The High Country
Welcome to the High Country of Southern Oregon and its diverse landscape of lakes, rivers, wetlands, woodlands and desert. Spanning the soaring Cascades of Klamath County and the desert wonder of Oregon's Outback region in Lake County, if Mother Nature had a home it would be here.
CASCADES, LAKES AND RIVERS
With its towering Cascade Mountains and numerous lakes, Klamath County has plenty to keep any family busy with sailing, canoeing, fishing and exploring. Recreational areas like the Seven Lakes Basin, the Sky Lakes Wilderness area, Four Mile Lake, Lake of the Woods, Fish Lake, the Mountain Lakes Wilderness area and giant Upper Klamath Lake offer complete visitor facilities including lodges, cabins, camping, RV parks, boat, canoe and kayak rentals.
Exploring Klamath County is better than any theme park and everyone seems eager to invite you to come and share the fun! The region’s natural centerpiece is Crater Lake National Park, Oregon’s premier (and only) National Park. Widely known for its intense blue color and spectacular views, it was formed from the eruption of Mt. Mazama 7,700 years ago. At 1,932 feet, it is the deepest lake in the United States.
In the summer, you can drive or cycle around the lake on Rim Drive, enjoy boat tours, stay in the historic Crater Lake Lodge, camp at Mazama Village or hike the Park's various trails including Mt. Scott at 8,929 ft. Access during the winter is limited to the Southern entrance (off Highway 62). Cross-country skiing and snowshoeing are favorite winter pastimes.
Klamath Falls, located at the base of the eastern slope of the Cascades, is the largest city and county seat of Klamath County. Take an old town historic walking tour rich in architectural surprises and sprinkled with specialty shops. Or, take a ride on the one of the historical trolleys that tour the downtown area, pointing out the historical significance of the architecture. And, if time allows, catch a live performance at the Ross Ragland Theater. Built in 1940, the theater has been remodeled to its original art deco splendor.
With four well-defined seasons and over 300 days of sunshine a year, Klamath County has plenty of outdoor experiences for you to discover. From fly fishing on the famous Williamson River for giant native rainbows, to canoeing, kayaking and white-water rafting on numerous rivers, to family lake fishing trips, the recreational opportunities are virtually endless.
Northern Klamath County (Highway 97 North and Highway 58 East) has several beautiful lakes with Crescent and Odell lakes being the largest and most popular; and, where fishermen in-the-know go for the best kokanee and mackinaw fishing.
The town of Crescent Lake, off Highway 58, boasts hundreds of groomed trails used both in summer & winter. Nearby Willamette Pass Ski Resort is a destination recreational center, with gondola rides in the summer and ski lifts in the winter. The famous Pacific Crest Trail winds through the Crescent Lake area. The town of Chemult, home of an Iditarod quality sled dog race in January and the historic towns of Gilchrist and Crescent offer easy access to Crater Lake National Park and Newberry National Volcanic Monument. And, you won’t want to miss the newly established Gilchrist State Forest which is open to the public year-round for a variety of activities from hiking to camping to snowmobiling and more.
Eastern Klamath County (Highway 140 East) also has beautiful lakes in the Gearhart Mountain area near Bly and at Gerber Reservoir. Choose from several rustic lakeside resorts that feature dining and lodging. Travel Highway 140 West and you’ll discover Oregon’s only award-winning Arnold Palmer signature golf course at the Running Y Ranch, a destination resort nestled along Upper Klamath Lake.
Bicyclists will love the region. From Klamath Falls you can take a leisurely ride along the Link River and stop off at the Pelican Marina for a lakeshore picnic in Moore Park. Nearby rural communities like Merrill, Malin and Chiloquin are also great for cycling and exploring casual dining and shopping opportunities. Mountain bikers can enjoy the thrill of bombing down a single downhill track at Brown Mountain - helmets are a must! For bike rentals and more information, visit the Discover Klamath website.
Hiking options range from “stroller” friendly trails to advanced routes up Mt. McLoughlin or Mt. Thielsen, a jagged peak overlooking Crater Lake National Park. The Fremont-Winema National Forest also has many well-maintained trails, plus you can also hike into Sky Lakes Wilderness and hook up with the famed Pacific Crest Trail which extends into Crater Lake National Park.
Klamath County is a popular winter destination, too. Vast public lands allow you to hunt, snowmobile, cross-country and downhill ski, snowboard, snowshoe, ice skate, ice fish and dog sled. For the most adventuresome, there is snowmobiling the Pelican Butte Crater.
