Klamath is so far north that many people assume this tiny town is in Oregon, not California. Set along its namesake river 40 miles south of the state line, Klamath is a community strongly connected to the wilds of the North Coast, with towering old-growth redwood forests, world-class salmon fishing, and a gorgeous stretch of the Pacific all within minutes of town.
Get your bearings—and discover the vibrant culture of the Yurok Tribe, California’s largest—at the recently opened Yurok Country Visitor Center & Amphitheater in the heart of Klamath. Joseph James, the tribe’s chairman, said the center aims to “educate visitors about the traditions and culture of the tribe, and about life along the Klamath River and the redwood coast.”
A gift shop carries a huge collection of crafts, including baskets and jewelry created by local tribal artisans, while dance performances and storytelling events in the center’s amphitheater bring alive timeless Yurok ways. There’s also a contemporary side of town at the Redwood Hotel Casino, where the Abalone Grill serves seasonal, locally sourced dishes, including wild-caught salmon from the Klamath River.
Among the most productive rivers on the West Coast, the Klamath sees big runs of Chinook “king” salmon each summer and fall. In fact, the river is “considered by most fly fishers to have the best fishing for wild salmon and steelhead in all of California,” according to Blue Creek Guide Service. Even if you’re a fishing newbie, expert guides, like Blue Creek’s Pergish Carlson, will take you out on the river to try your luck—and maybe develop some new skills, too.
Another way to experience the river is on a traditional Yurok Redwood Canoe Tour where a Yurok guide will lead you down the river in an authentic Yurok canoe, sharing their history and culture. You can also outings with Klamath River Jet Boat Tours, a high-octane, 45-mile round-trip adventure. Trips start near the ocean, then surge deep into the heart of Yurok country; look for bears feeding along the river banks and bald eagles soaring overhead.
Or hike into the area’s redwood forests, home to trees that are nearly 2,000 years old and 350 feet tall. Roughly 200 miles of trails meander through the groves of the state and national parks that together comprise a UNESCO World Heritage Site dedicated to the protection of the giant trees. An estimated 45 percent of California’s old-growth redwoods thrive in these parks, including at Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park, just five miles south of town. And if you’ve ever wondered what the world looks like from high up in a redwood canopy, ride the Sky Trail gondola at Trees of Mystery for views out over the treetops and all the way to the Pacific Ocean.