KLAMATH BASIN REFUGES
Imagine the sky turning dark not
a gathering storm but from the massing of millions of ducks,
swans and geese. The Klamath Basin of California and Oregon was
once the site of the world's largest known waterfowl migration.
Even today, after a century of wetland conversion, more than a
can gather in area wildlife refuges.
1905, the Bureau of Reclamation began converting the rich wetlands of
the Basin into agricultural fields. Recognizing the importance of the
wetlands to waterfowl of the Pacific Flyway, President Theodore
Roosevelt established the Lower Klamath National Wildlife Refuge in
1908. Five additional refuges were eventually set aside,
including Bear Valley NWR - a refuge designed to protect the winter
habitat of Bald Eagles.
less than a quarter of
the original wetlands remain, three-quarters of Pacific Flyway
waterfowl still stop at the Klamath Basin
refuges. Challenges facing the refuge
complex include obtaining adequate water supply during years of drought
and water degradation.
LOWER KLAMATH NWR
Roosevelt established the first waterfowl refuge in the United States
when he preserved Lower Klamath NWR's 46,900 acres. A ten mile
auto tour leads through marshes, diked water impoundments and croplands.
In winter, bald eagles land on frozen marshes, feeding on unlucky
CLEAR LAKE NWR
In 1911, another refuge was added to the
complex - Clear Lake. White pelicans and
double-crested cormorants nest on islands in the lake, and pronghorn
antelopes, mule deer and sage grouse benefit from the refuge's
sagebrush and juniper uplands. Usually closed to public access,
Lake's reservoir provides water for farmers in the eastern
In 1928, Tule Lake was added to the
Basin's refuge lands. Seventeen
thousand acres of Tule Lake's approximate 39,000 acres are leased
farmers by the Bureau of Reclamation.
Birds commonly seen (depending on season)
on the refuge's ten mile auto
tour include Bald Eagles, White Pelicans, White-faced Ibis, Snow, Ross'
and Canada Geese, Western and Eared Grebes, Yellow-headed and
Tri-colored Blackbirds and a variety of ducks.
Upper Klamath National Wildlife Refuge's
15,000 acres of habitat were also set aside in 1928. Waterfowl,
white pelicans and herons raise their young here and two endangered
fish - the Lost River and Short nosed sucker- struggle to survive in
Using funds from the federal duck stamp
program, the US government purchased 16,400 acres from the Klamath
Indians in 1958. This land was to become Klamath Marsh National
Wildlife Refuge. Sandhill cranes nest in the meadows, and waterfowl
raise their downy young in the marshes.
aside in 1978, Bear Valley NWR protects the roosting site of
wintering bald eagles. Up to 300 eagles may use the roost at
Though closed to public entry, the eagle's morning fly-outs can be
watched from several vantage points.
WHEN TO GO
Waterfowl - October
and November, southbound; late
February through early April, northbound.
Mid-April and mid-May, southbound; late July through August, northbound.
months. (Can be up to a 1000 bald eagles in
may be reserved but refuge roads also provide excellent
wildlife viewing opportunites. The refuges have waterbird blinds,
eagle blinds and upland bird blinds all built to take advantage of
kayak/canoe trails. The Upper Klamath NWR Canoe Trail is
9.5 miles in length but can be done in shorter loops. Canoeing in
Tule Lake NWR and Klamath Marsh NWR is normally permitted between July
1 and the
end of September.
USFW - Guide to Klamath
List for the Klamath Basin