The city of Klamath Falls, Oregon, is in the high desert just east of the Southern Cascade Mountains. Much of the local economy revolves around forestry and agriculture. In contrast to all this cultivated land, the Klamath Falls region is also home to major wildlife preserves and national forests, making it a hotspot for nature lovers. Visitors to Klamath Falls will find the beauty and diversity of the local landscape the major attraction, which you can experience via outdoor recreation or on a scenic drive.
The Klamath River Basin, which includes land in both Oregon and California, is home to diverse ecosystems rich in wildlife on foot, fin, and wing. The Oregon spaces include lakes, rivers, marshes, and wetlands that host migrating birds such as bald eagles, egrets, snow geese, and a multitude of other waterfowl. You'll find major wildlife refuges within a short drive of Klamath Falls, where you can enjoy birding, hiking, canoeing, nature photography, auto tours, and wildlife watching. Most of these Oregon refuges are part of the Klamath Basin National Wildlife Refuge Complex.
The Klamath Basin Wildlife checklist details the birds, mammals, amphibians, reptiles, and fish you might see during your time at one of the region's wildlife refuges.
- Bear Valley National Wildlife Refuge: Bald eagles are the main attraction at this sheltered forest refuge. The majestic birds nest here during their winter migrations, with some pairs using the site for nesting. The bald eagles can be observed from a viewing area along the Keno-Worden Road just south of the town of Worden, Oregon.
- Klamath Marsh National Wildlife Refuge; The Klamath Marsh is located north of Klamath Falls, where the Williamson River and Big Spring Creek come together. This wildlife refuge spans open water, wetlands, and upland forest, making it attractive to numerous wildlife. The birds that you might observe at Klamath Marsh NWR include Sandhill cranes, eagles, falcons, and ducks. Rocky Mountain elk and great gray owl live in the surrounding forests. In addition to birding and photography, visitors can explore via the refuge's designated canoe or walking trails.
- Klamath Wildlife Area: Managed by the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, the Klamath Wildlife Area includes several tracts of land scattered around Klamath Falls. The Miller Island Unit, located just south of Klamath Falls, is home to birds of all kinds, depending on the time of year. Take the loop trait to see the birds, wildlife, and scenery on Miller Island.
Several of the wildlife refuges in the Klamath Basin National Wildlife Refuge Complex are across the border in California. These include Tule Lake, Lower Klamath, and Clear Lake. The headquarters and official visitor center for the complex are located at the northwest edge of the Tule Lake Refuge and are a good place to stop at the beginning of a refuge-focused trip. They'll have the latest information on species sightings, road conditions, special programs, photography blinds, and weather.
You'll find many opportunities for outdoor activities of all kinds right within Klamath Falls. Whether you prefer active pursuits like hiking and biking or less-sweaty strolling and bench warming, your outdoor experience will often include the local lakes and rivers and the birds and wildlife that call these waters home.
- Link River Trail: Walkers and runners can follow this 1.5-mile route along the Link River to Upper Klamath Lake.
- Wingwatchers Nature Trail: Birders will adore this 1.1-mile, accessible trail along the lively shores of Lake Ewauna.
- Steen Sports Park: Local sports leagues and tournaments play baseball, softball, soccer, ultimate Frisbee, football, and more at this extensive sports complex. Visitors can enjoy the park's walking trails, the skate park, playground, or take in a game.
- Golf: Harbor Links Golf is a public golf course situated along the southeast shore of Upper Klamath Lake. Shield Crest Golf Club is located at the east side of Klamath Falls.
