The Klamath River is an iconic waterway in the western US, playing a major role for many states by providing vital hydropower and irrigation.
Along its course there exist multiple dams that help to control and store the river’s water. These structures are integral for managing the resources of this mighty river.
In this article, we will explore why the river hosts dams, which are the largest, and how many there are. Additionally, we will discover ten fascinating facts about this powerful yet majestic body of water. Let’s dive in to learn more about the Klamath River Dams!
List of Dams on the Klamath River
The Klamath River is home to a number of dams that provide hydroelectricity, irrigation, and recreation opportunities. The following are some of the major dams on the Klamath River:
Iron Gate Dam
Located about 40 miles (64 km) upriver from the coast, Iron Gate Dam was completed in 1962 and creates Copco Lake.
J.C. Boyle Dam
Constructed in 1964, this dam is located about 68 miles from the Pacific Ocean and creates Klamath Lake, which provides recreational opportunities such as fishing and boating.
Completed in 1967, the Keno Dam is located on the Oregon-California border and creates Lake Ewauna.
Copco 1 Dam
Located on the Oregon-California border, this dam was completed in 1975 and forms Copco Lake.
John C. Boyle Dam
Constructed in 1983, this dam is located on the Oregon-California border and creates Klamath Lake.
Copco 2 Dam
Located on the Oregon-California border, this dam was completed in 1986 and forms Copco Lake.
Copco 3 Dam
Located on the Oregon-California border, this dam was completed in 1991 and forms Copco Lake.
Link River Dam
Constructed in 2006, this dam is located near Klamath Falls, Oregon, and creates Lake Ewauna.
Klamath Planting Agency Dam
This dam was built in 2008 and is located near the city of Klamath Falls, Oregon.
Klamath River Dams Water Levels
The Klamath River Dams have witnessed drastic decreases in water levels due to the combined effects of climate change, over-extraction, and other human-induced issues.
The Klamath Hydroelectric Settlement Agreement of 2010 was implemented to restore flow levels in order to preserve fish populations, tribal rights, and other ecological needs.
However, despite these attempts, the river flow stays far below its average figures. This has decreased water storage capacity and streamflows, leading to a decline in fish numbers, as well as agricultural and industrial water resources downstream.
Additionally, reduced streamflows have heightened salinity levels and temperatures, creating an adverse living environment for aquatic creatures.
Why Are There Dams on the Klamath River
The Klamath River serves as a crucial habitat for Chinook salmon and steelhead trout, among various other fish species.
Consequently, dams have been constructed along the river since the early 1900s in order to ensure that these delicate populations remain protected, while simultaneously providing renewable energy through hydropower.
These dams not only benefit the region by regulating water levels during dry or wet spells but also help maintain fish populations by allowing upstream and downstream migration.
Largest Dams on the Klamath River
Standing nearly half a kilometer tall and stretching 1,373 feet across the Klamath River, Iron Gate Dam is the largest of its kind in the region.
Constructed in 1962, it provides electricity to nearby areas as well as supplying water to farmers and safeguarding against flooding.
Just upstream lies Copco Dam which was built in 1956 and stands 233 feet tall, stretching 1,209 across the river. It serves as the uppermost storage facility on the Klamath and provides electricity and irrigation to nearby communities.
The third dam is Copco No. 2, which was finished in 1972 and is 153 feet tall with a length of 918 feet. This massive power structure supplies households with electricity and irrigates the land, making the Klamath a crucial source of water for locals.
How Many Dams Are on the Klamath River and Its Tributaries?
The Klamath River system houses a total of twelve dams, operated by PacifiCorp, which is owned by Berkshire Hathaway Energy.
Iron Gate Dam, J.C. Boyle Dam, Copco 1 and 2 Dams, and the Shasta/Kennedy/Keswick Complex all reside in the main stem of the river, while Link River Dam, Lost River Diversion Dam, Keno Dam, and four dams in the Scott River occupy its tributaries.
These structures have drastically reshaped the environment and culture of the area, negatively impacting fish spawning grounds, traditional tribal fishing practices, water diversion, and more.
Despite this, these twelve dams are fundamental in supplying essential energy to millions.
10 Facts About the Klamath River
- Measuring nearly 290 miles in length, the captivating Klamath River is the second longest river running through California before emptying into the Pacific Ocean at its mouth.
- Its source is Clear Lake, Northern California, and it meanders southward through the Cascade Range, Trinity Alps, and Siskiyou Mountains.
- The Klamath Basin, spanning 13,800 sq mi, boasts a variety of wildlife like eagles, osprey, river otter, and great blue herons in addition to its salmon and steelhead trout populations.
- Home to numerous Native American tribes for thousands of years, the name “Klamath” references the original tribes who inhabited this region.
- In 1855, a treaty was negotiated between the United States and Klamath Tribes granting them a reservation along the river.
- The Klamath River provides irrigation to over two million acres of agriculture in the Central Valley while sustaining its local wildlife.
- In 2003, a restoration agreement was made to remove four dams along the river and bolster fish populations.
- To manage water flow in the Klamath Basin, California, and Oregon agreed on a water-sharing pact in 2014.
- Nature lovers take pleasure in visiting the Klamath River for its outdoor activities like rafting, kayaking, fishing, and camping.
- Moreover, the breathtaking wilderness areas along the river’s route have captivating views and many miles of hiking paths for exploration.