In the vast Klamath Lake basin, summer mornings arrive on brilliant sunshine and a soft, cool high desert breeze.
A place where wide timeless vistas allow your mind and imagination to wander among mountains, grassy meadows, broad lakes and ponds into rich mysterious marshlands.
You don’t need to be an experienced birder to enjoy Klamath Marsh music when you join Darren Roe of ROE Outfitters.
We recently joined Darren, his wife Jen and their friend Melody Warner on the Upper Klamath Wildlife Refuge.
As we loaded our gear into dry bags and prepped for a morning of paddling at the Malone Springs boat launch, Darren noted: “It is amazing to folks that come here for the first time and they always want to know – why aren’t there more people here?”
It was an intriguing question as we left the pavement far behind to discover an enchanting world that was all ours to explore.
The Upper Klamath Wildlife Refuge Canoe Trail extends more than nine miles and that takes you into the heart of a freshwater marsh on the north end of Klamath Lake
“It is splendid and scenic with just a ton of wildlife species,” said Roe. “This waterway is mostly fed by freshwater springs in the marsh that help to create these waterways – they actually well up out of the ground.”
“And it’s a friendly place to paddle too,” added Jenifer Roe. “There aren’t a ton of tough turns, you don’t need to be an expert paddler. It’s really friendly to someone that’s just beginning to paddle a canoe.”
The braid work of channels that make up the Canoe Trail are defined by bulrushes and cattails and plants called “Wocus” that are always at your side.
The marsh is home to hundreds of wildlife species – especially bird life – from small red wing blackbirds that flit from branch to branch in an endless parade of feeding activity to the large and dramatic White Pelicans.
The big birds arrive at Klamath Lake on 9-foot wingspans from as far away as Baja and will summer in the Klamath Basin’s nesting and brooding wetlands.
“Typically we see them flying across the lake and occasionally you’ll see a group actually fishing for the perch.”
Unlike the more common California Brown Pelicans that spend summer months in the Pacific Northwest, White Pelicans actually “tip” to feed and do not dive to capture their prey.
They also work as a unit, a group that will circle the fish and then tip over to feed.
Over 4,000 square miles of south-central Oregon and northern California’s water natural drainage is stored across the Klamath Wildlife Refuge.
While only a fraction of historic wetlands remain today, Darren Roe noted that the Canoe Trail allows the visitor a close-up view into a wonderfully rich and diverse world that is also soothing and peaceful.
“There are so many different mini-eco-systems in the basin; you will go from crystal clear spring creeks out in the lake where the water bubbles up out of the ground. It is very unique – hard to find all of those things wrapped up in one place.”
It is a place where ducks, geese and shorebirds rest and probe muck of the marshes. The abundance of varied bird life includes Oregon’s largest concentration of nesting bald eagles.
Diverse habitats, varied wildlife within a refuge system where 80 percent of all Pacific waterfowl are funneled.
Jenifer Roe added that the Upper Klamath Lake’s protected Canoe Trail allows a closer visit that’s filled with surprises!
“Make sure you take enough time off so that you can really enjoy it. Once you get here and experience the canoeing, kayaking and fishing, the disappointment is going to be that they couldn’t get it all done in one trip.”