Point, we got our safety talk. We were taught to relax if we fell out of the raft, enjoy the ride and go feet first downstream, especially in areas with rocks. Joe explained the danger of getting behind a rock or trying to hold onto one as we would then be pinned to it by the current. We learned about eddies and how not to fall out of rafts and what we could expect as a rescue effort in case of emergency.

Finally, totally apprehensive, we got into the raft and started floating on the river. At first it was unbelievably mellow. The first part of the river was lake-like, peaceful, and calm. After a few minutes of that, we finally got to the first area of class 2 rapids and picked up speed. It was fun, very wet, but not too scary. Still, we had heard about the class 3+ Rattlesnake Rapids up ahead, so we remained apprehensive for the first couple of hours, not knowing what to expect.

In the quiet spaces between rapids, Joe let the raft float downriver propelled only by the current of the Klamath. We had plenty of opportunities to observe flora and fauna. Since it was late Spring, several times we saw mother ducks with their little ducklings trailing out behind as they swam upstream on the edge of the river.

My daughter who has been called names like “Dog Girl”, “Wild Child” and “Woofy” could not stop talking about the possibility of taking her dogs along with her on the raft someday. Joe and Becca said if they had nails clipped and a doggie life jacket on, it would be possible. My daughter, who spends hours reading dog supply catalogs, let them know about rubber foot pads that are available to glue onto dog paws. Whether such glue would be waterproof is something we would have to find out. I happen to know both our dogs are total cowards when it comes to being in the water. They will not even swim with the kids, who they are dedicated to protecting.

The whole trip was twelve miles. Just when I thought we were about done, Joe mentioned we were halfway to the destination. Nothing to do but enjoy the rest of the ride. The river starts to get inside you after a while. Not physically? but into your soul. Something about floating on it for five hours gives you a whole new perspective on what the Klamath is really about.

We had the choice to eat lunch before Rattlesnake Rapids, or just after. With all that apprehension about going down class 3+ rapids, I didn’t want to wait until after lunch. Joe pulled the raft over to the beach to give us some last minute safety instructions. Downriver we went, and soon we were over the first rocks. The river drops about ten feet and we got soaked in the process. Holding on tightly, we had no problems and when it was done I could only say it didn’t last long enough. I kept looking over at my daughter and seeing the excitement and happiness on her face as the water splashed all over her, and that, more than anything, made it worthwhile to me.

Next we stopped for lunch at a beach near a small creek that tumbled down the hillside, and enjoyed sitting on sun-warmed rocks for a few minutes. I got to observe the plants close up. Though I often take walks next to the river, I saw river plants and wildflowers I hadn’t seen in other more highly trafficked areas. I got Joe to tell me the names of the plants he knew, since native plant identification is one of my hobbies.

Back in the raft we went through rock canyons with class 3 rapids and quiet lake areas where the kids got out and swam. Since I’m still recovering from an operation, I didn’t have the energy for that, otherwise I would have been in there with them. Life jackets kept the kids afloat without any effort on their part. We passed several turtles sunning themselves on the rocks. Their usual reaction to us was to disappear suddenly beneath the surface of the water.

Near the end of the trip we stopped on a sandy bar and watched as a pair of rafters floated downriver past us in one of those tiny store-bought inflatable rafts. After having been through some very intense rapids, I asked Joe if he thought those little boats were safe. He explained something about the quality of plastic in one of the $50 rafts as compared to his huge, expensive self-bailing raft. We could only shake our heads and wonder at the bravery of rafting the Klamath in something smaller.

During the last peaceful mile, the kids tried out an inflatable kayak. We stopped at another sandy beach to pump it up, and again I was amazed by yet another variety of unknown wildflower. When we stepped back into the raft one of us finally did the bad thing: trailed in some sand. We had been warned that sand was the enemy of rafts and that we must avoid getting any inside. Joe said he was planning on washing out the raft anyway so we tried not to feel too bad about it.

Taking turns with the kayak, my children had a great time. We all felt like we were one with the river by the time we got to Ferry Point, but we were glad to see that Becca was waiting with the truck to take the raft back upstream.

As we got out, we noticed that the little store-bought raft we had seen earlier was abandoned, totally deflated, on the riverbank nearby. We could only wonder what the story behind that was. The people who had been in it were gone.

Roadless forests, anyone?

