Tule & Lower Klamath Lakes

These areas are best known for spectacular birding and wildlife viewing during Pacific flyway's largest fall and spring waterfowl migration stopovers in the Klamath Basin Wildlife Refuges in northern California and southern Oregon. One to two million geese, ducks, swans, owls, bald eagles, and a variety of mammals may be present during peak bird migrations.

getting there

The refuge headquarters and the two refuge units, Lower Klamath and Tule Lake, are located near Tulelake, California, a short drive south of Klamath Falls, Oregon. 

Klamath Falls:  Take Exit 188 (Eugene) off of I-5 and drive OR-58 via Willamette Pass and then US-97 south to Klamath Falls.

Tule Lake National Wildlife Refuge Headquarters:  Located 20 miles south of Klamath Falls. Drive US-97 south to Stateline Rd (CA-161) east towards Tulelake, CA to Hill Road. Turn south on Hill Road. The visitor center is located 4 miles south at 4009  Hill Rd.

Lower Klamath Lake: Located 25 miles south of Klamath Falls straddling Oregon-California border.  At the junction of US-97 and CA-161, travel east along CA-161.  The automobile tour route begins 9.8 miles east of US-97.

Klamath Marsh: Located approximately 50 miles north of Klamath Falls. ...via highway 97, east on Silver Lake Road for 7 miles to refuge start, and then follow Silver Lake Road 4 miles across the marsh, exploring side roads and FSR 690 to Wocus Bay.  

Upper Klamath Lake:  Birding sites and canoe trail  are located approximately 25 miles northwest of Klamath Falls. ...via highway 140 to Rocky Point Road, and Westside Road north to Malone Springs (4 miles) or Crystalwood Lodge (8 miles). 

Clear Lake:  Located approximately 40 miles southeast of Klamath Falls. ...via highway 39/139, then FSR 136 10 miles east to refuge.  

about the wildlife refuge complex

The Klamath Basin National Wildlife Refuges complex includes six refuges.  The Tule Lake,  Lower Klamath, and Clear Lake refuges are located in northern California. Upper Klamath, Klamath Marsh, and Bear Valley are located in Oregon near Klamath Falls.

Tule Lake: The habitat is mostly open water and croplands with adjacent uplands with cliffs.

Lower Klamath:  The habitat is a mix of shallow freshwater marshes, open water, grass and sage uplands, and croplands.

Klamath March:  The habitat is a large natural marsh with surrounding grasslands and bordered on east by ponderosa pine forest. The marsh provides feeding and nesting for waterfowl, meadows support shorebirds, and pine forests support diverse wildlife.

Upper Klamath:  The habitat is a marsh and wetland complex bordered by pine and fir forests with pockets of deciduous trees and expansive open waters of Upper Klamath and Agency Lakes to the east. The west shoreline is a travel corridor for migrant birds during spring and fall migrations, and large trees provide nesting sites for bald eagles and ospreys.

Clear Lake:  The habitat is a large open lake surrounded by sage intermixed with grasslands and juniper. The refuge is not open to public entry but wildlife is visible from road along south edge of refuge.

The Klamath Basin Birding Trail website recommends these visiting times for the greater Klamath Basin: 

  • For spring and fall waterfowl the migration peaks are mid-March through mid-April with up to 10,000 swans in early March, and mid-October through late November.
  • For bald eagles and other raptors the peak is mid-February. They are abundant in late November through mid-March. It's the largest gathering  of bald eagles, 500 to 1,000, in lower-48 states and equally impressive numbers of other raptors. 
  • For breeding bird activity, late April through early July is best for for western grebe, young birds, and shorebirds.

on the trail

Tule Lake national wildlife refuge

  • The auto tour is a 12-mile, self-guided route on a mix of paved and gravel roads that provides year-round access to wildlife viewing with interpretive kiosks along the route. It begins 4 miles south of the visitor center and travels along seep lakes, fields, and over dikes.
  • The Discovery Marsh Trail, across from visitor center, is a short self-guided interpretive trail through a marsh with opportunities for bird and mammal viewing.
  • The Sheep Ridge Wildlife Trail, behind the visitor center, is a  1/3-mile long round-trip trail with 200 feet of elevation gain to the Tule Lake Lookout with sweeping views of the refuge. Along the trail are wildlife viewing opportunities including raptors, seasonal birds, lizards, and mammals.

Lower Klamath Lake national wildlife refuge

  • The auto tour, "The Road Less Traveled," is a 10-mile, self-guided route on gravel roads with many wildlife viewing opportunities. The recommended route starts at the junction of US-97 and CA-161 and then travels east along CA-161.

lava beds national monument

  • Visit this national ,monument for wildlife viewing, day hikes, and short non-technical caving.

guidebooks & Other Resources

land managers & permits

A parking permit, America the Beautiful, Golden Age, Golden Eagle or comparable national access pass is required for National Wildlife Refugess and National Monuments. State wildlife parking passes may be required at nearby Oregon and California state wildlife areas.


  • Bring photography and naturalist gear to enhance your enjoyment of the Klamath Basin—field guides, binoculars, scope, camera, wide-angle to medium-long telephoto lenses, tripod, window/beanbag  camera mount, etc.
  • Photography blinds are available at Tule Lake and Lower Klamath refuges. They must be reserved in advance.
  • The Winter Wings Festival in mid-February in Klamath Falls is an annual festival with bald eagle and raptor-related presentations, field trips, and more. Be prepared for cool to mild temps, rain, and winter conditions en route and during day trip.
  • Difficulty: Easy/Moderate
  • Length: 15.0 mi
  • Elevation Gain: 500 ft
  • Land Manager: Land Manager Varies
  • Parking Permit Required: see "Getting There" section (above)
  • Recommended Party Size: 8
  • Maximum Party Size: 12
  • Maximum Route/Place Capacity: 12
  • USGS Tule Lake National Wildlife Refuges
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