The Hidden Gems of Oreg-alifornia!

Nestled along the Oregon and California border, just north of Lava Beds National Monument and due south of majestic Crater Lake National Park, are five of the friendliest little farm towns you absolutely must come see.

Merrill, Malin, Dorris, Tulelake, and Bonanza are each distinct communities of a few hundred to just shy of a thousand residents, with their own personalities and charms. They are linked by a collective pride, community spirit, and let’s-all-pull-together-and-do-this-ourselves independence that you can taste in the scratch cooking and feel along parade routes, from rodeo bleachers, at holiday tree lightings, during the two-day Klamath Basin Potato Festival, and high atop the tallest American flagpole west of the Rockies.

Most likely you’ll come here for Crater Lake, or the Lava Beds, or to travel the Volcanic Legacy Scenic Byway, or to bird the largest Pacific migration stopover at the Klamath Basin Wildlife Refuges, or to see where the Modoc War was fought or where Japanese Americans were imprisoned during WWII, or to hunt, or to fish, or to camp, or just to get away from it all to remember what life is really all about. But don’t forget to look up and around at the working farms and ranches and dairies and yes, wineries, that cover the lush rolling hills that benefit from mild summers and rich volcanic soil that connect these five friendly farm towns that can’t wait for you to visit.

Ready to meet the Five Friendly Towns?


Tucked in the heart of potato country, and boasting the annual 2-day Klamath Basin Potato Festival* as proof, is the quaint quilter’s paradise of Merrill, Oregon. The wide, grand Front Street is home to restaurants, cozy places to stay, wonderfully unique shopping, and an elegantly curated historical museum that spans the settlement of the city up through today with an entire room devoted to the Modoc Indian War. Oh, and not one, not two, but three quilting businesses and counting. With both the Lower Klamath National Wildlife Refuge and Lava Beds National Monument a short drive or bike to the south, Merrill makes a perfect home base for exploring the year-round wildlife and storied history of Klamath Country.

*The Potato Festival is one of only 11 festivals in Oregon designated at official Oregon Heritage Tradition, having run for over half a century and demonstrating an important aspect of Oregon’s heritage.


Tulelake is named for the vast lake that long dominated the area until it was drained to create farmland for the expansion West under the Reclamation Act of 1902. Parcels of land were granted to homesteaders by lottery–most of them WWI & WWII veterans– throughout the first half of the 20th century, with winner’s names often drawn straight out of a pickle jar. Still a thriving agricultural community with a strong ranching and hispanic culture, must visits include the museum at the fairgrounds in town which house buildings from the nearby Internment Camp that imprisoned thousands of Japanese Americans during WWII, and of course the Lava Beds National Monument just south of town which offer an intimate glimpse into the rich geological history of the area and a chance to explore the historical sites and many caves that played a central role in the Modoc War of 1872-73. You can now relive the story of the war by taking the Modoc War Audio Tour.


Built in 1908 when the railroad came through, Dorris is proud home to the tallest American flagpole west of the Rockies. The historic and charming town is an excellent base camp for enjoying the natural beauty along the California and Oregon border with the birder’s paradise of Meiss Lake Wildlife Refuge just a few miles to the south. Downtown features a sculpture park, town mural, and restaurants near city hall, while the recently completed log lodge is the go-to place for rubbing shoulders with locals at community events and youth rodeos. Anyone looking for an unusual place to sleep must stop and stay the night or better yet a few at Burcher’s Hospitality Bed & Breakfast, which was once a turn-of-the-century country hospital. Or if a more rustic experience is what you’re after, reserve the Lookout Tower at Little Mt. Hoffman with views of Mt. Shasta so close you can almost touch it.


In 1909, Czech immigrants living in the American Midwest sent a scouting party to find the perfect place to settle and recreate the agrarian life they left behind in Eastern Europe. They found it in the idyllic farmlands of what soon became the charming town of Malin. Set amidst the lush, rolling hills less than a mile above the California Oregon border, Malin greets visitors with a vast city park of towering Ash trees that features an Olympic sized swimming pool. The picturesque downtown boasts a refurbished 1930 movie theater, and several yes-of-course- we-cook-from scratch eateries. To learn about the town’s history politely ask the folks at the hardware store to let you into the Historical Society Museum, where a WWII flying ace’s journal is just one of many treasures.


Nestled between three distinct valleys and resting on the banks of the Lost River sits the western town of Bonanza, an agricultural community home to working farms, dairies, ranches and even a ranch-turned-winery. 12 Ranch Wine and Windy Ridge Organic Dairy are both more than worth calling ahead to schedule a tasting and a tour, while Bonanza proper features a general store, a BBQ food cart, a saloon, and a turn of the century jail. Once a Modoc Indian gathering place, Big Springs Park is a peaceful place for a picnic and some bird watching. For an overnight stay, the Gerber Recreation Area just 11 miles outside of town offers fishing, boating, hiking, biking, and hunting in additional to year-round camping.


Now the next time you’re looking for a place just really to get away from it all take a trip to one of the Five Friendly Towns of Klamath Country. Or, better yet, visit them all!