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As It Was: Government Denies Plan to Drain Klamath Lake

The same federal agency that partially drained Northern California’s Tule Lake to create fertile farmland in the early 1900s considered, but rejected, something similar in Southern Oregon more than a half century later.

Reportedly, the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation was considering in 1969 diking major portions of Upper Klamath Lake, the largest body of fresh water west of the Rocky Mountains that extends 25 miles northwest of the City of Klamath Falls.

About half of that lake and nearby Agency Lake would have been diked and drained, the Oregon Sportsman, a small-circulation magazine in Eugene, reported. 

The Klamath Falls Herald and News reported a Reclamation official denied the report, but confirmed it was considering some reclamation around the edge of the lake, where private individuals and corporations had already drained thousands of acres.

Reclamation’s edge-draining plan was reportedly aimed at improving water quality and fish habitat by reducing algae in the lake. 

No further dikes have been constructed on Upper Klamath Lake. To the contrary, many dikes have been eliminated as the importance of natural wetlands has become more evident.


Sources: "Bureau Denies Plan To Halve Klamath And Agency Lakes." Herald and News, Klamath Falls, Oregon, 10 April 1969, p. 1.

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.