Where to Go Birding This Spring Around Klamath County
Truly, there’s no bad time to go birding around Klamath County. Resident and migrating birds rest, nest, feed, and forage around the county’s wide range of ecosystems all year long; in all, roughly 1 million birds either live or pass through Klamath County on annual migrations, making the region a bucket-list destination for birders from around the world.
Yet there’s something about spring that makes it a magical time to go birding. As temperatures warm and snow begins to melt in March, April, and May, migratory shorebirds and waterfowl flock to the marshlands and wetlands of Klamath County—where they build nests, mate, and prepare for the next leg of their journey between Alaska and South America. Majestic tundra swans, American white pelicans, graceful sandhill cranes, and mating grebes are just some of the hundreds of species you’ll see every spring around the Klamath region.
We’ve put together a guide to spring birding in the area—what to watch for, where you’ll find various species, what makes the region’s ecosystems and landscapes so unique, and how to have fun this season.
Upper Klamath Canoe Trail
At the far northwestern corner of Upper Klamath Lake sits the 9.5-mile Upper Klamath Canoe Trail, which takes paddlers through a 15,000-acre ecosystem that comprises marshlands, wetlands, open water, and riparian forests of pine and fir—all excellent habitats for spying a variety of birds. And while you’ll see hundreds of species along the quiet trail all year long, spring is an especially rich time to see migrating waterfowl—such as mallards, pintails, swans, and several species of geese. Songbirds, meanwhile, hang out in the vegetation along the trail.
Beyond birds, keep an eye out for raccoons, muskrats, and river otters that live in the marshland—and while beavers are only occasionally spotted, their wooden “lodges” are somewhat frequent sights.
Excited to get on the water? Learn more about outdoor adventures on (and around) Upper Klamath Lake, the largest freshwater lake in Oregon.
Klamath Marsh National Wildlife Refuge
The 43,700-acre Klamath Marsh National Wildlife Refuge sits at the northern edge of the Klamath Basin, occupying an amalgam of unique landscapes and ecosystems that set it apart from other birding stops around the region.
In particular, the refuge’s wet meadows, grasslands, and open-water wetlands offer the ideal feeding habitats for sandhill cranes, ruddy ducks, buffleheads, and nearly two-dozen species of shorebird and waterfowl. And given the refuge’s remote location, you’ll enjoy a bit more solitude along Silver Lake Road and on the edges of Wocus Bay. Other species that call the refuge home include mule deer, river otters, western pond turtles, and Rocky Mountain elk.
Ready to explore? We break down four reasons why you should visit Klamath Marsh National Wildlife Refuge.
Moore Park and Putnam’s Point
Who says you need to travel to the far-flung reaches of Klamath County to enjoy the mysterious spectacle of migrating birds? Moore Park and Putnam’s Point offer excellent springtime birding opportunities at the southern shore of Upper Klamath Lake, near where it drains into the Klamath River. And the close proximity of the parks makes it easy to enjoy both without traveling far—just five minutes or so from downtown Klamath Falls.
The larger of the two destinations is Moore Park, which boasts a developed network of hiking and biking trails, a picnic area, and plenty of parking. Here, birders can walk through semi-shaded forests of pine, juniper, and sagebrush—where sweeping views of Upper Klamath Lake can reveal herons, yellow-rumped warblers, and other shorebirds.
Nearby Putnam’s Point is far smaller—just a small parking area and peninsula along the lakeshore—but is no less exciting. The small viewing area is one of the region’s best places to observe the long-necked Western and Clark’s Grebes, which performs a dance that doubles as the birds’ mating ritual between late April and mid-May. Other species you might see from Putnam Point include ring-necked ducks, gulls, and (on occasion) the common loon. Learn more about why Putnam’s Point is a popular stop along the Klamath Basin Birding Trail.
Miller Island Unit of the Klamath Wildlife Area
Just 15 minutes south of Klamath Falls, the Miller Island Unit of the Klamath Wildlife Area is home to old roadbeds and hiking trails that head through wetlands, marshland, and along the banks of the Klamath River—all offering excellent birding opportunities for most of the year.
But in spring, generally between late February and early April, the quiet island is a great place to spy nesting sandhill cranes, foraging bald eagles, and some of the 70,000 geese that migrate through Klamath County annually. Other species on the island include western pond turtles, long-tailed weasels, muskrats, and northern river otters.
Wood River Wetland
At the northern edge of Agency Lake—actually the northern arm of Upper Klamath Lake—sits the Wood River Wetland, where the namesake river empties into the largest freshwater lake in Oregon. As the name implies, the Wood River Wetland is an excellent spot to observe migrating shorebirds each spring.
A canoe launch and mile-long (round-trip), wheelchair-accessible trail offer plentiful opportunities for spotting mallards, yellow warblers, wood ducks, and other species amid forests of cottonwood and willow; interpretive panels provide a bit more context on common birds and their annual migration, as well. The wetland is also home to several (non-avian) species of wildlife, including beavers, river otters, and muskrats.
If you’re ready to start bird-watching this spring, grab your binoculars, and find out where to go birding around Klamath County.