A Flurry of Fun - Ashland is Base Camp - Winter '24 Issue

Monday, April 23, 2018

White Water Safari


White Water Safari

No Passport Required

Story by Leslee Ryerson

Photography provided by Momentum River Expeditions 

It’s no surprise that Momentum River Expeditions has been voted Best Rafting Outfitter and Guide company two years running in the Southern Oregon Magazine Readers’ Choice Awards.

Pete Wallstrom, owner and guide, has assembled an expert team of guides to bring you the best white water trips around. One of the favorites is right here in Southern Oregon. The two- or three-day Upper Klamath Whitewater Safari is action packed, with some of the longest roller trains around, amazing food and a unique, multi-sport experience.

Offered from mid June through September, this trip will be the highlight of your summer. Guests are picked up in Ashland and shuttled up gorgeous Highway 66 to the put-in. As the guides ready the rafts, guests enjoy the first of many scrumptious meals. Creative and delicious, Momentum takes care to use as much local produce and ingredients as possible.

While you’re waiting, you’ll notice how loud the rushing water is. What makes the Upper Klamath consistently fierce all summer is that it’s a dam-fed river. You wait to embark until the water from the J Boil Dam is released, reaching optimum flows for maximum fun. After a safety talk and explanation of the day’s itinerary, the trip starts out with an exhilarating class III stretch of rolling rapids.

After about three miles of pristine whitewater and gorgeous wilderness, the canyon constricts, the river drops out of sight and you enter the famous “Hell’s Corner” section of the canyon. It begins with a 150-yard-long rapid known as “Caldera.” There are very few stretches of summer whitewater like it: it’s almost two football fields long of continuous, rolling rapids. It’s not scary, but pure fun that keeps going and going and going.

After a pit stop for lunch, you hit the water again for a leisurely float to camp. Here is where you have the best activities of summer without the work. It is “glamping” at it’s finest! The well-appointed camp is set up and ready for guests. There are tents with cots, gravity fed solar showers, a covered dining deck, full bar, and an outdoor kitchen. And there are plenty of comfy camp chairs under umbrellas to lounge in.

You arrive at camp early enough to enjoy a cocktail from the bar, appetizers, board or lawn games, fly fishing, hiking around or some down time hanging by the water. It’s the perfect time to relax and reconnect while discussing the day’s adventures. After a fabulous dinner, the dark wilderness is made for stargazing before retiring to the clean and cozy platform tents.

The next morning you wake up refreshed and ready for more adventure. There is coffee and fruit ready by 7 a.m. followed by a scrumptious breakfast at 8 a.m. By 9 a.m. boats are packed and ready for the ferry across the now low river. After a relatively short but steep hike up the riverbank, you get to choose how to get back up the river. You can run the six miles, ride mountain bikes or ride in the gear truck. The road is actually a narrow, old dirt stagecoach road that winds through all kinds of terrain. You will enjoy remote pine forests, meadows and the Old West ruins of a time in the not-so-distant past. Within the six miles the road ascends 750 feet in elevation with a few hills, but no significant climbs. The ride is a bit challenging, but not impossible. And if it becomes too much of a challenge, you can always hitch a ride with the gear truck that follows behind.

The six miles up river puts you just above the exciting Caldera Rapid. Waiting for the water to rise, you have time for lunch (after all, the trek up river burned some calories!) and can watch as other rafting parties navigate the rapids. Having already experienced Caldera doesn’t dampen the excitement, but rather amplifies it because you already know what you’re in for!

It doesn't take long to pass the previous night’s camp spot and venture onto new-to-you waters. This stretch of river gives you ample time to spot wildlife along the way. You might see turtles sunning themselves on logs, blue herons and eagles. Before long you are passing through State Line Rapid and are in California, out of big whitewater. Here you have the opportunity to leave the big paddle rafts behind for individual inflatable kayaks. You’ll still hit some spectacular class II and III wave trains that are almost more intense because you are now the navigator and are much closer to the water. The inflatable kayaks will make you appreciate the term “white water cowboy!”

After plenty more fun, the river calms as it empties into Iron Gate Lake. This is where you pull out for the trip back to Ashland.

The Upper Klamath Glamping trip is an epic adventure filled with excitement, gorgeous views, relaxation and great food. Experience nature’s amusement park if you will—with all the fun and none of the work!  


Momentum River Expeditions



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