Posts Tagged ‘Oregon’

Brian fishing from kayak in early morning

We moved away from the noise and bustle of Klamath Falls to Rocky Point Resort on Pelican Bay at the north end of Upper Klamath Lake. We are on the edge of the Upper Klamath National Wildlife Refuge and our site is close to the water so when we wake in the morning we can push the blind up and see pelicans paddling and splashing as they feed. With the lake and marsh on one side and the Winema National Forest to the other, we are surrounded by a stunning natural environment. There are a lot of houses set in along Rocky Point Rd., but they are well-spaced with lots of mature trees. It’s a quiet, off the beaten path kind of area and a welcome respite for us after urban living.

We have little sit-on-top kayaks that we easily tote the short distance to the water, making it possible for us to flyfish or just kayak whenever we like. There is a canoe/kayak trail winding through the refuge that we hope to explore more of soon.

Resort’s dock at dawn

View from lake toward resort’s dock near our RV site

Brian tying flies at our site, lake in background

We spotted this insect floating and watched as, in a few minutes, the adult Caddisfly emerged from its pupal skin and prepared to fly

A fishing dock at next door Forest Service’s boat launch

Low in late summer, this creek is a marshy trail through dry woods near the lake

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Random Sights

American White Pelicans

A 9-foot wing span makes these birds an impressive sight in flight. We’ve watched a half dozen of them flapping and gliding in unison high in the air, and we’ve seen them coming in for a landing, skimming just above the water for a long distance before lowering their landing gear — webbed feet stretched forward, heels down, touching water, slowing and then bodies settling onto the water. This one pictured was hopping from one rock to another.


We have often seen mink in the Klamath Falls area, hopping from rock to rock, on their way from one part of the lake to the next, or swimming and diving in the river. They travel along the rocks for as long as possible, although they don’t seem to mind swimming at all. None of the birds we have seen, like these American Black Ducks and American White Pelicans, have objected to the presence of this predator. It’s probably a different story during nesting season.

High winds blew this nest down from the Lodgepole Pine in our RV site.

Millie has learned to use our shadows when no shrubs or trees are available for shade

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Interested in seeing more of the Klamath Basin’s refuge system, we went to the Tule Lake Wildlife Refuge in California, just 25 miles from Klamath Falls. Here’s Brian in Oregon. A step over the double yellow line and he’s in California.

The issue of water rights is a touchy subject with such a strong conflict of interest between agricultural usage and nature. For thousands of years, Klamath tribes lived in harmony with the marshes, but European settlers came, saw agricultural opportunities and drained.  They “reclaimed” 80% of the marshlands over a period of a half dozen decades, causing a drastic reduction in waterfowl populations and water quality. Reclamation?!  What an excellent example of the term euphemism.

Objectively speaking, the Klamath Project is impressive engineering, construction and management. Irrigation is a major part of the landscape in the Basin. Roads, railways and irrigation canals crisscross each other over the patchwork of farm fields.

Klamath Project map -- from usbr.gov site

Tule Lake is much smaller than it used to be and farmland marches right up to its edges as can be seen in the following photo. There is a dam on the Lost River in Oregon built to divert water to the Klamath River in order to prevent flooding of farmland surrounding Tule Lake in California during rainy periods.

Tule Lake & farm fields

At one corner of the lake is Discovery Marsh.  We visited the Klamath Basin Wildlife Refuges Visitor Center across the street and learned about the program of rotation that has been implemented since people realized that marshes need change, not stability.  Some of the leased land beside the lake that was being farmed exclusively is now in rotation — sometimes farmland, sometimes marsh.  Restoring the “reclaimed” marsh takes a lot of effort and management, but the idea is to simulate the periodic creation and destruction that occurs in natural marshlands.  So much effort for so little marsh, but it is a start.

Discovery Marsh, in lower half of image. Tule Lake is the pale blue water.

White-faced Ibis

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The forecast was “hot and sunny” so we opted for a shaded walk and headed up into the mountains. Lake of the Woods is a natural lake in the Winema National Forest, some 30 miles from Klamath Falls and, at an elevation of about 5,000 feet, located only about 1,000 feet higher than the town. We arrived at our destination at noon so we stopped in at the Lake of the Woods Resort for their organic, grass-fed beef cheeseburgers which we ate out on the lodge’s big deck, shaded by towering conifers as we looked out over the lake. A line of Adirondack chairs, painted a cheerful, bright red, lined the rail overlooking the water.
The lake is clear and surrounded by alpine forest. The resort has a comfortable, old-timey feel to it, but gas motors are, unfortunately, allowed on the lake. Noisy speed boats and jet skis seem out of place in this pristine spot.

