Klamath River plugs up

Written by Adam Spencer, The Triplicate December 29, 2011 05:42 pm

The sand spit at the mouth of the Klamath River blocks access to the ocean on Monday. Alan Justice/Special to the Triplicate
The sand spit at the mouth of the Klamath River blocks access to the ocean on Monday. Alan Justice/Special to the Triplicate
Last week, the mouth of the Klamath River was completely closed, preventing the river from pouring into the Pacific.

The sealed mouth caused flooding on Klamath Beach Road and the field southwest of Requa Road and Highway 101.

The mouth has been sealed off in the past, but local researchers and fishermen believe this is the first time the mouth has closed at this time of year. A likely contributor to the unusual mouth closure is an uncommonly dry autumn in Del Norte County.

October, November and the beginning of December were several inches below average rainfall for the county. The beginning of December tied the county’s record for the driest start of the month.

Another possible contributor is the extreme high and low solstice tides typical to this time of year, pushing more sand into the mouth, said Yurok Tribe fisheries technician Arnold Nova.

The closure raised the height of the river by about two feet on Monday, from 9 feet to 11 feet. The river level dropped back down to nine feet when the spit was breached Monday evening.

Flooding on the lower Klamath in December is common, but usually from high water levels caused by rain — not a plugged mouth.

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