Adventure Guide

What to Know About Visiting the Wood River Wetland

Enjoy easy bird-watching on the north shore of Agency Lake.

At the northern edge of Agency Lake, surrounded by towering forests and pastoral meadows, sits the Wood River Wetland. The 3,200-acre site was largely drained for ranching and cattle grazing in the 20th century—but has been restored to, once again, provide essential habitats for the region’s rich variety of wildlife.

Today, a flat path offers easy access to the wetlands and a variety of outdoor adventures. (Is it any wonder the wetland is a must-stop for first-time visitors to Klamath?) Treasures at Wood River Wetland include a colorful garden of native plants, Cascade peak views, and some of the Klamath Basin’s best wildlife-watching. Here’s a guide to making the most of your visit to the charming Wood River Wetland.

ACTIVITIES

Bird Watching
Family Fun
Kayaking
Fishing

SEASONS

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What is Wood River Wetland?

See what makes the wetland so special

Wood River Wetland is an expansive wetland on the north shore of Agency Lake (which itself is the northern arm of Upper Klamath Lake); as the name implies, the wetland sits alongside the crystal-clear Wood River.

It wasn’t always this way. For most of the 20th century, wetlands across the Klamath Basin (including the Wood River Wetland) were drained to make way for farming and grazing—and to accommodate the region's growing population. But since the 1990s, the wetland's historic flow patterns have been restored—where slow, meandering channels once again provide excellent habitat for fish and other animals.

Today, the wetland is home to riparian forests, marshlands, and a free-flowing stream that looks much as it did more than a century ago—with ecosystems that offer nesting, brooding, and foraging opportunities for waterfowl, migrating birds, fish, and other animals.

Photo Credit: Travel Southern Oregon

What to Do at Wood River Wetland

Make the most of your visit

You’ll find plenty of opportunities for outdoor recreation at the wetland, which is open to hikers, horseback riders, mountain bikers, and boaters. Highlights are numerous but include:

Hiking: A flat, 1.4-mile (round-trip) trail departs from the Wood River Wetland parking lot, passes through a semi-shaded forest, and heads to where the Wood River flows into Agency Lake. Views include the surrounding ecosystems (such as ponds, forests, meadows, and the quiet lakeshore) and nearby Cascade peaks (including Mount Shasta, Pelican Butte, Mount McLoughlin, and the rim of Crater Lake). From there, hikers may follow gravel roads that head deeper into the wetlands; consult this Wood River Wetland map for an idea of where to go and what’s open to visitors. 

Garden views: Along the trail, you'll pass a small garden teeming with native plants—including the bright blue flower of the royal Penstemon, the five-star blooms of the showy milkweed, and wild strawberries. These blooms reach their peak in summer and provide food for Monarch butterflies, bumble bees, hummingbirds, and other animals. 

Wildlife-watching: All year long, the wetland is a popular stopping point for dozens of species of waterfowl, raptors, and migrating birds. Keep an eye out for colorful wood ducks, egrets, cranes, and more; in spring, especially, it’s not uncommon to hear dozens of birds chattering at once—creating a vibrant soundtrack unlike anywhere else in the Klamath Basin. Closer to the ground (and in the water), you might spy mink, river otters, trout, and the Oregon spotted frog.

Fishing: Anglers love getting on the water and casting a line for trout throughout the wetland—especially in summer.

Paddling: A small boat launch near the parking area provides an opportunity to get on the water for paddling, fishing, and wildlife-watching. Local outfitter Sky Lake Wilderness Adventures offers beginner-friendly, three-hour kayak tours if you’d like to see it all with a knowledgeable guide. 

Plan Your Visit to Wood River Wetland

Here’s how to make a fun experience

Wood River Wetland sits about 30 miles north of downtown Klamath Falls, making it an easy getaway. Here are a few tips for enjoying a memorable experience.

When to go: You’ll see wildlife across the wetland all year long, but winter, spring, and summer bring the best bird-watching opportunities. In summer, the garden of native plants reaches full bloom. Try to visit in the early morning or late afternoon to see wildlife at its most active. Also note that the wetland is open for day-use only—two hours before sunrise until 30 minutes after sunset.

How much time: Plan for two or three hours if hiking the out-and-back trail, doing some casual bird-watching, and enjoying a picnic.

Insect repellent: Mosquitos are common around the wetland between April and June. Don’t let their presence dissuade you from visiting this special corner of the Klamath Basin; rather, apply some insect repellent and wear long-sleeved shirts and long pants for a more pleasant experience.

Boundaries: The wetland borders private property, so take care to stay on designated trails at all times.

Pets: Your four-legged friend is welcome at the wetland but must remain leashed at all times.

Accessibility: Several features at Wood River Wetland are wheelchair-accessible. A paved, single-file path parallels the gravel road that departs from the parking area—and fully accessible picnic tables and vault toilets can be found along the trail.

Here’s What You’ll See Along the Trail

Migrating birds, waterfowl, and other wildlife call the wetland home

Each season brings different animals and other wildlife-watching opportunities to the Wood River Wetland. Here’s a brief overview of the many species you may spy while visiting all year long.

Winter: In the year’s coolest months, the Wood River Wetland is a reliable destination to spot bald eagles who hunt ducks and fish in the area’s shallow waters. You might also see migrating geese and the year’s first willow blooms in the surrounding forest.

Spring: The wetland erupts in a cacophony of tweets, chirps, warbles, and calls from the thousands of migrating birds and waterfowl that descend on the wetland—including several species of geese, ducks, and songbirds. Some of the many highlights include yellow-headed blackbirds, warblers, ruddy ducks, sandhill cranes, pelicans, and even the occasional peregrine falcon. Learn more about some of the top bird species in Klamath.

Summer: Keep an eye out for reclusive river otters slinking through the wetlands; summer is when parents teach their newborns to fish in the Wood River’s shallow waters. You might also hear beavers building dams and lodges, and the vibrant blooms of the wocus—a yellow-flowered water lily—add a pop of color to the surroundings.

Fall: Autumn brings a sense of calm to the wetland, as geese and ducks prepare to head south for the winter. Still, October means fall foliage—and forests around the Wood River Wetland erupt in vibrant hues of yellow, orange, and red to mark the season.

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