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As It Was: Railroad Arrival Brings Boom to Klamath Falls, Ore.

The advance of the California Northeastern railroad from Weed, Calif., toward the Upper Klamath Basin in 1908 brought an end to hauling freight by pack trains or in wagons during the long winter months.

Communities already situated along the Southern Pacific mainline in Western Oregon enjoyed a year-round supply of necessities.  But more isolated towns such as Klamath Falls had to make do with whatever could be hauled in by mules or horses over roads that were at times nearly impassable.

From the 1870s into the early 1900s, the rugged Klamath River Canyon was the only reliable freight route into the Upper Basin in winter months.  In the best of conditions, it took three days to haul freight from Yreka to Fort Klamath.

When the California Northeastern reached the Klamath River about 10 miles south of Klamath Falls in 1908, it nearly ended wagon freighting and passenger travel by stagecoach.  That winter the trains transferred freight to steamboats for the final leg of the journey into Klamath Falls.

The following May, the railroad tracks reached Klamath Falls, where commerce and industry were ready to boom.

Sources: "Rails to Navigable Water in Klamath." Oregon Journal, 30 Mar. 1908 [Portland, Ore.] , p. 14. Newspapers.com. Accessed 31 May 2018; Klamath Echoes. Vol. 11, Klamath Falls, Klamath County Historical Society, 1973, pp. 14, 49, 16 vols.

Todd Kepple has been a Klamath Basin resident since 1990. He was a reporter and editor the for the Herald and News from 1990 to 2005, and has been manager of the Klamath County Museum since 2005. He enjoys volunteering at Crater Lake National Park, the OC&E Woods Line State Trail, and the Pacific Crest Trail. He is also a founding member of the Klamath Tree League.