The Klamath National Wildlife Refuges offer some of the finest photography opportunities you will experience anywhere. Few places in the world rival the Klamath Refuges for sheer numbers of birds, and, also, for the importance of its ecosystem as a stopover along the Pacific Flyway. Because it’s just a little more than an hour from Mount Shasta, it is a place I love to visit as often as possible.
Situated along the California-Oregon border, the Klamath National Wildlife Refuges are comprised of six refuges–Clear Lake, Tule Lake, Lower Klamath, Bear Valley, Upper Klamath, and Klamath Marsh Refuges. The Lower Klamath Refuge was established by Theodore Roosevelt in 1908 and is the nation’s first waterfowl refuge. The Klamath Basin was once a vast complex of large, shallow lakes and extensive marshes totaling some 185,000 acres. More than six million birds migrated through every Spring and Fall. Today, about 36,000 acres of that habitat remain. A variety of pressures have reduced the number of migrating waterfowl to around one million birds. The refuges are home to the largest wintering population of bald eagles in the contiguous U.S.. I was there in February of 1988, when more than 900 baldies stayed the season. December through February are prime months to view the eagles. Dress warmly, as the elevation lies around 4100 feet and Winters here can get quite cold.
Over 400 faunal species have been identified in the refuges. 263 bird species are found here, including 23 species of raptors. Mammals include mule deer, elk, and black bear. Don’t be surprised to see a herd pronghorn antelope grazing placidly in a grassy meadow. A limited number of blinds are available on Tule Lake and Lower Klamath Refuges by advanced reservation. Self-guided canoe trails are provided at Tule Lake, Upper Klamath, and Klamath Marsh Refuges, offering additional photo opportunities. Check with the Visitor’s Center (530-667-2231) for current information and availability.
As an added bonus, make the short trip over to Lava Beds National Monument, a worthwhile destination in itself. I find myself drawn to its stark and primal beauty. View ancient lava flows. Numerous lava tubes honeycomb the area and several caves are open for exploration. A helmet and more than one light source are recommended. Captain Jack and his band of Modocs made their final stand here in 1872, in what is commonly referred to as the Modoc Wars. Five prominent sites are located within the Monument’s borders. If you’re feeling particularly adventurous, you can continue south to the Medicine Lake Highlands. There is much to discover. Check out Glass Mountain. This is an all-too-convenient addition to your wildlife viewing excursion. Please note that the road to Medicine Lake is seasonal and not plowed in the Winter.
Please contact me with any questions or comments, or to book a photo tour.
Until next time, happy image-making…