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Klamath Falls

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Klamath Falls

Klamath Falls, Oregon

Downtown Klamath Falls
Nickname(s): Oregon's City of Sunshine
Motto: "Working For You"

Coordinates: 42°13′24″N 121°46′39″W / 42.22333°N 121.77750°W / 42.22333; -121.77750Coordinates: 42°13′24″N 121°46′39″W / 42.22333°N 121.77750°W / 42.22333; -121.77750

Country United States
State Oregon
County Klamath
Incorporated 1905
 • Mayor Todd Kellstrom
 • Total 20.66 sq mi (53.51 km2)
 • Land 19.81 sq mi (51.31 km2)
 • Water 0.85 sq mi (2.20 km2)
Elevation 4,099 ft (1,249.4 m)
Population (2010)[2]
 • Total 20,840
 • Estimate (2012[3]) 21,005
 • Density 1,052.0/sq mi (406.2/km2)
Time zone Pacific (UTC-8)
 • Summer (DST) Pacific (UTC-7)
ZIP codes 97601, 97603
Area code(s) 541
FIPS code 41-39700[4]
GNIS feature ID [5]

Klamath Falls (/ˈklæməθ/ ) (Klamath: ?iWLaLLoon?a[6]) is a city in and the county seat of Klamath County, Oregon, United States. The city was originally called Linkville when George Nurse founded the town in 1867. It was named after the Link River on whose falls the city sat. The name was changed to Klamath Falls in 1892. The population was 20,840 at the 2010 census.[7]


The Klamath and Modoc Indians were the first known inhabitants of the area. The Klamath name for this place was Yulalona or Iwauna, which referred to the phenomenon of the Link River flowing upstream when the south wind blew hard. Their name for the falls was Tiwishkeni, or "where the falling waters rush".[8]

The Modoc Tribe's homeland is about 20 miles (32 km) south of Klamath Falls, but when they were pushed onto a reservation with their adversaries the Klamath, a rebellion ensued and they hid out in nearby lava beds.[9] This led to the Modoc War of 1872−1873, which was a hugely expensive campaign for the US Cavalry, costing an estimated $500,000 − the equivalent of over 8 million in year-2000 dollars. Seventeen Indians and 83 whites were killed.[10]

The Applegate Trail, which passes through the lower Klamath area, was blazed in 1846 from west to east in an attempt to provide a safer route for emigrants on the Oregon Trail.[11]

The Klamath Reclamation Project began in 1906 to drain marshland and move water to allow for agriculture. With the building of the main "A" Canal, water was first made available May 22, 1907. Veterans of World War I and World War II were given homesteading opportunities on the reclaimed land.[12]

During World War II, a Japanese-American internment camp, the Tule Lake War Relocation Center, was located in nearby Newell, California, and a satellite of the Camp White, Oregon, POW camp was located just on the Oregon-California border near the town of Tulelake, California. In May 1945, about 30 miles (48 km) east of Klamath Falls, (near Bly, Oregon) a Japanese balloon bomb killed a woman and five children on a church outing. This is said to be the only Japanese-inflicted casualty on the US mainland during the war.

Timber harvesting through the use of railroad was extensive in Klamath County for the first few decades of the 20th century.[13] With the arrival of the Southern Pacific Transportation Company in 1909, Klamath Falls grew quickly from a few hundred to several thousand. Dozens of lumber mills cut fir and pine lumber, and the industry flourished until the late 1980s when the Northern Spotted Owl and other endangered species were driving forces in changing western forest policy.

On September 20, 1993, an earthquake struck near Klamath Falls.[14] Many downtown buildings, including the county courthouse and the former Sacred Heart Academy and Convent, were damaged or destroyed. There were two deaths attributed to the earthquake.

