Traditional Karuk Ceremonial Activity on the Klamath River

     Native American Tribes are recognized as governmental sovereigns as 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.

2016 River Access and Area Closures

On June 8, 2016, the Forest Supervisors of the Klamath and Six Rivers National Forests signed five closure orders for 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.  These closures are expected to 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 closures include: 

  • July 4 - Launching watercraft downstream from Wingate Bar River Access is prohibited.
  • August 5 to August 14 - Please avoid the mouth of the Salmon River. Please avoid using Green Riffle River Access to launch watercraft downstream. Please avoid using Ike's Falls River Access or Dolan's Bar River Access to launch or remove watercraft.
  • July 28 to August 6 - Entering or being in the Ferry Point River Access is prohibited from 6:00 PM July 27 through August 6.
  • July 28 to August 6 - Launching watercraft from Wingate Bar River Access is prohibited.
  • July 28 - Entering or being in Independence River Access is prohibited until 1:00 p.m on July 28.
  • August 28 to September 6 - Entering or being in the Ishi Pishi Closure Area, the Ishi Pishi Bridge River Access area, George Geary River Access area (Salmon River), Green Riffle River Access area, Ike’s Falls River Access area, and Dolan’s Bar River Access area is prohibited. The Ishi Pishi Closure Area includes all National Forest System lands between Ishi Pishi Road and the Klamath River from Ishi Pishi Falls south to Rosalena Creek.

The Six Rivers National Forest has also proposed a closure for the Dolan's Bar River Access, Ullathorne River Access, and Orleans River Access.  Launching watercraft would be prohibited August 14 to 23.

In conjunction with the above closures, the Forest Service would also encourage river users to avoid launching watercraft and/or to observe a quiet zone at the following locations and times to further honor the Karuk Tribe’s traditional ceremonies. Formal prohibitions are not proposed.

  • July 4 - Please avoid launching watercraft downstream of Wingate Bar River Access to Ferry Point River Access all day.  May launch at Ferry Point River Access at any time.
  • July 5 to 9 - Please respect a quiet zone between the downstream edge of Lizard’s Head Camp (located  1 ½ miles below Clear Creek) and the upstream edge of Bullfrog Camp (located 1/2 mile upriver of Ferry Point access).

Affected river access closures map.

Thank you for honoring the traditional Karuk Indian Ceremonies.

Alternative Float Trips

     For alternative float trips 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.

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