Lake of the Woods Resort

Well fortified by burgers and sweet potato fries, we headed out into the woods, away from the lake. Nearby is the Great Meadow, a large open expanse that is marshy until later in the summer, providing great habitat for all sorts of creatures year-round. Humans have reduced the flow of water from the lake to the meadow to aid in recreational pursuits, so it is drier than nature intends, but there are plans to strike a better balance between providing for humans’ recreational wants and nature’s needs in the near future.

Great Meadow, Mt. McLoughlin in distance

The meadow is dry and grassy, somewhat like unmown pasture, and is frequented by elk and deer this late in the summer, at dusk and dawn. We stood at the southern edge and scanned with our binoculars. The Great Meadow deserves its name. It is enormous, but it’s difficult to tell just how big without a reference point.
A thin ribbon of green meandered along near the far northern edge, the last remaining bit of marshiness. We strained to see clearly and even with binoculars we almost missed the brownish-gray birds with long necks walking in the marshy strip. Frustrated by heat waves and distance, we could only speculate as to identity. So, with that coloring, what were they, Great Blue Herons? Maybe, but they just didn’t seem like Great Blues. The only other possibility around here would be . . . could they be . . . Sandhill Cranes?!
The birds were working their way slowly to the east. The trail we were on, although tucked back into the woods a bit, followed the eastern edge of the meadow so we started walking. We caught glimpses of the meadow through trees and undergrowth, but we couldn’t see the section where we’d seen the birds and just went with the assumption that we were still on a course to intersect.

The trail was sometimes in open sun, but mostly shaded, making the walk pleasant despite the heat. Our dogs are having a harder time adjusting to the desert climate, perhaps because they’ve lived only in cooler climates. They both love snow and had a great time in Alaska. Millie has learned to look for shade and, when we stop and drop the leash, she will find the closest shady spot, no matter how small the coverage.

Shade seeker

As we neared the northern edge of the meadow, we started walking stealthily. Imagine an elephant tiptoeing on dry pine cones — that’s probably what the four of us actually sounded like to wild things as we crept onwards through the woods, but we did keep conversation to a quiet minimum.
We came to an overlook where only a single line of conifers and short shrubbery was between us and the northeast corner of the meadow. We peered through our binoculars in all directions, the world reduced to a circular view with peripheral vision in darkness. There was no sign of the birds. Had they flown? We scanned out as far as we could to no avail. Our hopes sinking, we said aloud, “Where are they?” Abruptly, this head popped up into our view:

Gasp! “Sandhill Crane!” we sputtered in whispers to each other as we struggled to adjust binocular focus close in, to this point just on the other side of the conifers, a mere 20 feet from where we stood.
All of the sneaking and whispering proved unnecessary. The tall, goofy, yet gorgeous bird and its mate strolled a few feet further away and one began unconcernedly scratching the back of its neck with a long foot attached to the end of a long leg, sending little, wispy feathers floating on the breeze. The cranes were a wonderful sight. Not rare around here, but still so much fun to see, especially up close.

Sandhill Crane

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Saturday mornings find us at the Klamath Falls farmers market with cooler bag in hand. We look forward to the growing season and have been going to these markets for many years, but have found that the trend is to sell more crafts and less produce. That is certainly the case at the Klamath Falls market. There is a limited variety of produce from just a few venders, most of whom seem to be backyard veggie gardeners. Limited quantity, variety and hit or miss quality does not, however, keep the price down. We pay top dollar for produce grown without pesticides and herbicides, irregardless of a given gardener’s skill, so we have learned to get there early, walk the market to inspect all options and then make our selections while choices are still available.
Wow, that sounded kind of negative, didn’t it?! We may not be happy about limited choice, but we do get some great vegetables at the market and are happy to have the opportunity to get truly fresh produce.

Klamath Falls farmers market

We found a very clean laundry that has never been busy when we’ve gone which makes the weekly chore rather pleasant. We settle in with a cup of coffee and our iPads and the time flies by.

Laundry day

Geothermal heat has been harnessed for heating buildings since 1900, especially in the downtown historic district.

We took the poodles in for grooming. It’s always fun to be able to see their faces again.

Moore Park is beside Upper Klamath Lake.
Driving along Lakeshore Drive, we come around a curve in the road and see a bright green field and lots of huge shade trees. The park, with its grassy playing fields and picnicking areas, is an odd sight in the arid landscape and owes its existence to heavy, daily watering. We don’t stay in this section, but park our car and head up away from the lake, into the dry, wooded hills. We may see the occasional runner, walker or biker, but it’s lightly used and amazing for it’s close proximity to an urban area. We think Klamath Falls residents are really lucky to have this park and the Link River trail just beside it. We often walk both in order to do a loop.

