The Klamath River basin, including the adjacent Lost River basin, includes about 5,500 square miles of plateaus, mountain-slopes and valley plains in south-central Oregon. The valley plains range in altitude from about 4,100 feet in the south to more than 4,500 feet at the northern end; the mountain and plateau lands rise to an average altitude of 6,000 feet at the drainage divide, some peaks rising above 9,000 feet. The western quarter of the basin is on the eastern slope of the Cascade Range and the remainder consists of plateaus, mountains, and valleys of the basin-and-range type.
The rocks of the Klamath River basin range in age from Recent to Mesozoic. At the southwest side of the basin in Oregon, pre-Tertiary metamorphic, igneous, and sedimentary rocks, which form extensive areas farther west, are overlain by sedimentary rocks of Eocene age and volcanic rocks of Eocene and Oligocene age. These early Tertiary rocks dip east toward the central part of the Klamath River basin. The complex volcanic rocks of high Cascades include three units: the lowest unit consists of a sequence of basaltic lava flows about 800 feet thick; the medial unit is composed of volcanic-sedimentary and sedimentary rocksthe Yonna formation200 to 2,000 feet thick; the uppermost unit is a sequence of basaltic lava flows commonly about 200 feet thick. These rocks dip east from the Cascade Range and are the main bedrock formations beneath most of the basin. Extensive pumice deposits, which emanated from ancestral Mount Mazama, cover large areas in the northwestern part of the basin.
The basin has an overall synclinal structure open to the south at the California boundary where it continues as the Klamath Lake basin in California. The older rocks dip into the basin in monoclinal fashion from the adjoining drainage basins. The rocks are broken along rudely rectangular nets of closely spaced normal faults, the most prominent set of which trends northwest. The network of fault displacements includes two main grabens, the Klamath and the Langell, which were downthrown approximately 50 and 1,000 feet, respectively.
The average annual precipitation varies with the altitude, the higher parts of the Cascade Range getting more than 60 inches, and the semiarid valley plains receive as little as 13 inches in some places. Most precipitation occurs in the winter.
The principal tributaries, Williamson and Sprague Rivers, rise near the higher parts of the eastern rim of the basin, flow through narrow valley plains to the western part, and discharge into Upper Klamath Lake. Wood River and associated creeks also empty into Upper Klamath Lake after draining southward along along the eastern foot of the Cascade Range. The Klamath River receives the outflow from Upper Klamath Lake, via Link River and Lake Ewauna, and flows southwestward through Keno Gap and hance through a youthful canyon, to its lower valley in California.
The ground water occurs largely in an unconfined, or water-table, condition, though areas of local confinement are present. The regional water table is graded to a base level about equal to that of the major drainage on the valley plains. The slop of the water table, where water is confined, or the piezometric surface is downstream at about the same grade as that of the surface drainage in each of the larger valleys, and ground-water divides occur between the upper parts of adjacent major valleys. The principal water-bearing units are the lower lava rocks and upper lava rocks of the volcanic rocks of high Cascades, the pumice of Quaternary age, and the alluvium. In places layers of coarse fragmental material in the Yonna formation (Newcomb, 1958) also transmit water. The water-bearing units, especially the breccia layers of the lava rocks and the pumice, yield large amounts of water to wells and provide natural discharge outlets for the ground water.
The spring outflows to the Williamson and Wood Rivers-Crooked Creek drainage, mea
Additional publication details
USGS Numbered Series
Preliminary report on the ground-water resources of the Klamath River basin, Oregon