Water rights controversy

The city made national headlines in 2001 when a court decision was made to shut off Klamath Project irrigation water on April 6 because of Endangered Species Act requirements. The Lost River sucker and shortnose sucker were listed on the Federal Endangered Species List in 1988, and when drought struck in 2001, a panel of scientists stated that further diversion of water for agriculture would be detrimental to these species, which reside in the Upper Klamath Lake, as well as to the protected Coho salmon which spawn in the Klamath River. Many protests by farmers and citizens culminated in a "Bucket Brigade"[15] on Main Street May 7, 2001 in Klamath Falls. The event was attended by 18,000 farmers, ranchers, citizens, and politicians. Two giant bucket monuments have since been constructed and erected in town to commemorate the event. Such universal criticism resulted in a new plan implemented in early 2002 to resume irrigation to farmers.

Low river flows in the Klamath and Trinity rivers and high temperatures led to a mass die-off of at least 33,000 salmon in 2002.[16] Dwindling salmon numbers have practically shut down the fishing industry in the region and caused over $60 million in disaster aid being given to fishermen to offset losses.[17] Ninety percent of Trinity River water is diverted for California agriculture.[16]

According to a National Academy of Sciences report of October 22, 2003, limiting irrigation water did little if anything to help endangered fish and may have hurt the populations.[18] A contrary report has criticized the National Academy of Sciences report.[17] The Chiloquin Dam has been removed to help improve sucker spawning habitat.


According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 20.66 square miles (53.51 km2), of which, 19.81 square miles (51.31 km2) is land and 0.85 square miles (2.20 km2) is water.[1] The elevation is 4,099 feet (1,249 m).

Klamath Falls has a high desert landscape. The older part of the city is located above natural geothermal springs. These have been used for the heating of homes and streets, primarily in the downtown area.[19]


Klamath Falls features a climate with cold snowy winters along with hot summer afternoons and cool summer nights. Under the Köppen climate classification the city's climate type is Csb, often described as Warm Summer Mediterranean. Using the 0 °C (32 °F) isotherm preferred by some climatologists Klamath Falls is a Dsb climate, often described as Warm Summer Continental Mediterranean. Typical of its region, Klamath Falls has a dry season in summertime, with the greatest precipitation occurring in wintertime, much of it falling as snow. Although it is not arid or semi-arid, total precipitation is still low, at 13.41 inches (340.6 mm) per year, due to Klamath Falls being in the rain shadow of the Cascade Mountains to the west. The all-time record high is 105 °F (40.6 °C), set on July 27, 1911, and the all-time record low is −24 °F (−31.1 °C), set on January 15, 1888.[20] The freeze-free season averages around 120 days,[21] with the first freeze in a typical year being on September 21, and the last freeze being on June 1.[22][23] On average 21 days per year reach 90 °F (32 °C) or higher, and 2 days per year reach temperatures of 0 °F (−18 °C) or lower.

Climate data for Klamath Falls, Oregon
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Average high °F (°C) 38
Average low °F (°C) 21
Precipitation inches (mm) 1.99
Snowfall inches (cm) 12.1
Avg. precipitation days (≥ 0.01 in) 11 9 9 7 7 5 2 2 3 6 9 11 81
Source: Western Regional Climate Center[24][25]


Historical population
Census Pop.

2010 census

As of the census[2] of 2010, there were 20,840 people, 8,542 households, and 4,876 families residing in the city. The population density was 1,052.0 inhabitants per square mile (406.2 /km2). There were 9,595 housing units at an average density of 484.4 per square mile (187.0 /km2). The racial makeup of the city was 83.4% White, 1.0% African American, 4.3% Native American, 1.6% Asian, 0.1% Pacific Islander, 4.5% from other races, and 5.0% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 11.8% of the population.

There were 8,542 households of which 30.4% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 38.5% were married couples living together, 13.0% had a female householder with no husband present, 5.6% had a male householder with no wife present, and 42.9% were non-families. 32.9% of all households were made up of individuals and 11.3% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.35 and the average family size was 2.98.

