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. Thomas P. O’Rourke, the tribe’s chairman, said the centre 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 jewellery created by local tribal artisans, while dance performances and storytelling events in the centre’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 autumn. 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.
Explore the redwood forests and the Klamath River, where you might see bears feeding along the banks or bald eagles soaring overhead.
Another way to experience the river is on 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.
Romance finds a home in this idyllic coastal region, where ocean fog rolls in from the ocean to blanket hushed redwood forests and whales spout offshore. Along the coast, artists set up their easels to paint scenes of crashing surf and whitewashed cottages wrapped in rose filled gardens.
Each year, December through May, look to the sea to witness roughly 15,000 gray whales swimming south for the summer.
It is also a place where a new generation of farmers and wine makers focus on preserving the land as well as producing amazing food and wine. Favourite escapes include the romantic hamlet of Mendocino, about three hours’ drive up the coast from San Francisco and Eureka, a former logging town two hours’ further north, and the gateway to the breath-taking Redwoods National and State Parks.
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