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Northeast California

by Philip Greenspun, 1998


Lower Klamath National Wildlife Refuge My favorite part of northeast California starts on the Oregon border in the Klamath National Wildlife Refuge. In addition to the politicians' friends cows getting fat on the federal grasslands, you find a large swamp filled with birds resting as they make their way up or down the Pacific Flyway.

One of the more interesting aspects of the Klamath Basin is the interpretation of the word "refuge". Suppose that you were a pintail duck and, encouraged by the "refuge" sign, chose to land in the basin. What do you think you'd be welcomed with? Would you be surprised to find the pellets from a 12-gauge shotgun shell heading in your direction? Don't be. That's what "wildlife refuge" means in the American West. A place where wildlife can be attacked with all the guns that we're entitled to own under the Second Amendment.

The best place to stay is 20 minutes north at the Shilo Inn in Klamath Falls (Oregon). Speaking of Klamath Falls, here are a few of my snapshots from there. One great thing about the town is that you can see California's Mt. Shasta. Though the mountain, at 14,162 feet, is a 332 feet lower than Mt. Whitney (the Lower 48's highest peak, smack in the middle of the Sierra), Mt. Shasta appears much higher due to its lone stance 10,000 feet above the surrounding countryside.

Crater Lake

As long as we're talking about Oregon, it is worth driving a few hours north to Crater Lake. I was there in early October 1997, just before the Inn closed for the season. For a fifteen minute period in the morning, it was possible to see the lake.

Two hours later, a couple drove in from California. A cloud was sitting on the lake, which they'd never seen and would not see that day. It was their third trip to Crater Lake.

I guess we'd better drive back to California...

Lava Beds National Monument

Lava Beds National Park. Tulelake, California Here in this high-desert wilderness, Chief Kentipoos ("Captain Jack") of the Modoc Indians made his last stand against the U.S. Army. Captain Jack was outnumbered by the federales 20:1 but managed to win most of the battles in the Modoc War between November 1872 and May 1873. Captain Jack was eventually tried and hung by the government, which cut off his head and shipped it to Washington, D.C.

Today the shooting is confined primarily to the Klamath Basin Wildlife Refuges, a few miles north, and folks just come to Lava Beds to see the, uh, lava beds (there are also some petroglyphs).

Modoc Plateau

You can drive 30-60 miles between gas stations in the towns around Lava Beds. This is the very northeastern corner of California and has much more in common with the Old West (ranching, mining, lumber) than with the urbanized coast. So loose are the ties between the rest of California and this area that there were movements for separate statehood in 1852, 1855, and 1941 and some folks today think they'd be better off as a part of Nevada (no income tax and more relaxed environmental laws).

If you drive southeast from Lava Beds, you come first to Canby, a town named after General E.R.S. Canby who tried to negotiate peace with the Modocs but was killed by them on April 11, 1873. My favorite town is Adin:

Driving west from Adin toward Lassen, you are constantly in the company of Mt. Shasta:

Lassen Volcanic National Park

Lassen Peak is the southern tip of the Cascade Range, which runs all the way north to British Columbia. Its last eruption was May 22, 1915.


Note: Text and pictures Copyright 1997-98 Philip Greenspun

Article created 1998

Readers' Comments

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Nilesh Kamdar , February 15, 1999; 08:46 P.M.

Lassen National Park is a wonderful place. We had been there in mid summer but still found many parts covered with snow. The hike to the volcanic/ hot springs (why no pics phil?) was really good and ..slippery. Just remember plain sneakers are a no-no when visiting, even in summer.


Turner Jones , April 23, 1999; 12:38 P.M.

There wouldn't be any ducks if there wasn't any duck hunters. The hunters pay for wetlands and refuges all across the continent through excise taxes paid on guns, ammo, equiment, etc. Plus, Ducks Unlimited, a voluntary organization of duck hunters, continuously looks for wetlands to purchase for refuges. If wasn't for these guys, all of these areas would be drained, farmed and/or turned into strip malls with gargantuan parking lots. If only a *tenth* of you bleeding hearts had done as much as the hunters for the wildlife in this country, this place would be a paradise.

Adam Bailey , May 04, 1999; 02:20 A.M.

Thanks a lot. I live in Northeastern California and am going to school in Cambridge, it's great to see pictures of home! I work the summers in Adin on the Forest Service's Fire Engine (e-44). It was real nice to see some pictures after spending the last 9 months in anti-Modoc! I'll keep browsing, keep taking pictures!

Christopher Thompson , May 24, 2001; 12:13 A.M.

As a former resident of the region Phil visted I'd like (Klamath Falls, Oregon) a couple of things to note: 1) its a WETLAND, not a swamp, 2) Wildlife Refuges have specific management mandates and are simple imitations of real nature; if you don't like the hunting uses, call your Congressperson and get involved in activism 3) about the only nice thing about the town of Klamath Falls is that you can see Mt. Shasta from there, 4) Too bad Phil didn't visit during the winter - it boasts one of if not the largest wintering populations of Bald Eagles in the coterminous US (something like over 700 pair of birds, which can be witnessed flying out from their roosting area every morning between the months of November and March) and access to wonderful recreation opportunities in the Cascade Range.

Greg Vinyard , September 25, 2002; 02:08 P.M.

One great thing about the Klamath National Wildlife Refuge at Lower Klamath lake is the availability of photography blinds. These are located along water ways and eagle resting sites through-out the refuge. Contact the refuge office at Tulelake, CA. or look up the web site about the refuge.

local photographer and bird watcher.

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