Bill Van Moorhem takes in a view of the Klamath River during a recent snowshoe trip. Photo by Lee Juillerat

A good dam snowshoe trip

Excuse my language, but it really was a dam good snowshoe trip.

And, no, that's not a misspelling. A recent snowshoe trip that took our group along a portion of the Klamath River featured a great view of the Klamath River Dam.

We began our dam fine outing in Keno, a community of about 3,200 people 12 miles west of Klamath Falls along Highway 66. According to Oregon Geographic Names, Keno had several names — Whittle's Ferry, Klamath River, Plevna and Doten — but was eventually named after the postmaster's dog, Keno, who was named for a then-popular card game.

Eight of us were game for an outing along the seldom-traveled route mostly along an abandoned railroad grade that forks off from a logging haul road. There was history, too. Our route briefly intersected with a portion of the Applegate Trail, a route used by westward-bound wagon trains in the 1840s as an alternative to the better known Oregon Trail.

Trip leader Bill Van Moorhem estimated the distance would be about 5 miles out and back. It wasn't until we wearily reached our lunch spot, an overlook near a towering powerline that offers sweeping up- and down-river views, that people carrying GPS units learned — oops — the one-way distance was 3-1/2 miles.

For the snowshoers — I was the only cross-country skier in the group — it was a challenging trek. Because skiing was so much faster, I frequently imitated a gerbil, skiing up ahead, then doubling back to check out those trailing behind, then returning to scout the route ahead. The extra skiing provided two benefits: it allowed me to re-ski my tracks and kept me warm.

Scenic highlights were frequent. The first quarter-mile from our starting point along the haul road was smoothly set by earlier skiers. We left the kick-and-glide tracks, making fresh ones through a wooded area until reaching the old railroad grade that stays above and travels alongside the Klamath River. The trail follows the river's east side, across from the PacifiCorp campground and day-use area with picnic areas and boat docks used by boaters and fishermen.

The dam great views came quickly as the trail led to and reached the Keno Dam. Located about a mile west of town, it was built in 1967 to replaced the Needle Dam, a 1931 timber structure. The Keno Dam doesn't generate power but, instead, serves irrigation purposes. The dam, which impounds water from Lake Ewauna in Klamath Falls to Keno, has a fish ladder and serves about a third of Klamath Reclamation Project irrigators. Unlike other downstream dams on the Klamath River, the Keno Dam isn't scheduled to be removed if the Klamath Hydroelectric Settlement is implemented.

Views of the river were frequent, from lazy moving water to small, rumbly rapids. Sights and sounds of honking Canada geese were frequent, and the trail was spotted with animal tracks, some large and deep, others looking like tippy-toes on the snowy surface.

But the best, most expansive river views were from our turnaround perch, which also served as our lunch stop.

Van Moorhem and others have hiked the trail in the summer months. Because it's relatively flat — although the way back was persistently but not obnoxiously uphill — the trail would also be a great mountain bike route. While I savored re-skiing my set tracks, Van Moorhem and the other snowshoers equally enjoyed tramping along their nicely hammered tracks. While some tired snowshoers struggled, seemingly reinvigorated was Bernadette "Bernie" Kero, who merrily bounded like a puppy the final mile.

"Wasn't that fun!" Kero whooped.

Yep. It was a dam fine, fun way to spend a day.

— Reach Lee Juillerat at juilleratlee1@gmail.com or 541-880-4139.

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