Adventure Guide

Five Things to Love About Upper Klamath Lake

Savor the massive freshwater lake’s many wonders.

It’s hard to put into words just how massive Upper Klamath Lake is—in more ways than one. In one sense, it’s a physically imposing body of water. Sitting immediately northwest of Klamath Falls, Upper Klamath Lake measures nearly 30 miles long and stretches eight miles across at its widest point, making it Oregon’s largest body of water and the largest freshwater body west of the Rocky Mountains. Put another way: At 90,000 acres, Upper Klamath Lake alone is larger than the cities of Detroit, Philadelphia, and Dublin. Then again, Upper Klamath Lake also looms large in the imagination of curious visitors and excited locals. After all, it’s where more than 1 million birds pass through on their annual migrations, where paddlers find solitude amid peaceful wetlands, and where anglers fish for massive redband trout—which can grow up to 25 inches long. If you’re interested in seeing the lake’s allure up-close on your next visit, here’s a guide to five things to love about Upper Klamath Lake.

ACTIVITIES

Bird Watching
Family Fun
Fishing
Kayaking
Lakes

SEASONS

Spring
Summer
Fall

Photo Credit Kelsey White

Wildlife-Watching Opportunities Abound All Year Long

More than 300 species of bird frequent Upper Klamath Lake

It’s impossible to discuss wildlife-watching at Upper Klamath Lake without talking about the many birds that pass through every year. (Is it any wonder that birdwatching is one of the must-do experiences in Klamath Falls?) Between fall and spring, more than 1 million birds—representing roughly 350 species—migrate through the Klamath Basin; in doing so, many rest, nest, feed, and forage across the Upper Klamath Lake watershed. That includes bald eagles, American white pelicans, sandhill cranes, and more. Learn about the top species of bird at Upper Klamath Lake, and see where to spy them on your next trip.

 Of course, not all the animals around Upper Klamath Lake take flight. Whether you’re paddling the Upper Klamath Canoe Trail, picnicking at a lakeside park, or driving around the lakeshore, keep an eye out for river otters and mink frolicking in the reservoir’s shallow pools, mule deer bounding through forests, and even the occasional coyote looking for its next meal in meadows and grasslands.

Upper Klamath Canoe Trail Provides Premier Paddling

The 9.5-mile water trail offers an up-close look at wildlife, natural scenery, and more

With such a broad surface area, there’s a lot of ground for paddlers to cover across Upper Klamath Lake. Fortunately, the9.5-mile Upper Klamath Canoe Trail makes it easy with a marked path that heads through wetlands and riparian forests at the northwest corner of the lake.

 Take your own paddle craft on the water—or sign up for a tour with a local outfitter—for a pleasant day patrolling the protected waters. Along the way, you might see yellow wocus plants blooming in summer, beaver lodges fashioned from sticks and logs, a variety of birds, and nearby mountain peaks. Best of all: A slow flow makes the Upper Klamath Canoe Trail an approachable activity for beginners and a relaxing adventure for more experienced paddlers.

Sweeping Views Await at Local Parks

Savor the views from these picturesque parks

Numerous parks line the shores of Upper Klamath Lake and offer plentiful opportunities to unfurl a picnic blanket, spy the area’s wildlife, take a short stroll, and relax under canopies of shady fir and pine trees. 

Near the southern shore of Upper Klamath Lake—and next to the Link River—sits one of the most popular green spaces in Klamath Falls: Moore Park. The bustling park hosts an 18-holedisc golf course, several walking trails, picnic areas with barbecue pits, family-friendly playground equipment, and on-site restrooms. In winter, watch for herons and wrens in the leafy tree cover. 

Further west, the Spence Mountain network of trails offer some of the top outdoor adventures in Klamath—with paths geared toward mountain bikers, trail runners, and hikers looking to soak up some of the region’s scenery. A pleasant trail heads to the shore of Shoalwater Bay and the tip of Eagle Ridge, where you'll enjoy sweeping views of the wider Upper Klamath Lake. Keep an eye out for woodpeckers, owls, bluebirds, hawks, and deer in the wetlands that surround some of Spence Mountain's easier trails. Eagle Ridge Park is on site and includes picnic tables, a campground with six primitive sites, a boat launch, and vault toilets.

The Fish Are Always Biting in the Lake’s Cool Waters

Upper Klamath Lake doubles as a prolific year-round fishery

Upper Klamath Lake is one of the Klamath Basin's top fisheries, with plenty to entice anglers in all seasons. (Learn more about other popular lakes in Klamath.) 

Several boat launches—like those at Rocky Point Day Use and Harriman Springs Resort & Marina—make it easy to enjoy a peaceful day on the water. In fall and spring, you'll see plenty of anglers sport fishing for redband trout, which routinely reach 20 to 25 inches. Rainbow trout are also sought-after in fall and spring, as well. Learn more about other top outdoor adventures in Klamath.

Photo Credit Running Y Resort

Close-In Overnight Stays Offer Cozy Retreats

You’ll find a variety of overnight stays on—and near—the lakeshore

No matter your style, you’ll find a comfortable overnight stay along (and near) Upper Klamath Lake. 

Rocky Point Resort offers an outdoorsy retreat on the lake’s northwestern shore—not far from popular put-in spots along the Upper Klamath Canoe Trail. The popular resort hosts lakeside homes, old-school cabins, vintage hotel rooms, fully furnished RV sites, and basic campsites. Across the resort, you'll enjoy a full-service restaurant that offers panoramic lake views and a variety of boat rentals that range from kayaks, canoes, and row boats to paddle boats, pontoons, and motorboats.

 Nearby, Harriman Springs Resort and Marina hosts a trio of upscale cabins alongside eight RV sites with full hookups, laundry facilities, and clean restrooms with showers near the lake's western shore. Get on the water with the resort's rentals—which include canoes, row boats, fishing boats, and pontoons.

 Toward the southern edge of the lake sits the3,600-acre RunningY Resort—which dazzles guests with farm-to-table fare at the on-site Ruddy Duck restaurant, an 18-hole golf course designed by golf legend Arnold Palmer, an opulent spa with treatments catered to a variety of needs, luxe vacation home rentals, and chic lodge rooms.

Where are the Falls in Klamath Falls?

As a name, Klamath Falls has a rich history deeply connected to the falls on the Link River. These falls, originally a series of rapids and cascades, played a pivotal role in the city's early development. Despite changes over time due to human intervention, the spirit of the falls continues to be a significant part of Klamath Falls' identity.

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