Ask a River Guide: California’s Best Multi-day Family Rafting Trip
OARS Guide David Dawson Shares What Makes the Wild & Scenic Lower Klamath River Worth the Trip
David Dawson may be one of the newer guides at OARS, but his river running roots go way back. In the late 90’s he served as Utah State Park’s first river ranger for five years before becoming an elementary school teacher in Santa Fe, New Mexico.
Nearly twenty years later though, a move to Ashland, Oregon allowed David to find his way back to the river. Now he spends his summer breaks leading rafting trips on Northern California’s Lower Klamath River. From Bigfoot stories to sneaky rapids, David shares what makes the Klamath such a great trip for kids, grandparents and everyone in between…
Wild & Scenic since 1981
“The stretch we run from Sluice Box to Happy Camp goes through a kind of narrow area where the toe of the Siskiyou [range] comes down, so it’s forested canyon—very green, very steep—down to the river. There are creeks and streams dumping into the river on both sides all the time. It’s very splashy and fun.”
The ultimate summer playground
“The water is just so warm, so the swimming is really good. You can spend a lot of time in the duckies, having ducky wars, jumping into the water from boulders, and [dipping in] plunge pools. It’s just a playful place.”
“Savage Rapid…that’s about as serious as it gets out there. You come around a corner and then suddenly it kind of surprises you. There’s some rock that pokes up and squeezes the river through a bit of a chute and it’s got a good drop. It’s still Class II but it’s attention-getting.”
Learn to paddle
You don’t spend many minutes studying your toenails. The river moves. It’s always got little ripples from all the creeks dumping in and you’re always dodging something. It’s a great river to learn how to read water and introduce people to navigating their own ducky.
We have the place to ourselves. Most of the other companies are running the stretch that goes from Happy Camp down to Green Riffle, so the stretch we run is all by our lonesome. We will not see another trip on the water.
“The bird life is crazy. Ospreys and eagles are ever-present, but the morning leaving our second camp the birds are often stunning. Coming into where the Happy Camp Valley starts to open up, the river gets more braided and less channeled, so we see lots of egrets, white herons, great blue herons, and a lot of different kinds of ducks.”
“There are stories from the 1880’s of some Chinese miners that came rushing back into camp having been scared and terrified by a large hairy man digging up roots. It’s one of the earliest Bigfoot stories and happened right in the stretch that we run. So we keep our eyes open for Bigfoot.”
Photos: Josh Miller Photography