65 miles E of Ashland, 60 miles S of Crater Lake
Unless you are an avid bird-watcher or are looking for a cheap place to stay close to Crater Lake National Park, you won't find too much to attract you to the Klamath Falls area. However, this region, a wide, windswept expanse of lakes, high desert, and mountain forests just north of the California line, has a history of human presence that stretches back more than 14,000 years. The large lakes in this dry region have long attracted a wide variety of wildlife (especially waterfowl), which once provided a food source for the area's Native American population. The prehistoric residents of the region lived on the shores of the Klamath Basin's lakes and harvested fish, birds, and various marsh plants. Today two local museums exhibit extensive collections of Native American artifacts that have been found in this area.
Upper Klamath Lake and adjacent Agency Lake have shrunk considerably over the years as shallow, marshy areas have been drained to create pastures and farmland. Today, however, as the lake's native fish populations have become threatened and migratory bird populations in the region have plummeted, there is a growing movement to restore some of the region's drained marshes to more natural conditions. Although large portions of the area are now designated as national wildlife areas that offer some of the best bird-watching in the Northwest, farming and ranching are still considered the primary use of these wildlife lands. Conflicts between local farmers and environmentalists over how best to manage this region's limited water supply often occur during the summer dry season.
The region's shallow lakes warm quickly in the hot summers here, and partly because of the excess nutrients in the waters from agricultural runoff, they support large blooms of blue-green algae. Although the algae blooms deprive the lake's fish of oxygen, they provide the area with its most unusual agricultural activity. The harvesting and marketing of Upper Klamath Lake's blue-green algae as a dietary supplement has become big business throughout the country as people have claimed all manner of health benefits from this chlorophyll-rich dried algae.