Volcanic Legacy Scenic Byway, Part Four
By Kerri Regan
The Adventure Continues
Story and Photo by Kerri Regan
This month: Klamath; Coming up: Crater Lake National Park
The Klamath section of the Volcanic Legacy Scenic Byway begins on Highway 97 at the Oregon border, and these 80 miles are a bonanza for nature lovers. Bring your binoculars and your walking shoes, since this segment offers numerous opportunities for day hikes.
The Miller Island Wildlife Viewing Area is a 2.5-mile pedestrian viewing loop where you can see migrating geese of varying species in the late winter and early spring. You can often spot nesting sandhill cranes engaged in their mating rituals in the spring, and Canada geese and ducks can be spotted in spring and summer.
Venture north to the Klamath Welcome Center in the town of Midland, once a railroad shipping point for livestock and farm products. You can find visitor information here between May and October.
A bit farther north on Highway 97 is Klamath Falls, the largest town on this section of the byway. Check out the art deco Ross Raglin Theater or the Favell Museum, which features western art and Native American artifacts. The Klamath County Museum spotlights the region’s natural and cultural heritage. The Lake Ewauna Nature Trail is walking distance from downtown, and you can learn about the area’s birds and wetlands. And if you’ve got some extra time to invest, the Woods Line State Trail is a 100-mile trek from Klamath Falls to Bly, and it’s popular with hikers, bicyclists and equestrians.
If you have a duffer in your travel party, check out the Running Y Ranch just west of Klamath Falls – it’s Oregon’s number-one rated golf course.
Head northwest on Highway 140 and you’ll find yourself tucked between Upper Klamath Lake and the Mountain Lakes Wilderness. The 7.2-mile Mountain Lakes Loop Trail offers a spectacular view of eight peaks, and if you’re a volcano hunter, you won’t be disappointed as you encounter heavily glaciated shield volcanoes, lava cones and multiple lakes.
Also on the west side of the byway is Lake of the Woods Resort, which features a restaurant, marina, cabins and campgrounds. A seven-mile trail that links to the Pacific Crest Trail also leads to the top of 9,496-foot-high Mt. McLoughlin, a lava cone volcano.
Ready to unleash some adrenaline? Crater Lake Zipline gives guests a chance to soar between tree platforms in the Fremont-Winema National Forest, and it claims to be the only tree-based canopy tour on U.S. Forest Service land. The three-hour tour offers views of Upper Klamath Lake, Mt. McLoughlin and the rim of Crater Lake.
On the east side of Highway 140 is the star of the show on this section of the byway – Upper Klamath Lake, Oregon’s largest body of fresh water. Don’t be alarmed by the opaque green hue that the lake takes on in the summer – it’s a nutritious blue green algae that’s packed with nutrients, so it is harvested and processed as a food supplement. This 30-mile-long, eight-mile-wide lake is a stop for waterfowl along the Pacific Flyway.
Klamath Lake also attracts windsurfers, sailors, water skiers and kayakers, and if you’re looking for a unique experience, hop aboard the Klamath Belle Paddlewheel. It’s one of a number of ways to enjoy a guided tour of the lake. If you need a spot to land, Eagle Ridge Country Park offers a boat launch, primitive tent camping sites, and a view of hawks, pelicans and other waterfowl. At the north end of the lake, Upper Klamath National Wildlife Refuge attracts more than 250 species of birds.
Once you’ve had your fill of the water, take a hike on Varney Creek Trail, which winds through old growth forest for 4.4 miles. It’s entirely possible that you’ll hear nothing but your own footsteps and the rush of the nearby creek. Continue northwest to Malone Springs, about 40 miles northwest of Klamath Falls, which is a peaceful day use area on Crystal Creek. (Don’t forget that you’re in a wildlife area – we came upon a bear that was almost as surprised to see us as we were to see it.)
Up where Highway 140 meets Highway 62, you’ll find a history lesson at Fort Klamath, built in 1863. The museum is open in the summer. Then make a stop at Jackson F. Kimball State Park, the headwaters of the Wood River, which includes primitive camping, wildlife watching and fishing.
Enjoy the adventure!