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River Swim Spots: Barely Off the Beaten Path

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by Jeanine Moy, Outreach Director, Klamath-Siskiyou Wildlands Center

riverswim2The Klamath-Siskiyou region has so many amazing options, that picking a “top 5” is absurd—these suggestions are merely dipping a toe in the water. Our backyard public-lands boast alpine lakes, wild rivers, and tumbling waterfalls on Cascade volcanic rocks and steep Siskiyou drainages. This region is marked by aquatic refuges for people and wildlife alike. Before you go, check out maps available at the Medford Interagency office, or the friendly folks at the North West Nature Shop in Ashland. Listed from most accessible to harder-to-access:

Middle Fork of the Applegate: Shaded by live oaks and evergreens, deep emerald swimming holes upstream of Applegate Reservoir Dam are easy to access. If you want to “double-dip” activities for the day, hike the Middle Fork Applegate trail via Forest Service Road 1035.  

Illinois River: Along Illinois River Road, short trails lead down to sandy beaches and deep green pools with great jumping (and lounging) rocks. Wild in character and coveted by paddlers, the mighty Illinois River is also home to rare plant species, and threatened by misuse from visitors. Due to road hazards, excessive littering, and other inappropriate offenses, the Forest Service has recently banned alcohol use here. Do the right thing, and leave it cleaner than when you arrived.

Smith River: The Smith River is a most special and endangered place; it is the only undammed river of its size flowing through California, yet threatened by industrial nickel strip mining. For a quick stop, access turquoise swimming holes along the Middle Fork of the Smith along scenic Hwy 199 on the way to the Redwood Coast. To get away from the main roads, check out the remote North Fork Smith and the iconic California Cobra Lily on its banks.

Clear Creek: A rare treat for those willing to hike to earn a cold plunge; Wilderness Falls in the high Siskiyou Wilderness is sweet backcountry swimming hole, staying cold all-year-round and popular among backpackers from the Doe Flat or Young’s Valley trailheads.


03.12.GOHERE.illinoisriver – Illinois River – by Jeanine Moy

03.12.GOHERE.smithriver – Smith River – by Barbara Comnes

03.12.GOHERE.smithriver2 – Smith River – by Barbara Comnes


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