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As It Was: Steamer Links Klamath Falls to Fort Klamath via Wood River

When the twin-propeller steamer Mazama made the first trip up the crooked Wood River 110 years ago, the feat was hailed as an easy route to Crater Lake.

“The steamboat will land tourists within 23 miles” of the lake, the Oregon Journal of Aug. 2, 1908, reported.  It marveled that the steamer had reached the Weed bridge, three miles from the town of Fort Klamath, without an accident, something no other steamer had ever done.

The twin-propeller, small steamboat had been plying the waters of upper Klamath Lake since 1909. 

After the Klamath Chamber of Commerce commissioned dredging of the bar at the mouth of the river to permit marketing of products from the region, the original owners, Jasper B.C. “Jap” Taylor and Millard Fillmore “Cap” Parker, hauled freight to Fort Klamath and returned to Klamath Falls with a load of hay.

By 1919, the Southern Pacific Railroad had reached the area, forcing the Mazama out of business when it couldn’t match the railroad’s lower freight rates.  The steamer and two barges sold for $600, but the steamer was later dismantled and its hulk left to rot for years in the lake’s tule reeds.

Source: "Mazama (steamboat)." Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia, Wikimedia Foundation, Inc., 2 July 2018, en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mazama_(steamboat). Accessed 17 Aug. 2018; Source: "History Snapshot: 110 Years Ago - Initial trip up Wood River." The Midge - Cultural Newsletter for the Klamath Basin, 1 Aug. 2018.

Kernan Turner is the Southern Oregon Historical Society’s volunteer editor and coordinator of the As It Was series broadcast daily by Jefferson Public Radio. A University of Oregon journalism graduate, Turner was a reporter for the Coos Bay World and managing editor of the Democrat-Herald in Albany before joining the Associated Press in Portland in 1967. Turner spent 35 years with the AP before retiring in Ashland.