While Klamath Lake feels huge at first glance, you’ll feel comfortable and right at home inside the cozy confines of a canoe or kayak as we paddle across the Upper Klamath Wildlife Refuge‘s designated “Canoe Trail” where hundreds of bird species make their seasonal home.

In the vast Klamath basin, summer mornings arrive on brilliant sunshine and a soft, cool high desert breeze. A place where wide timeless vistas allow your mind and imagination to wander among mountains, grassy meadows, broad lakes and ponds into rich mysterious marshlands.

You don’t need to be an experienced birder to enjoy Klamath Marsh music when you join Darren Roe of ROE Outfitters. As we loaded our gear into dry bags and prepped for a morning of paddling, Darren noted: “It is amazing to folks that come here for the first time and they always want to know – why aren’t there more people here?”

It was an intriguing question as we left the pavement far behind to discover an enchanting world that was all ours to explore. The Upper Klamath Wildlife Refuge Canoe Trail extends more than nine miles and that takes you into the heart of a freshwater marsh on the north end of Klamath Lake

The braid work of channels that make up the Canoe Trail are defined by bulrushes and cattails and plants called “Wocus” that are always at your side. The marsh is home to hundreds of wildlife species – especially bird life – from small red wing blackbirds that flit from branch to branch in an endless parade of feeding activity to the large and dramatic White Pelicans.

The big birds arrive at Klamath Lake on 9-foot wingspans from as far away as Baja and will summer in the Klamath Basin’s nesting and brooding wetlands. Unlike the more common California Brown Pelicans that spend summer months in the Pacific Northwest, White Pelicans actually “tip” to feed and do not dive to capture their prey.They also work as a unit, a group that will circle the fish and then tip over to feed.

Over 4,000 square miles of south-central Oregon and northern California’s water natural drainage is stored across the Klamath Wildlife Refuge. It is a place where ducks, geese and shorebirds rest and probe muck of the marshes. The abundance of varied bird life includes Oregon’s largest concentration of nesting bald eagles. Diverse habitats, varied wildlife within a refuge system where 80 percent of all Pacific waterfowl are funneled.

Editor’s Note: Grant’s Getaways is a production of Travel Oregon brought to you in association with Oregon State Parks, Oregon Dept. of Fish & Wildlife and Oregon State Marine Board. Episodes air Fridays and Saturdays on KGW Newschannel 8 and Saturdays on Northwest Cable News Network.

about author Grant McOmie

Grant McOmie is a Pacific Northwest broadcast journalist, teacher and author who writes and produces stories and special programs about the people, places, outdoor activities and environmental issues of the Pacific Northwest. A fifth generation Oregon native, Grant’s roots run deepest in the central Oregon region near Prineville and Redmond where his family continues to live.


In this Grant’s Getaway

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