Traditional Karuk Ceremonial Activity on the Klamath River

     Native American Tribes are recognized as sovereign nations within a nation by the United States. Federal Indian Policy and "trust responsibilities provide for the protection and enhancement of Tribal resources and traditional freedoms". Rafting and other river uses need to be carefully coordinated with the National Forest and Tribal leaders in an effort to protect these trust responsibilities.

     The second largest Native American Tribe in California, the Karuk, continue to practice traditional observances consistent with their history. Unlike some public events conducted at other Native American ceremony demonstrations, it is particularly critical for Karuk ceremonialists to maintain their solitude and not be observed or interrupted by non-participants. Karuk ceremonial activities include prayers, meditation, fasting, cultural ceremonial dancing and arrow shoots.

     Karuk river ceremonial observances are part of the Karuk World Renewal events which enhance and provide for the well being of the Karuk and the natural world. Interruptions to the ceremonies are thought to create negative impacts on the world.

     Karuk prayer in native tongue has been mocked by some floaters who did not understand the nature of ceremonial observances. Intrusions by boisterous floaters has been very disconcerting and not in keeping with the ceremonial atmosphere. There have been cases of rock throwing and name calling. In general, the whitewater community has been marred by a few individuals who, either out of ignorance or lack of respect, have demonstrated inappropriate behavior toward the Karuk. The highly private nature of these traditional practices require seclusion, quiet, and avoiding being observed by non-participants.

     Members of the commercial whitewater community have demonstrated considerable sacrifice, provided cooperation, and continue to work closely with the Klamath National Forest to regain the mutual respect for the traditions of the Karuk people. The Karuk Tribe appreciates and is encouraged that many river rafting companies are going to such lengths to avoid conflict or intrusion. Thank you for your willingness to support and work with the Klamath National Forest and to help the Karuk people restore and maintain this important part of their religion and culture.

Annual River Access and Area Closures

Each summer, river access and area closures are instituted by the Forest Supervisors of the Klamath and Six Rivers National Forests, providing specific dates and locations along the Klamath River within the Happy Camp District of the Klamath National Forest and the Ukonom District of the Six Rivers National Forest for Karuk ceremonial activity.  These closures ensure the safety and privacy of Karuk Tribal members conducting traditional and cultural practices pursuant to 36 CFR 26 l .53(g) while assuring the safety of recreationists and other Forest users.

The closure orders are posted on the forest websites, along with maps explaining when and where the closures will occur.  If planning a float trip on the Klamath River between July and the beginning of September, please read and understand which areas will be close on the specific dates in the Forest Orders.

2020 Karuk Ceremonial Closures

Alternative Float Trips

     Alternatives for float trips unaffected by the Karuk Ceremonies are available.  Please consider the following river stretches.

     From Sarah Totten Campground access:

  • to Rocky Point Access-- 8 miles
  • to Sluice Box Access-- 14 miles
  • to Portuguese Creek Access-- 16 miles
  • to Seattle Creek Access-- 21 miles
  • to China Point Access-- 24 miles
  • to Gordons Ferry Access-- 28 miles
  • to Indian Creek Access at Happy Camp-- 31 miles
  • to Wingate Bar Access-- 39 miles

     During the summer, float trips from Sarah Totten to Happy Camp may take as many as four days or more to complete. River segments east of town are known for their beauty and abundance of wildlife.

We hope you enjoy your river vacation on the Klamath National Forest