U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service logo A Unit of the National Wildlife Refuge System
Banner graphic displaying the Fish & Wildlife Service logo and National Wildlife Refuge System tagline

Lower Klamath
National Wildlife Refuge

Hill Rd, about 5 miles west of
Tulelake, CA   
E-mail: r8kbwebmaster@fws.gov
Phone Number: 530-667-2231
Visit the Refuge's Web Site:
Gray horizontal line
Lower Klamath National Wildlife Refuge

The Lower Klamath National Wildlife Refuge, located in rural northeastern California and southern Oregon, was established by President Theodore Roosevelt in 1908 as the nation's first waterfowl refuge. The refuge, with a backdrop of 14,000-foot Mount Shasta to the southwest, is listed in the National Register of Historic Places as both a National Historic Landmark and a National Natural Landmark.

The 50,092-acre refuge is a varied mix of intensively managed shallow marshes, open water, grassy uplands, and croplands that provide feeding, resting, nesting, and brood-rearing habitat for waterfowl and other water birds. This refuge is one of the most biologically productive refuges within the Pacific Flyway.

Approximately 80 percent of the flyway's migrating waterfowl pass through the Klamath Basin on both spring and fall migrations, with 50 percent using the refuge. Peak waterfowl populations can reach 1.8 million birds, which represent 15 to 45 percent of the total birds wintering in California. The refuge produces between 30,000 and 60,000 waterfowl annually.

The refuge is also a fall staging area for 20 to 30 percent of the central valley population of sandhill crane. From 20,000 to 100,000 shorebirds use refuge wetlands during the spring migration. Wintering wildlife populations include 500 bald eagle and 30,000 tundra swan. Spring and summer nesting wildlife include many colonial water birds, such as white-faced ibis, heron, egret, cormorant, grebe, white pelican, and gulls.

In all, the refuge provides habitat for 25 species of special concern listed as threatened or sensitive by California and Oregon. All refuge waters are delivered through a system of diversion or irrigation canals associated with the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation's Klamath Project. Consequently this leaves the refuge vulnerable to periodic water shortages due to an over-allocated system.

Getting There . . .
Lower Klamath Refuge straddles the Oregon-California border along Stateline Highway 161, accessible from Highway 97.

The refuge headquarters and visitor center is located on Hill Road, approximately 5 miles west of Tulelake, California. Hours are Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.; weekends and holidays, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Get Google map and directions to this refuge/WMD from a specified address:

Your full starting address AND town and state OR zip code

Google Maps opens in a new window

NOTE: When using this feature, you will be leaving the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service domain. We do not control the content or policies of the site you are about to visit. You should always check site policies before providing personal information or reusing content.

These driving directions are provided as a general guide only. No representation is made or warranty given as to their content, road conditions or route usability or expeditiousness. User assumes all risk of use.

horizontal line

    Recreation and Education Opportunities
Environmental Education
Wildlife Observation
Learn More >>

Management Activities
Lower Klamath Refuge is intensively managed. All of its water is essentially delivered through a system of diversion or irrigation canals associated with the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation's Klamath Project. Seasonally flooded wetlands are managed for a diversity of moist soil and emergent wetland plants with an emphasis toward red goosefoot, smartweed and hardstem bulrush.

This habitat type is very important to fall and spring migrant waterfowl and shorebirds. Water management strategy to maintain this habitat type involves flooding from September through May of each year, and dewatering through draining or evaporation from June through August, annually. This drawdown period allows the annual wetland plants to sprout, grow to maturity and set seed prior to the next flooding stage.

This produces significant natural waterfowl food for the fall migration. Permanently flooded wetlands and open submergent wetlands are managed for a diverse emergent and submergent plant community with hardstem bulrush and sago pondweed the preferred plant species. The target emergent/open water interspersion ratio is between 30-70% of either type.

This habitat type is maintained by flooding year round and is important to diving ducks such as canvasback and redheads, tundra swans, molting waterfowl and colonial nesting species such as white pelicans, double-crested cormorants and white-faced ibis. The refuge's wetlands are intensively managed to provide for an interspersion of successional stages.

Besides water management, the refuge utilizes sharecrop farming on 3,000-5,000 acres, haying on 200 acres, livestock grazing on 7,300 acres and prescribed burning on 15,000 acres to maintain its wetlands in a variety of successional stages.

Learn More>>