Klamath - 03. JC Boyle Powerhouse to Copco Reservoir (Hell's Corner)

Klamath, California, US/Oregon, US


03. JC Boyle Powerhouse to Copco Reservoir (Hell's Corner)

Usual Difficulty III-IV+ (for normal flows)
Avg. Gradient 40 fpm
Max Gradient 90 fpm


Photo of Jennie Goldberg by Thomas O'Keefe © taken 08/19/11 @ 1800 cfs

Gauge Information

Name Range Difficulty Updated Level
usgs-11510700 1000 - 3300 cfs III-IV+ 00h24m 354 cfs (too low)

River Description

Other Resources
BLM Lakeview

The Upper Klamath (often called "the UK") flows from Upper Klamath Lake in Southern Oregon to Copco Reservoir in Northern California . The Hell's Corner section starts at JC Boyle Powerhouse and ends at Copco Reservoir. The powerhouse is located about 30 miles from Klamath Falls and 50 miles from Ashland.

River Description
The Upper Klamath flows through a secluded canyon with gorgeous scenery, abundant wildlife, and a lot of whitewater. The first 5 miles are relatively easy with class II and III rapids for warm up. The 7 miles that follow are known as Hell's Corner Gorge! The rapids are more frequent and they are long. While many people refer to the Upper Klamath as continuous in nature, it really is a pool drop river. The difficulty increases due to the length of the rapids, the numerous 90 degree blind corners and the brown water which camoflages the rocks.

The rocks create the majority of the hazards, mainly pins and nasty swims. At high water these hazard lessen, however the Upper Klamath doesn't wash out it just gets bigger, and develops a mean push over 3000 cfs.

On the fun side the Klamath offers some play on the fly, 6-8 foot haystack waves, and 3-4 foot pile on friendly holes!

The Upper Klamath is a remote river and has little access.

Spring Island Launch is the main put-in about 1/4 mile below the powerhouse. There is a trip registration box, pit toilets, gauge, and a practice eddy. Overnight camping at the Spring Island Launch is prohibited. Campers should stay at Topsy Campground located along Boyle Reservoir just upstream. For those that wish a back woods camping experience a rough 3 mile drive past Spring Island put-in down the jeep road along the river leads to the BLM camps. Outhouse toilets and fire pits are available.

Frain Ranch is an alternative put-in that shortens the trip by about 5 miles. Frain Ranch is a great place to camp however there are no facilities. There used to be a composting toilet that BLM had to close due to vandalism. Most campsites have approved fire rings. Know the fire regulations before you build a fire. There are 2 main places where boaters put in at Frain. Using either put-in, you are about 10 minutes above Caldera Rapid.

Stateline Access is the first takeout on river-left after the gorge and is a popular place to take-out for those that put in at Frain Ranch. There is camping and (during the summer) a port-o-potty. Access #6 is a short distance downstream on river-left and is the take-out typically used by commercial outfitters because it comes at the end of the big whitewater.

Access #1 is located at the beginning of Copco Reservoir on river-left and is the primary take-out for most boaters. There is no camping at Access #1, but there is a port-o-potty. The take-out is easy to recognize because you will be entering the reservoir and will see the first couple homes that are part of the Copco community in the distance.

There are few shuttle services for the Upper Klamath. For trips starting at Spring Island and ending at Stateline or #1 a shuttle driver is recommended. Call one of the raft companies a couple days in advance if you are looking for a shuttle service and they can typically recommend a raft guide or shuttle driver they use who is not working that day. From Spring Island to either of the take-outs the shuttle is approximately 100 miles. Please refer to the shuttle map to plan your trip.

March 22 2011 Nick Sinderson provided:
If you have a high-clearance 4-wheel-drive vehicle and a bike, you can simplify your shuttle by using the road on the south bank (which has three different names: Copco Lake Road, Ager Beswick Road, Topsy Grade Road). If you GoogleMap 'Copco Lake Road' you'll see where to go. Some people find using this access a bit unnerving as you'll be putting in right above Caldera with no warm-up, but it relieves the need for a shuttle driver and cuts shuttle time by hours.
Thanks, Nick, for that info.

The Klamath Canyon is rich with 'Wild West' history. The main stage coach route from Yreka to Klamath Falls traveled up the south side of the canyon which is now the Topsy Grade. Along the road are small history markers that tell the tales of the ranchers and stage coach robberies.

The primary industry used to be logging the large ponderosa pine. After cutting the trees loggers would slide them down a chute to the river where they could be floated down stream to the mill. The remains of the Pokegama log chute can still be seen by those with a keen eye.

By visiting the Frain Ranch, all sorts of historic relics can be seen which tell tales of the hardships and rewards Martin Frain must have gone through while he was homesteading this area.

Current Politics
The water rights issues of the Upper Klamath are complicated and seemingly endless. Water is needed both upstream and downstream in a basin that is regularly in drought.

