Williamson River (Oregon)

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Williamson River
Williamson River OR.JPG
Upstream view within the Williamson River Indian Mission in Chiloquin
Williamson River and Sprague River Oregon map.jpg
The Williamson, Sprague, and Klamath rivers
Williamson River (Oregon) is located in Oregon
Williamson River (Oregon)
Location of the mouth of Williamson River in Oregon
EtymologyRobert S. Williamson, who conducted Pacific Railroad Surveys in central Oregon[2]
CountryUnited States
Physical characteristics
Sourcenear Bottle Spring
 • locationWinema National Forest
 • coordinates42°42′15″N 121°20′24″W / 42.70417°N 121.34000°W / 42.70417; -121.34000[1]
 • elevation5,100 ft (1,600 m)[3]
MouthUpper Klamath Lake
 • location
near Modoc Point
 • coordinates
42°27′53″N 121°57′25″W / 42.46472°N 121.95694°W / 42.46472; -121.95694Coordinates: 42°27′53″N 121°57′25″W / 42.46472°N 121.95694°W / 42.46472; -121.95694[1]
 • elevation
4,147 ft (1,264 m)[1]
Length100 mi (160 km)[4]
Basin size3,000 sq mi (7,800 km2)[5]
 • locationnear Chiloquin, 10.3 miles (16.6 km) from the mouth[6]
 • average1,032 cu ft/s (29.2 m3/s)[7]
 • minimum285 cu ft/s (8.1 m3/s)
 • maximum17,100 cu ft/s (480 m3/s)
The Williamson River southwest of Chiloquin

The Williamson River of south-central Oregon in the United States is about 100 miles (160 km) long.[8] It drains about 3,000 square miles (7,800 km2) east of the Cascade Range.[5] Together with its principal tributary, the Sprague River, it provides over half the inflow to Upper Klamath Lake,[5] the largest freshwater lake in Oregon.[9] The lake's outlet is the Link River, which flows into Lake Ewauna and the Klamath River.[9]


The Williamson rises from a large spring in central Klamath County, on the north side of Fuego Mountain, in the Winema National Forest, about 40 miles (64 km) northeast of Klamath Falls (nicknamed "Root Beer Falls because the water is laden with nutrients carried from the Klamath Marsh a few miles upstream" and "Foam that builds up at the base of the falls gives the appearance of a root beer float".[10] ). It flows in a large arc north through the mountains, then west, then southwest through Klamath Marsh and the Klamath Marsh National Wildlife Refuge. Downstream of the refuge, the river flows roughly parallel to U.S. Route 97, receiving Spring Creek from the right at Collier Memorial State Park, about 5 miles (8.0 km) north of Chiloquin. At Chiloquin, it receives the Sprague River from the left at about river mile (RM) 11 (river kilometer (RK) 18). The Williamson enters the northern end of Upper Klamath Lake near Modoc Point, about 20 miles (32 km) northwest of Klamath Falls.[11]


At lower elevations along big streams, the Williamson watershed supports irrigated pastures and other farmlands. Livestock grazing occurs in many locations in the basin. Forests, often cut for timber, cover about 81 percent of the basin and farms account for 6 percent, while range, wetlands, water, and urban areas cover a combined 13 percent. Precipitation in the basin, which lies in the rain shadow of the Cascade Range, averages 23 inches (580 mm) a year along the Williamson above its confluence with the Sprague and about 20 inches (510 mm) along the Sprague.[5]


The Williamson is known for especially large wild Great Basin redband trout, which move into the river to spawn and to escape Upper Klamath Lake when it gets warm. Three-year-old fish "commonly reach 20 inches (51 cm) or better."[4] Smaller numbers of brown trout also thrive in the Williamson, especially below Spring Creek. Lost River suckers also populate the river but are protected and cannot be caught and kept legally. Smaller rainbow trout and brook trout live in the river above Klamath Marsh. Much of the land along the river is privately owned, and public access is limited.[4]


Since 2003, The Nature Conservancy and other organizations have been working to restore about 12 square miles (31 km2) of wetlands in the Williamson River delta at the north end of Upper Klamath Lake. Formerly diked and drained for farming, the delta provides habitat for millions of migrating birds as well as many native species of fish, mollusks, and aquatic plants.[12]

In early Pleistocene times, the Klamath Marsh and Upper Klamath lake were much larger; and were maintained as shallow lakes and marshes by the continued subsidence of the basin in the face of abundant sedimentation and uplift along the eastern fault scarp. The eruption of Mt. Mazama about 7,700 years ago contributed an enormous amount of sediment to the lake and marsh basins, and filled the canyon of the Williamson River.[13]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c "Williamson River". Geographic Names Information System. United States Geological Survey (USGS). November 28, 1980. Retrieved August 16, 2010.
  2. ^ McArthur, Lewis A.; Lewis L. McArthur (2003) [1928]. Oregon Geographic Names (7th ed.). Portland: Oregon Historical Society Press. pp. 1043–44. ISBN 0-87595-277-1.
  3. ^ Source elevation derived from Google Earth search using GNIS source coordinates.
  4. ^ a b c Sheehan, Madelynne Diness (2005). Fishing in Oregon: The Complete Oregon Fishing Guide (10th ed.). Scappoose, Oregon: Flying Pencil Publications. pp. 298–300. ISBN 0-916473-15-5.
  5. ^ a b c d Risley, John C.; Laenen, Antonius (1999). "Upper Klamath Lake Basin Nutrient-Loading Study—Assessment of Historic flows in the Williamson and Sprague Rivers" (PDF). United States Geological Survey (USGS). p. 2. Retrieved March 4, 2011.
  6. ^ "Water-Date Report 2009: 11502500 Williamson River below Sprague River, near Chiloquin, OR" (PDF). United States Geological Survey. Retrieved March 4, 2011.
  7. ^ "Water-Date Report 2009: 11502500 Williamson River below Sprague River, near Chiloquin, OR" (PDF). United States Geological Survey. Retrieved March 4, 2011.
  8. ^ U.S. Geological Survey. National Hydrography Dataset high-resolution flowline data. The National Map, accessed March 9, 2011
  9. ^ a b Johnson, Daniel M.; et al. (1985). Atlas of Oregon Lakes. Corvallis: Oregon State University Press. pp. 136–37. ISBN 0-87071-343-4.
  10. ^ "Hike to Root Beer Falls offered by museum: Space is limited for the free afternoon trek". Herald News. April 4, 2014.
  11. ^ Oregon Atlas & Gazetteer (Map) (1991 ed.). DeLorme Mapping. § 22, 30–31. ISBN 0-89933-235-8.
  12. ^ "Williamson River Delta". The Nature Conservancy. 2011. Retrieved March 5, 2011.
  13. ^ "Big Bill The Williamson River Basin Watershed Analysis" (PDF). USDA. February 1998. Public Domain This article incorporates text from this source, which is in the public domain.