Moore Park

Sprinklers shoot water in greats arcs. We have sprinted through them to cool down on a hot day. The tremendous amount of water provides great habitat for midges which are out in force after a watering. We usually get back from a walk about then to find our car covered with little, bright green bugs.

This is not a grainy photograph, but clouds upon clouds of midges. The whole hillside (most of which is out of frame to the left) was aswarm that morning and the masses of midges made a quiet, persistent humming noise, like the sound a transformer makes.

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We parked in a dusty lot at a bend in the road, not far from a tiny grocery/convenience store. According to the map, we were in Olene, OR, but there was no other evidence of a town in any direction; just few widely spaced houses with outbuildings, big fenced pastures and a slow, quiet river winding through the gap in low mountains to either side. It wasn’t especially early. In fact, we were out too late yet again for our comfort, all four of us.
We geared up for a walk, with humans toting water for four, knowing that two 100 oz. CamelBak bladders wouldn’t be enough water for us all on a long walk in this heat.
We had been wanting to see something of the OC&E Woods Line Trail. Converted from the Oregon, California & Eastern Railroad, 100 miles of trail connects Klamath Falls to Bly and to the Sycan Marsh. This short stretch that we walked is a vehicle width dirt track and starts out beside the Lost River and Canal B of the Klamath Project (system of irrigation for cropland).

OC&E Trail on left, Canal B and then Lost River to far right

The countryside is quiet and open just outside of the Klamath Falls area. We saw Western Fence Lizards scurrying off of the edges of the trail ahead of us. Scrub Jays shrieked at us from Junipers on the hillside.

Western Fence Lizard

Blazing Star


Close-up view of Juniper's root and burrows in hill

Patches of bent and broken stems in the otherwise tall grasses beside the trail were evidence of squirrel feeding zones. We watched a ground squirrel standing upright on back legs, reaching up and, paw over paw, pulling tall stems down until it could get to the seed at the top.

Ground squirrel eating seed

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The rumble of a passing train is an expected sound when we stay in an RV park anywhere we’ve traveled in the US. It seems rare that we don’t hear a train horn sometime during the night and we’ve grown to love the sound, as long as there is enough distance to take the edge off of the thunder. Klamath Falls has a large train yard and trains are a common sight and sound as we drive around town. A railroad passes about of a quarter mile from the park and we sometimes wake to the sound of a train horn, followed by the cries of coyotes echoing the sound.

Looking north from 6th St. Bridge

View southward

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Klamath Falls

Like many other creatures, we have settled for a short time beside water in the high desert. The Klamath Basin (located in southern OR & northern CA) has diverse habitats and is especially rich in wildlife, and we have looked forward to the chance to explore in more depth than on previous visits. The town of Klamath Falls is nestled by two lakes, the Upper Klamath and the Ewauna, the two connected by the Link River. Shortly after our arrival in Klamath Falls, we went for a walk at the edge of downtown by the Link River. We shrugged into our CamelBaks while the dogs drank from their bowl. It was still cool, but we could feel the heat from the newly risen sun and the air was filled with flying bugs. Really filled, with clouds of various hatches, mostly midges. These are the sort of hatches flyfishers look for to determine what sort of fly to use. “Match the hatch” is usually the best policy, but here — good luck getting a fish to choose your little fly amongst millions and millions of the same! We were glad these bugs weren’t the sort to be interested in our blood. Other life was also clearly abundant. Dozens of Barn Swallows flitted through the swarms. We figured that they just kept their mouths open, scooping their plentiful prey. Western and Clark’s Grebes, American White Pelicans, Double-Crested Cormorants and Ring-billed Gulls dotted the southern end of Upper Klamath Lake and the head of the Link River. Snowy and Great Egrets, Green herons, Black Crowned Night herons and all sorts of ducks lined up on or paddled amongst rocks just off shore — all of it an amazing sight for these avid birders.

Barn Swallows

We saw so many birds (like the Snowy Egret and California Quail pictured in collage), insects, Mule deer, mink and turtles in the first 20 minutes of this walk.

Beside the Link River

Purple pin: Link River

South end of Upper Klamath Lake

Below: A sudden squawking and a flurry of wings as an immature (2nd year) Black Crowned Night Heron challenged (and lost to) a Snowy Egret for its fishing spot. The heron landed a couple of rocks away and they both immediately went back to fishing.

All's well

American White Pelicans

We watched these Pelicans fish as a team, much like Humpback whales. Three to five of them paddled close together in the shallows, using partially submerged rocks as a barrier against which, by circling and closing, they bunched minnows which they then scooped up in concert.

Non-breeding Clark's Grebe

Klamath Basin is a stopover spot for millions of migrating birds and fall migration begins soon!

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