StreamTeam Status: Not Verified
Last Updated: 2018-10-26 16:54:05


Rapid Summary

Mile Rapid Name Class Features (Legend)
0.0Spring IslandPutin
0.1Saddle HornII
5.1Frain RanchN/AAccess
5.6Burmuda TriangleIII
5.8Rock CreekII+
5.9Stage LineIII
6.0Branding IronIII+Photo
6.3Satans GateIV+
6.5Hells Corner (upper)IV+Video
6.8Hells Corner (lower)IV+Photo
7.6Dance HallII
7.9Ol' BushwackerIII
8.2Pony ExpressIII
8.4Captain JackIII
9.0Snag Island (right side)III
9.0Snag Island Falls (left side)IIIPhoto
9.7Wells FargoIII
9.9High Side RockIII
10.1Stateline FallsIII
10.2Stateline AccessN/ATakeout
17.0Access #1Takeout

Rapid Descriptions

Saddle Horn (Class II, Mile 0.1)

The Upper Klamath (UK) starts off with a small taste of what is to come. Fifty yards out of the practice eddy, boaters float into Saddle Horn. The brown water hides the rocks and the current sweeps boaters into the second rapid (Saddlehorn) as if they were one long rapid. Welcome to the UK!

Osprey (Class III, Mile 0.6)
An island splits the river and the obvious channel is to the left. A large rock sits at the upper right of of the rapid and the current pushes left into another large rock just befor the river turns right. The rapid continues for about 75 yards.

Gunslinger (Class III, Mile 2.0)
After a long pool is a horizon line. The V slick terminates into a shallow rock. Run just left.

Caldera (Class IV+, Mile 5.3)

Caldera Rapid IV+

Caldera Rapid IV+
Photo of Mid Caldera Rapid by Les Wellman with All Oregon River llc

Caldera is Spanish for the boiling caldron. Boaters know it as The Gateway to Hell (Hells Corner Gorge that is). From here to Stateline Falls the whitewater action is nearly constant. Caldera changes quite a bit between 1 and 2 generator flows. To see where the current is going and which rocks need to be avoided a scout from river left is recommended.
The large hole 20 yards into this rapid gets very large at 2 generators. The rock just below this hole is known as the '“Mushroom Rock'” running to the left or right of Mushroom are both standard routes.
Caldera is a long class IV rapid and scouting its entire length is difficult and not very practical. Scout just the upper portion since the difficult moves are all before "Mushroom Rock".

Rock Creek (Class II+, Mile 5.8)

The last wave in the wave train is really a sharp submerged rock.

Stage Line (Class III, Mile 5.9)

At 2 generators the hole in this rapid becomes huge -- a very large flushing hole capable of flipping large rafts.

Branding Iron (Class III+, Mile 6.0)

Branding Iron

Branding Iron
Photo of Branding Iron Rapid by WOA Photography

On most summer days Del (with WOA) is taking photos from river left at the large fun hole 2/3 of the way through. Be sure to smile and travel into Copco to see the pics.

Satans Gate (Class IV+, Mile 6.3)

A 150 yard 90-degree right-hand turn with large holes, large waves, and large rocks river left. Satans Gate starts the three rapids that make up Hells Corner. The current sweeps pretty immediately into Hells Corner Rapid, so swims should be avoided if at all possible!

Hells Corner (upper) (Class IV+, Mile 6.5)
Click Here For Video

Hells Corner is a 300 yard long class 4 rapid. I have broken this rapid into two sections even though they are continuous. Scouting Hells Corner is difficult and takes alot of time.
Hells Corner starts on a blind left hand corner. Enter with the main current. Once the holes and waves subside, work through the sleepers back to river center and prepare for two large waves.

Hells Corner (lower) (Class IV+, Mile 6.8)

Arron Exiting Hells Corner

Arron Exiting Hells Corner
Photo by Les Wellman with All Oregon River llc

After you have worked back to river center you will find two 6' haystack waves that are a lot of fun. Once past these, you want to get hard right (at 1 generator) or left (at 2 generators) in order to prepare for the final 90-degree right-hand corner. This last part contains (among many others) the wrap rock known as the Ego Bruiser'. At one generator you can catch the safety eddy on the right below Hells Corner and prepare for the Dragon. At 2 generators these two class IV rapids run in succession.

Dragon (Class IV, Mile 7.0)


Photo of Dragon Class IV by Les Wellman with All Oregon River llc

A large fun hole lurks at the top. The current will push you into the Dragons Teeth: two submerged rocks in the middle and at the end of the rapid. The best waves are to the left of these obstacles.

Snag Island Falls (left side) (Class III, Mile 9.0)

Snag Island

Snag Island
Photo by Josh Strange

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Associated Projects

  • Conservation System
    The National Landscape Conservation System represents the crown jewels of BLM lands and rivers.
  • Klamath Restoration (OR & CA)
    AW supports restoration of the Klamath River for the benefit of salmon while providing appropriate opportunities for whitewater recreation.