The median age in the city was 33.6 years. 23.6% of residents were under the age of 18; 14.6% were between the ages of 18 and 24; 25.2% were from 25 to 44; 24.1% were from 45 to 64; and 12.3% were 65 years of age or older. The gender makeup of the city was 49.3% male and 50.7% female.

2000 census

As of the census[4] of 2000, there were 19,462 people, 7,916 households, and 4,670 families residing in the city. The population density was 1,089.5 /sq mi (420.7 /km2). There were 8,722 housing units at an average density of 488.3 /sq mi (188.5 /km2).

The racial makeup of the city was:

9.32% of the population are Hispanic or Latino of any race.

There were 7,916 households out of which:

  • 30.0% had children under the age of 18 living with them
  • 42.2% were married couples living together
  • 11.7% had a female householder with no husband present
  • 41.0% were non-families
  • 32.4% of all households were made up of individuals
  • 11.9% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older

The average household size was 2.36 and the average family size was 2.99.

The age distribution was:

  • 25.5% under the age of 18
  • 13.1% from 18 to 24
  • 27.2% from 25 to 44
  • 21.5% from 45 to 64
  • 12.8% who were 65 years of age or older

The median age was 33 years. For every 100 females there were 101.9 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 100.1 males.

The median income for a household in the city was $28,498, and the median income for a family was $37,021. Males had a median income of $31,567 versus $22,313 for females. The per capita income for the city was $16,710. About 21.9% of the population and 16.2% of families were below the poverty line, including 26.8% of those under age 18 and 9.5% of those 65 or over.

Government and politics

Klamath Falls is a home rule municipality under the Oregon Constitution, and has been governed by a council–manager form of government since its citizens voted to adopt the current charter in 1972.[28] The city council, which is nonpartisan, has five members, each elected from one of the five wards. They serve four-year terms, which are staggered so that either two or three seats are up for election every two years. The mayor, who is nonpartisan and serves a term of four years, presides over all city council meetings. This official appoints committees, can veto any ordinance not passed with the affirmative vote of at least four council members, and casts tie-breaking votes. The city manager, however, is the administrative head of the city. This official is appointed by the council and serves an indefinite term at the council's pleasure. The municipal judge and the city attorney are appointed on the same basis. Todd Kellstrom has been mayor since 1992, and is currently serving a fifth consecutive term. Rick Whitlock is the current city manager.[29]

For the purpose of representation in the state legislature, Klamath Falls is located in the 28th Senate district, represented by Republican Doug Whitsett, and in the 56th House district, represented by Republican Bill Garrard. Federally, Klamath Falls is located in Oregon's 2nd congressional district, which has a Cook Partisan Voting Index of R+10[30] and is represented by Republican Greg Walden.


Sky Lakes Medical Center is the largest employer in the area, followed by the Klamath Falls City School District Other major employers are JELD-WEN, Collins Products, Columbia Forest Products, NEW Corp, Klamath County School District, and Oregon Institute of Technology.

Klamath Falls is home to the 173rd Fighter Wing of the Oregon Air National Guard, stationed at Kingsley Field airbase. The 270 Air Traffic Control Squadron resides at Kingsley Field Oregon Air National Guard Base. Company B, 1st Battalion, 186th Infantry of the Oregon Army National Guard also makes its home at Kingsley Field. The 173rd Fighter Wing currently flys F-15 C/D Variants.

