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Upper Klamath Canoe Trail Revisited

Remnants of a typhoon from Japan last October prevented me from being able to spend the three days at the Upper Klamath Canoe Trail that I had originally planned. Instead of the three days, I got to spend one.

From my home in McMinnville, the trip to Rocky Point, Oregon, took slightly over seven hours (thanks to an early snowfall in the Willamette Pass), so only spending 24 hours at the canoe trail before turning around and heading back home was way too brief. Some might ask, “Why even go that distance just for a day?” Believe me, I asked myself that question on the drive down to Rocky Point, that was until I arrived at the canoe trail.

Looking out on the expanse of rushes and marsh grasses from my vantage point at the Rocky Point Resort, I observed Recreation Creek flowing past where I stood, beckoning me to slide my canoe into its water and go exploring. I wouldn’t be alone on the creek. Joining me was a white pelican and a couple of kayakers.

The long drive seemed inconsequential the next morning when I went down to get into my canoe and spotted four river otters lounging on the dock where my canoe was tied. Sure, I had seen a pair of river otters swimming across Beaver Creek on the Oregon coast, but I had never been able to watch their playful antics in the wild, only in zoos.

I only got to explore a small section of Crystal Creek before having to return to the resort, load my canoe back onto my car, and make the almost seven-hour drive back home. Though I was there for only a short time, I was hooked and vowed I would return early next summer when the water level would be high enough to allow me to venture into other parts of the marsh.

I called the management at Rocky Point Resort early in January to make sure I could secure a campsite at the resort in June. The folks at Rocky Point Resort are very accommodating and helpful.

June 19th arrived and I was raring to go. Six hours later I was back in Rocky Point and pitching my tent at the resort. A short time later, I was in my canoe and paddling up Recreation Creek. A strong afternoon breeze cut short my first day out on the water, giving me only enough time to shoot video of some wildlife that inhabits the marsh.

Day two of my visit took me down Pelican Bay. Sadly, I saw no pelicans on the bay this trip and up Crystal Creek. I paddled among the wocus as tri-colored blackbirds serenaded me and Forster's terns swooped down in front of me. I saw birds during this paddle I had not seen when I was here in October last year: western grebes, black terns, marsh wrens, yellow-headed blackbirds, and harlequin ducks.

I was glad to see a fishing boat where Recreation Creek joins Crystal Creek. That meant the beaver dam that prevented me from paddling from Recreation Creek onto Crystal Creek last year was gone. I returned to Rocky Point Resort by way of Recreation Creek.

After some lunch and returning from a short drive to Klamath Falls, I decided to set out and explore part of Pelican Bay. I plied many of the small channels off of the bay, and while there was another I would have liked to venture onto, evening was approaching and the light was vanishing, so I had to cut the exploration short.

The longest paddle of my trip occurred on day three. I wasn’t able to paddle Wocus Cut last time I visited the Upper Klamath Canoe Trail because of low water levels. However, I observed during day one’s paddle that water levels were high enough this time for me venture into the Cut. There is a reason I enjoy paddling a canoe that today’s trip made clear: I was able to paddle through narrow channels of rushes and among numerous blankets of wocus off limits to powerboats. Leaving Wocus Cut, I entered Crystal Creek and paddled 3.3 miles to Malone Springs before returning to the resort by way of Recreation Creek. The entire trip spanned almost 10 miles—a long, tiring trip, but also very rewarding. This would be the last trip of my visit to the canoe trail because tomor-row it would be time to break camp and leave.

One drawback I was told to visiting the Upper Klamath Canoe Trail in June is the mosquitoes, but I came prepared with my Thermacell mosquito repellent. September is a better month had I wanted to avoid those pesky, blood-sucking critters, but the water level is also much lower, and with southern Oregon facing drought conditions that are likely to get worse the later summer wears on, I decided June was the better month to go. Fortunately for me, I encountered few of those insect vampires and never needed to use my Thermacell.

All totaled, I covered 22.2 miles during my three days on the canoe trail and left knowing I had accomplished all I had set out to get done during my trip. My only regret was not seeing the river otters this time.

Visit to find out more about the Upper Klamath Canoe Trail. A video highlighting my trip is available on YouTube at

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