Klamath-JC Boyle Dam

Photo essay by Katherine and Steve Pedery

The Klamath River flows some 250 miles from Upper Klamath Lake and the high desert of Southern Oregon to spill into the Pacific Ocean amid the foggy redwoods of California’s North Coast. Along the way it carves a path through an incredibly diverse landscape, including a remote and wild canyon just north of the Oregon-California border.

Klamath Restoration Council

The Klamath

suffers from a variety of environmental woes, the largest of which is chronic low water flows due to irrigation diversions in its headwaters and tributaries. A series of dams along the river, owned by Pacificorps (which in turn is owned by Scottish Power), add to the river’s problems.

Klamath River
clear water

This shot is from the 6 mile stretch of the Klamath River de-watered by JC Boyle Dam. Here the Klamath River looks more like a small creek than a major waterway. The only water flowing in the riverbed at this point is from springs in the canyon walls, and a small amount being spilled from the dam’s fish passage structures.



A native redband trout from the section of the Klamath de-watered by Boyle Dam. Cold springwater allows a good population small trout to survive in this section of the river. Much larger fish can be found in the fully watered section of the Klamath River.

Klamath River-Clearwater

Despite the poor condition of the Klamath River below Boyle it still supports an array of insect life, including giant salmon flies like this one.







The JC Boyle Dam
project chokes flows in the Klamath River roughly a dozen miles north of the California border. It diverts nearly the entire flow of the Klamath into a series of pipes and flumes, nearly de-watering a 6 mile stretch of the river, before running the water through turbines and dumping it back into the channel. Because the dam is used for “peaking”, meaning it essentially turns flows through the turbines and into the river on and off based on electricity demand, the Boyle Project causes serious harm to native fish and wildlife downstream



Boyle Dam
Channel and pipe

On the left side of the picture is John C. Boyle Dam, on the right is the pipe through which the water of the Klamath River now flows. The natural channel of the river is in the foreground.

dry channel

Another shot of the natural bed of the Klamath River at the base of JC Boyle Dam. Note the algae growing in the hot water.

Boyle flume

After piping the flow of the Klamath River across the natural river channel, the JC Boyle Dam project diverts the water into this concrete flume, where it flows hundreds of feet above the natural bed of the river.

Boyle flume pumphouse

At the end of the flume, water enters this pumping facility where it is pumped through a mountain.

Boyle pipes

After passing the water through a mountain, the JC Boyle Dam project diverts almost the entire flow of the Klamath River through these giant pipes to generate electricity.

Boyle Pipes

The giant pipes feed the water of the Klamath River down the side of a mountain and through the turbines of the Boyle powerhouse before allowing the water to flow once again in the natural river channel. The channel curves upstream to the right of the powerhouse.

Boyle turbines

The electricity generating turbines at the powerhouse of JC Boyle Dam. Boyle produces a fairly small amount of electricity, but causes serious harm to the river.

Boyle Dam
dry channel

This photo shows the natural channel of the Klamath River at the base of JC Boyle Dam. The trickle of water flowing through it is leaking through the dam.

Boyle Dam

These photos show the primitive fish ladder at Boyle Dam, as well as the nitrate foam and algae blooms in the pool at the base of the ladder. This area is far from hospitable to redband trout and other native fish.







Klamath River-bathtub ring

The Klamath River below Boyle Dam after the water has been “turned off”. Flows in the Klamath swing wildly because of the dam. Note the water line on the gravel, and the bathtub ring on the rocks across the river.



Klamath River
Below Boyle

Below the JC Boyle Dam project the Klamath River flows through a rugged and scenic canyon. The beauty of this area, and its importance to fish and wildlife, is offset by the wildly fluctuating river flows due to JC Boyle Dam.










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