Geothermal heating

Klamath Falls is located in a known geothermal resource area. Geothermal power has been used directly for geothermal heating in the area since the early the 1900s.[31] A downtown district heating system was constructed in 1981 and extended in 1982. There was public opposition to the scheme. Many homes were heated by private geothermal wells and owners were concerned that the city system could lower the water level and/or reduce water temperatures. System operation was delayed until 1984 following an aquifer study. Full operational testing showed no negative impact on the private wells. The system was shut down again in 1986 after multiple distribution piping failures were discovered. By 1991, the distribution piping had been reconstructed and the system was back in operation. The system has been expanded since then and according to the Oregon Institute of Technology the operation is "at or near operational break-even".[31] The system is used to provide direct heat for homes, city schools, greenhouses, government and commercial buildings, geothermally heated snowmelt systems for sidewalks and roads and process heat for the wastewater treatment plant.[31]


Colleges and universities

Public schools


Klamath Falls is home to many outdoor winter and summer activities. The nearby Running Y Ranch Resort features a golf course designed by Arnold Palmer,[32] an ice skating arena, trail riding, and overlooks Upper Klamath Lake, the largest natural lake in the Pacific Northwest There is also a canoe trail through the wildlife refuge at Rocky Point.

The OC&E Woods Line State Trail is a rail trail in the city and is the longest state park in Oregon. Wiard Park, along the OC&E State Trail and operated by the Wiard Memorial Park and Recreation District,[33] opens dawn to dusk from May 1 to October 1. Klamath Falls has a Veterans Memorial Park located downtown along the shore of Lake Ewauna.

Klamath Falls is located on the Pacific Flyway, and large numbers of waterfowl and raptors are seen throughout the year. A large number of Bald Eagles winter in Bear Valley, located 10 miles (16 km) west of Klamath Falls, near Keno, and the American White Pelican shows in great numbers in summer.

Crater Lake National Park is 50 miles (80 km) north of Klamath Falls, and 33-mile (53 km) Rim Drive, which circles the lake, is a favorite of cyclists. Winter cross country skiing and snow shoeing in the park is also very popular. The more than mile high Crater Lake Marathon is an annual event.[34]

Lava Beds National Monument is about 30 miles (48 km) to the south east of Klamath Falls near the town of Tulelake, California. The Lava Beds provide an excellent opportunity to explore an area that has perhaps the highest concentration of lava tubes. The monument also interprets the Modoc War, including the First Battle of the Stronghold.

Mountain Lakes Wilderness Area, one of the first designated wilderness areas in the United States, lies just to the west of Klamath Falls, providing some excellent opportunities for backpacking and fishing in pristine mountain lakes.


The City Parks Fund encompasses the culture and recreation of the city. The funding comes primarily from property taxes, a water assessment fee and hotel/motel taxes. The fund is responsible for the maintenance and upkeep of over 600 acres of parks property.


Amtrak, the national passenger rail system, serves Klamath Falls, operating its Coast Starlight daily in both directions between Seattle, Washington and Los Angeles, California.

Fixed route public transit service is operated by Basin Transit Service, a special service district with an elected board.

Klamath Falls is also served by the Klamath Falls Airport, which is located about 6 miles south of the town center. There are two scheduled commercial passenger aviation departure flights in the early morning, one to San Francisco International and one to Portland International, and two returning flights in the late evening from those destinations. The route is operated by United - United Express - Sky West, using Embraer EMB 120 Brasilia.

Notable people

Sister city

Klamath Falls has one sister city,[36] as designated by Sister Cities International:

Radio Stations

  • 88.1 FM Christian [translator]
  • 88.5 FM Jefferson Public Radio Classics & News Service
  • 89.5 FM College Freeform
  • 90.5 FM Jefferson Public Radio News & Information Service
  • 90.9 FM Jefferson Public Radio Rhythm & News Service
  • 91.9 FM Jefferson Public Radio News & Information Service
  • 92.5 FM Country
  • 96.5 FM Country (Tulelake)
  • 99.5 FM Rock
  • 100.9 FM Top [translator]
  • 104.7 FM Classic Rock
  • 105.5 FM Top (Merrill)
  • 106.9 FM Adult Contemporary
  • 960 AM Sports
  • 1150 AM Talk and News
  • 1450 AM Talk and News

See also


External links

  • Oregon Blue Book
  • Where are the falls? (flyer prepared by the Klamath County Museum, August 2008)
  • Basin Transit Service
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