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Fishing for History in the Klamath River

Fishing for History in the Klamath River

Yurok tribal member Pergish Carlson shares stories about river outings where time stands still

It’s no surprise that you might see osprey, bald eagles, or even bears along the lower Klamath River. After all, the waters are a moveable feast of salmon.

The wildlife, however, shares a home with the Yurok tribe, which has been living and fishing in these waters for time immemorial. In this Outbound Collective video, Yurok member Pergish Carlson talks about the Blue Creek Guide Servicefishing trips he leads along the Klamath.

“It’s not just redwoods, water, and fish out here,” says Carlson in the video. “When you’re on our river, you’re traveling on our ancestors.” The Yurok people are California’s largest Native American Tribe, with more than 6,000 members, and have a rich history of fishing, basket weaving, canoe making, and storytelling. Here’s how to explore these waters yourself, enjoying both blissful scenery and a glimpse of Yurok heritage.

The Back Story

The Klamath is the second-largest river in California, stretching 286 miles through the Golden State (and 11 more in Oregon); its watershed is as big as Massachusetts and Connecticut combined. Much of the river runs through the Yurok tribal lands in Humboldt and Del Norte counties, and is often surrounded by redwood forests—including the Redwood National and State Parks.

This lower stretch of the Klamath is teeming with salmon and steelhead, but there’s also limited public access, making the tours with Carlson’s Blue Creek Guide Services quite special.

Visit Native California, Pergish Carlson, Outbound Collective

Take the Tour

Choose from the full-day Salmon and Steelhead trip (two-person minimum) or a River Scenic Trip. For the scenic tour, dress in layers with a hat, and bring along your own lunch and water. For a fishing trip, bring your short-term or yearly fishing license too; the package otherwise includes gear such as rods, reels, tackle, and bait.

With either tour you get a front-row view of redwoods and wildlife along the riverbanks, such as beavers and river otters. Most trips start at the Klamath Glen boat ramp, about 10 minutes from downtown Klamath.

Keep Exploring

To learn more about Yurok culture, head to the Yurok Country Visitor Center & Amphitheater in downtown Klamath. Browse the gift shop with jewelry, baskets, and other crafts and keep an eye for storytelling or dance performances in the amphitheater.

There are more ways to play on the water in Yurok Country, too. At the visitor’s center, you can book spots with Redwood Yurok Canoe Tours, where you paddle authentic dugout redwood canoes (June–September) or Klamath River Jet Boat tours (May–October).  

It’s also easy to combine this watery adventure with a visit to Redwood National and State Parks, or walking the canopy trails through the Trees of Mystery park.

When to Go

Scenery and steelhead salmon abound here pretty much year-round, but if you want chinook salmon, come during August or September, when the chinook swim upriver to spawn. August also brings the annual Salmon Festival in Klamath which includes a fun run, parade, and an epic salmon feast.

Where to Stay

You have a variety of nearby hotel options in Yurok Country, such as the Redwood Hotel & Casino, a Holiday Inn–brand resort (and the only hotel within the Redwood National and State Parks) and the Yurok-owned Bluff Creek Resort, comprised of cabins, campgrounds, and RV hookups.