A PIONEER HISTORY
If history speaks to you, the largest museum in the area, the Klamath County Museum, is located in Klamath Falls. The museum just introduced a stunning $500,000 “Forests for Everyone” exhibit that shares the County’s living forest legacy.
Walk through this interactive, family-friendly exhibit to view a pre-Mt Mazama (Crater Lake before its explosion), preserved trees, and to explore the different views people hold about forests. You can also take in the natural sights and sounds of indigenous wildlife that call Klamath County home.
Other “must see” museum visits include the carefully restored Baldwin Hotel Museum (downtown) and the extraordinary Favell Museum filled with national class Western Art and Native American artifacts.
Fort Klamath Museum, just south of Crater Lake National Park, is located at the first military post in the region (1863). Here you can learn the history and see the grave sites of Modoc Chief Captain Jack, and three of his warriors who fought off the US Army in the most expensive campaign in the West – the Modoc Indian War of 1872-1873.
Klamath County’s heritage is logging and agriculture and the rich and colorful cultures that developed to support these industries can still be found. Cowboys still drive cattle down rural roads and the overall pace is still refreshingly relaxed. Colorful communities like Gilchrist with its uniquely decorated buildings and the Czech settlement in Malin are great places to visit. For a real treat, visit Collier State Park and Logging Museum just north of Klamath Falls near the town of Chiloquin. Situated on the picturesque Williamson River, Collier State Park, with over 200,000 visitors annually, has perhaps the largest collection of vintage-era logging equipment found anywhere. Imagine loggers using these ancient implements to fell, cut up, and haul trees and you begin to appreciate how difficult and dangerous their jobs were before modern technology arrived. Collier State Park is excellent as a day-use area or as a place for overnight camping as well.
The history of the Tulelake Basin and Butte Valley can be discovered just minutes across the California border in the Tulelake Museum of Local History. There you will learn about the Tulelake Segregation Center where thousands of Japanese-American citizens were forced to live during WWII.
Any visit to this region should include a drive on the Volcanic Legacy Scenic Byway All American Road. Years ago it was singled out by Oregon for its jaw-dropping beauty. The federal government concurred and in 1999 it was named an All American Road, America’s highest honor for a scenic drive. The Byway extends from Crater Lake to the Lava Beds National Monument, which offers more than 450 lava tube caves – the greatest concentration in North America!
The Byway also provides views of Upper Klamath Lake and the Klamath National Wildlife Refuge. Upper Klamath Lake is the largest body of fresh water west of the Rockies, covering 133 square miles. The lake and the refuge are situated in the heart of the Pacific Flyway, which attracts more than 350 species of birds including sandhill cranes, pelicans, many ducks, hawks, and the largest concentration of wintering bald eagles in the lower 48 states. During peak migration more than a million birds pass through the area.
If you really want get away from it all, Lake County provides wide-open spaces and a real cowboy welcome. There is something to do every season of the year: skiing at Warner Canyon, hunting big game or small, fishing the 500 miles of streams and seven lakes, camping with a backpack or an RV, cycling or hiking the Fremont Trail System, golfing at Lakeview and Christmas Valley, swimming in the beautiful Chewaucan River or the hot springs near Summer Lake, and rock hunting for gem stones or fossils. Known as the Hang Gliding Capital of the West, the Outback’s mountains provide perfect launching conditions for gliders to catch thermals.
Lake County’s Western hospitality is a year-round feature. All these activities can be enjoyed from the comfort of historic bed and breakfast inns, guest ranches, hotels and fine restaurants, or from the rugged isolation of a mountain camp in Oregon’s Outback. A fine way to get an overview of the Great Basin Region is to take a three- to four-hour drive on the Oregon Outback National Scenic Byway. This route ex- tends from the junction of Highway 97 and Highway 31 South of LaPine, and continues to the Oregon/California state line through 171 miles of scenic, natural, recreational and geographical features, which are rich in archeological history.
Don’t miss 2000-foot high Abert Rim, over 30 miles long, the highest exposed scarp on the continent. Wildlife viewing is spectacular at Hart Mountain as well as Summer Lake Wildlife Area and Warner Wetlands where you can witness swans, eagles, raptors, sandhill cranes, pelicans, deer, antelope, elk, bighorn sheep, coyote, and more. The Basin and Range Birding Trail follows the Oregon Outback National Scenic Byway and offers over 360 species of birds to be seen on this section of the Pacific flyway.