6 Best Spots for a Peaceful Paddle in Klamath
The spring-fed Wood River is one of the top paddling destinations in and around Klamath County, which is filled with scenic options. Discover Klamath
The Klamath Basin and Southern Cascades host a variety of majestic landscapes—like pastoral farmland, rugged mountains, and lush forests—that make the region ripe for exploration. With rivers, streams, and lakes dotting those landscapes, there may be no better way to experience the rich wilderness than from atop a stand-up paddleboard or the seat of a kayak. The Klamath Basin sits along a major migratory bird route, so you’re likely to see wildlife and waterfowl along your paddle, whether in the heart of the Cascades or the marshland of Upper Klamath Lake.
For those looking to make the most of spring and summer in the Klamath Basin and Southern Cascades, here’s a guide to some of the region’s best spots for a peaceful paddle.
1. Wood River
The four-mile Wood River Run in the Southern Cascades offers something for everyone—beginners love the gentle pace of the river, and experienced paddlers enjoy the remote nature of the trip, removed from the higher-trafficked Crater Lake and Klamath Falls. The run follows a slow-moving, spring-fed river that’s noted for its remarkable clarity. It flows between Jackson F. Kimball State Park and the Wood River Day Use Area, and along the way, paddlers pass forests, farmland, and wide-open meadows, with the surrounding Cascades in view above it all. The remote terrain makes the paddle ideal for spotting wildlife and birdwatching, and tired paddlers can camp at the state park, which hosts 10 primitive sites, between April and October.
2. Odell Lake
The drive to Odell Lake takes more than 90 minutes from Klamath Falls—so it’s not exactly a quick jaunt from town—but most paddlers won’t mind the drive once on the water. That’s because Odell Lake sits in the heart of the Cascades, surrounded by the Deschutes National Forest, rolling hillsides, and the craggy Diamond Peak rising above it all. As if that weren’t enough, the six-mile-long lake is known for its clear, emerald-hued waters and is among the Cascades’ most popular destinations for anglers. And if you’d like to linger a little longer, several developed campgrounds are located nearby.
3. Upper Klamath Lake
There may be no more iconic Klamath paddling experience than Upper Klamath Lake. It’s no wonder paddlers flock to this quiet corner of Klamath County: Upper Klamath Lake hosts a 9.5-mile marked paddling trail through a freshwater marsh in the Upper Klamath National Wildlife Refuge. The path winds through a mix of open water and forests of pine and aspen, with prime waterfowl-watching opportunities all year long—especially during spring and fall migration season. The path is closed to motorized boats, which ensures a quiet, peaceful paddle, no matter how busy the area may be at any given time.
4. Juanita Lake
Perfect for getting away from the crowds and escaping the hustle and bustle, the 55-acre Juanita Lake sits in the midst of a pine and fir forest in northern California. Roughly an hour southwest of Klamath Falls, the lake boasts sweeping views of the surrounding forests and hillsides. An on-site campground offers easy access to the lake, a level walking trail follows its banks, and the lake is regularly stocked with trout for anglers. Motorized boats are not permitted, adding to Juanita Lake’s rugged charm.
5. Lake of the Woods
Perhaps the region’s most popular spot for family vacations is Lake of the Woods, about 36 miles northwest of Klamath Falls near the crest of the Southern Cascades. Paddlers can rent a canoe or kayak from the summertime resort at Lake of the Woods—which also offers cabins, RV sites, and campsites—and enjoy 1,250 acres of calm waters. From the water, paddlers will spot Mount McLoughlin, the highest peak in Southern Oregon, towering over the lake. Eagle-eyed paddlers might also see a variety of waterfowl and shore-bound wildlife, including deer, beaver, black bear, raccoons, and more. The lake itself is home to several species of bass, perch, salmon, and trout, making it a popular fishing destination, as well.
6. Spring Creek
Nestled in the Southern Cascades, Spring Creek hosts a true off-the-beaten-path experience for novice and seasoned paddlers alike—not to mention one of the region’s rarest, most unusual species of algae, called “mare’s eggs,” which look like smooth, circular, rocks on the creek bed. The calm, slow-moving creek delivers a peaceful pace, all the better for enjoying its striking, clear blue water. Access the creek via the Spring Creek Day Use Area, which is behind the Collier Logging Museum. If you’re looking to spend the night, Collier Memorial State Park hosts 64 campsites nearby.
Written by Matt Wastradowski for Matcha in partnership with Discover Klamath Visitor and Convention Bureau.