Head east from Klamath Falls and you'll find dry desert terrain. Head west, and you'll find mountains, forests, and Crater Lake National Park. Rivers and lakes are in every direction, as are such national forests as the Fremont-Winema National Forest and Umpqua National Forest. All of these landscapes provide opportunities for outdoor fun, from hiking, biking, and boating in the summer to skiing and snowshoeing in the winter. Here are some of the many options for outdoor recreation near Klamath Falls:
- Collier Memorial State Park: Part of the Oregon State Parks system, Collier Memorial focuses on the region's pioneer era and the logging industry that developed. You can explore the vast outdoor collection of early logging equipment and the riverfront pioneer village. Camping facilities are available for tent, RV, and horse campers. Whether you're there for the day or overnight, you can enjoy hiking and horseback riding on nearby trails, trout fishing in the Williamson River or Spring Creek, or a picnic and a romp at the playground.
- OC&E Woods Line State Trail: This mostly graveled rail trail runs for more than 100 miles, from Klamath Falls at the south end, through Beatty and national forest lands to the north. An east-west spur connects the small towns of Beatty and Bly. The OC&E Woods Line State Trail passes through farmland, into forest land, along rivers, over train trestles, and past historic sites. Popular with hikers, bikers, and horse riders, the trail can be accessed at many points along its length.
- Fishing: The Klamath Basin's abundance of lakes, rivers, and streams provide great sport for fishers. Trout and bass are the major species. In addition to Klamath Lake, which is the largest freshwater lake in Oregon, Lake of the Woods and Gerber Reservoir are also popular fishing destinations. Several outfitters are available to supply you with rental gear or guide service.
- White Water Rafting: Wild whitewater raft trips are available on the Upper Klamath River from May through September through a number of outfitters.
- Winter Recreation: The nearby mountain and forests provide plenty of terrain for skiing and other snow sports near Klamath Falls. For downhill skiing, Mount Ashland, Mount Shasta, Mount Bailey, and Willamette Pass are all within a couple hours' drive from Klamath Falls. For cross-country skiing and snowshoeing, check out Crater Lake National Park and the Fremont-Winema National Forest, which both have great winter trails.
A driving tour is an ideal way to explore the local scenery with occasional stops at viewpoints, trails, museums, shops, and restaurants. The Klamath Falls area is blessed with two wonderful options, each taking a full day.
- Volcanic Legacy Scenic Byway, Southern Oregon Section: The entire length of the "All American Road" covers the volcanic peaks and landscape of both Northern California and Southern Oregon, covering more than 500 miles. The Southern Oregon section from Klamath Falls north to Crater Lake is around 125 miles one way. The route begins along Oregon Highway 140, running along Klamath Lake up into the mountains, past Mount Scott, to where Oregon Highway 62 takes you into Crater Lake National Park. Depending on how much time you have, you can do all or part of Crater Lake's famous Rim Drive. Potential stops along the way include birding along the shores of Upper Klamath Lake and hiking at Vidae Falls in Crater Lake National Park.
- Upper Klamath Lake Loop: This scenic driving tour circles Klamath and Agency Lakes, following Oregon Highway 140 along the west side of the lakes to Oregon Highway 62, then south to U.S. Highway 97 and back to Klamath Falls. Along the way, you'll have the opportunity to stop at several major bird and wildlife watching spots, Collier Memorial State Park, and the Oregon State Fish Hatchery.
If the weather is not cooperating for outdoor adventures, duck inside to one of Klamath Fall's museums to get a feel for the area's history and culture.
- The Favell Museum: The Favell is a museum of Western art and Native American artifacts. Its massive collection of Native American artifacts includes not only items from local people but also spans the tribes who lived in the western parts of both North and South America. Arrowheads, baskets, and ancient stone tools are among the items exhibited. In Favell's art gallery you'll find works by such significant Western artists as Charles M. Russell and John Clymer, as well as more contemporary artists. A collection of miniature guns is another museum highlight.
- Klamath County Museum: Learn all about local and regional history, including the Modoc Indian War, at this county museum. Additional exhibits can be found at the Klamath County Museum's sister facilities, the Baldwin Hotel Museum and the Fort Klamath Museum.
No matter what the season, there's always some reason to gather and celebrate in Klamath Falls. Here are some of the popular annual events that might pique your interest.