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As It Was: Klamath Lakes Fail to Produce Commercial Ice in 1900

Klamath Falls faced the summer of 1900 with a critical shortage of ice for cooling drinks and preserving perishables.

Without an ice manufacturing plant, residents and businesses were accustomed to natural ice harvested from regional lakes during the winter months and stored in cellars or heavily insulated warehouses.

In normal years, Upper Klamath Lake provided a virtually endless supply of ice several inches thick. Harvesters had only to watch for impurities in the water and algae that might give the ice a greenish cast.

As cold weather arrived in late 1899, a thin layer of ice formed on lakes of the area. Ice harvesters waited for more frigid temperatures to thicken the ice in January 1900, but the usual cold snap never came. By the end of February, harvesters had missed their chance. The little ice that accumulated early in the season was gone.

Any ice in Klamath Falls during the summer of 1900 came from manufacturing plants in the Rogue Valley, or was hauled over the mountains by animal-pulled freight teams.

By 1911, Klamath Falls had its own ice plant, although Upper Klamath Lake continued to yield its share of ice for several more years.

Source: "Local News." Klamath Republican, 15 Mar. 1900, p. 3.

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.