Editor’s note: I am probably the last person in town that should be writing about forest issues, but I will publish the USDA press releases as I receive them when they concern the forest in this area. Your comments, either for or against these changes, are welcome. The following concerns roadless areas in national forests. I am aware that lawsuits were filed to try to block this change, but don’t have copies of the complaints, which were defeated in court. To see a map of lands near Happy Camp that will be affected, Adobe Acrobat users can access this one: Klamath National Forest – Roadless Areas Map.

WASHINGTON, DC, June 7, 2001 – U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Forest Service Chief Dale Bosworth today directed agency managers to move forward to protect roadless values in national forests and grasslands in a manner consistent with USDA policies. The guidance, issued in a letter to regional foresters, reserves to the Chief authority for all decisions about timber harvest and road construction in inventoried roadless areas – with exceptions similar to the Jan. 12, 2001 rule published in the Federal Register.

A recent court decision (Idaho v. Dombeck) temporarily enjoined the Forest Service from implementing the roadless area conservation rule of Jan. 12. The Chief’s action provides immediate protections in designated roadless areas until long-term protections are in place under the forest planning process.

To read the Chief’s letter, visit: http://roadless.fs.fed.us.

Wildflower Season Has Arrived

April 26, 2001 – We need only look outside to see the obvious: there are California Poppys on the hillsides, and Lupine covering the fields. The annual parade of wildflowers has begun.

On Sunday, May 13 the Siskiyou County Wildflower Show will be held in honor of Mother’s Day. Sponsored by the Klamath National Forest and the California Native Plant Society, the show will be at the Siskiyou Golden Fair Grounds in Yreka from 10 am to 4 pm.

To learn more about wildflower identification, check out Flora of the Bear Trail by Dr. Kenneth and Leona Beatty.

Related Websites
Flora of the Bear Trail
California Native Plant Society
Klamath National Forest

How Happy Camp Got Its Name

To: Linda Martin

Thank you for your new e-publishing venture with Happy Camp focus!

I had to miss the Bigfoot Byway Dedication due to driving a car full of teenagers to San Francisco for Acquire the Fire at the Cow Palace. I was very glad to read Debbie’s remarks.

The only problem with John Titus’ account of how Happy Camp got its name is that our town was called Happy Camp nearly a decade before the incident in John Titus’ story. No doubt the name Happy Camp intrigued the Camp brothers (John and Heil) to come here and they did build the brick building for their business in partnership with John Titus about 1858.

Before the prospectors that settled the town renamed it Happy Camp in July of 1851 it was called “Murderer’s Bar.” So glad they changed it! There was a news item in the Alta newspaper of San Francisco as Mr. Roach sent them correspondence about news of the gold rush activities and so there is solid proof of the earlier naming of the town.

Looking forward to seeing more of your Happy Camp News!

Judy Bushy

Happy Camp Will Be 150 Years Old in July 2011

By Debbie Wilkinson

This speech was given at the opening ceremony for the Bigfoot Scenic Byway on April 1, 2001

Hello. For those who do not know me, I am Debbie Wilkinson, President of the Happy Camp Chamber of Commerce. We wish to welcome you to today’s celebration. After a couple of short speeches we will have a ceremonial ribbon cutting to dedicate and officially open the Happy Camp end of the Bigfoot Scenic Byway. The ribbon cutting will be followed by a parade, food, fun and games. We will have balloon shaving, an egg toss and an egg carry race, as well as music by Happy Camp’s own Genuine Draft band. So stay around for the fun.

Today will mark the beginning of a summer of celebration, for this July will mark 150 years since the first group of miners stopped at the mouth of Indian Creek, approximately ½ mile from here, and found more than enough gold to stay on. In the years following, our little town has fluctuated in both prosperity and population. We have seen boom and bust, flood and firestorms, and we have survived it all.

Though Happy Camp has survived a great many trials and world changes in its first century and a half, the face of our home has changed little where it matters most: the heart and soul of our town, the people who have chosen to make it their home. Lets give ourselves a hand — we deserve it for despite those who would say otherwise, we have survived and we will continue to survive. I fully expect that in another 150 years yet another generation will gather here in Happy Camp to celebrate Happy Camp’s 300th anniversary. There will be new faces and new names, but we will still be here, in our little valley, with new stories that tell the world –We have survived.

As I said, today will kick off a summer of celebration. The festivities will continue in July with our first Annual River Run Bike Rally, which will be held at the River Park on the 6th, 7th and 8th. The summer will end with Happy Camp’s Annual Bigfoot Jamboree on Labor Day weekend. Any body or group who wishes to participate in either event should contact the Happy Camp Chamber of Commerce or the Happy Camp Coordinating Council. As always, new faces and new ideas are always welcomed.

Today is about history, and Bigfoot has been with us from the first. Along with mining tales and the other stories that have added color to our history, this legendary creature has helped to shape our image. Here with a short history of Bigfoot is a man that everybody knows, Karuk Tribal Council Vice-Chairman and Chamber of Commerce Past President, Harvey Shinar.

[At this point, Harvey Shinar gave his speech about Bigfoot legends and the inspiration for the Bigfoot Scenic Byway. –ed.]

Thank You Harvey.

Today is also about the blending of modern travel with that history. Today’s family often chooses to forgo the joys of the destination resorts such as Disney Land, in favor of trips into the wilds of America. This interest prompted different levels of government to institute several scenic byway programs. The State of Jefferson Scenic Byway and The newly designated Bigfoot Scenic Byway are both part of the US forest Service’s programs. Here to tell us some more is the Klamath National Forest Supervisor, Peg Boland.

[Peg Boland spoke about the development and completion of the Bigfoot Scenic Byway. –ed.]

Thank You Peg.

Today’s Celebration is not just happening here in Happy Camp. In a couple of minutes, at 1:00 sharp, in Orleans, in Hoopa and here in Happy Camp this Red Ribbon will be cut. This ribbon cutting will not only celebrate our newest scenic byway, but will also celebrate a new beginning for our river communities: The beginning of a new, river long, collaboration of communities and governments. Separate, our voices are small, together we can move mountains. Together we can be a power to recon with.

Now for the event of the day: Perhaps Mike can give us a drum roll as we prepare to cut the ribbon.

[At this point, we turned our attention to the red ribbon held across Highway 96 in front of the bank’s parking lot. –ed.]

Related Articles
Opening of the Bigfoot Scenic Byway

Opening of the Bigfoot Scenic Byway

Bigfoot is said to be a local resident

April 1, 2001 – Hailed as “a new beginning for river communities”, the Bigfoot Scenic Byway is now open, forging a special bond for river towns from Happy Camp to Willow Creek. Happy Camp Chamber of Commerce’s celebration and ribbon-cutting ceremony was a great success, with some of the most colorful and exciting citizens of the town participating, including Bigfoot himself.

The celebration kicks off a summer of community activity commemorating the 150th year since the time when John Titus and James Camp came to the banks of Indian Creek and named the town.

Debbie Wilkinson served as master of ceremonies for the day, giving a wonderful speech on behalf of the Happy Camp Chamber of Commerce. This ribbon-cutting celebration was being simultaneously held in four communities: Willow Creek, Hoopa, Orleans, and of course in our home town of Happy Camp.

Harvey Shinar, Vice-President of the Karuk Tribal Council spoke on the history of Bigfoot sightings in our area. In 1852, he said, Bigfoot was sighted by a Chinese miner in the area of Thompson Creek. More recently, hair samples found nearby in Oregon were proven to be of unknown origin, possibly true evidence of Bigfoot’s presence in our forests.

According to Shinar, the idea for the Bigfoot Scenic Byway came from the Hoopa Valley Tribe. They shared their inspiration with the US Forest Service and now the plan has come to fruition.

The speeches included a few words from Peg Boland of Yreka, Klamath Forest Supervisor in charge of completing the project. Afterwards, the ribbon cutting ceremony took place in the center of Highway 96 in front of the bank’s parking lot, and a short parade was led by Bigfoot.

It is time to look for the new highway signs with Bigfoot’s picture. Hopefully these will be somewhat easier to find than Bigfoot himself.

Tourists: to find the Bigfoot Scenic Byway, direct your cars to Highway 96, from Willow Creek to Happy Camp. When you get here, you can take the Jefferson Scenic Byway north to Oregon, or east to Yreka.

Providing entertainment, the Genuine Draft Band kept the crowd hopping most of the afternoon, their rock sound filling the entire town with music and excitement. (If only Titus and Camp could see us now!)

The children were entertained with contests: balloon shaving, an egg toss and a spoon race (running while holding an egg in a spoon). Winners for each contest were honored by presentations of appropriate plaques: the golden razor, the golden egg, and the golden spoon.

More information on the summer celebrations will be forthcoming. If you can’t wait to hear more, try contacting the Happy Camp Chamber of Commerce.
Related Articles
Happy Camp will be 150 years old in July

Related Websites
Bigfoot Sightings

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