Klamath Falls, Oregon
Oregon's City of Sunshine
"Working For You"
Location in Oregon
Location in Oregon
Klamath Falls is located in Oregon
Klamath Falls
Klamath Falls
Location in the United States
Klamath Falls is located in the United States
Klamath Falls
Klamath Falls
Klamath Falls (the United States)
Coordinates: 42°13′30″N 121°46′54″W / 42.22500°N 121.78167°W / 42.22500; -121.78167
CountryUnited States
 • MayorCarol Westfall
 • Total20.96 sq mi (54.27 km2)
 • Land20.08 sq mi (52.01 km2)
 • Water0.88 sq mi (2.27 km2)
Elevation4,094 ft (1,248 m)
 • Total21,813
 • Density1,086.30/sq mi (419.43/km2)
Time zoneUTC−8 (Pacific)
 • Summer (DST)UTC−7 (Pacific)
ZIP codes
97601, 97603
Area code541
FIPS code41-39700[4]
GNIS feature ID2411554[2]
WebsiteCity Website

Klamath Falls (/ˈklæməθ/ KLAM-əth) 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 was sited. The name was changed to Klamath Falls in 1893.[5] The population was 21,813 at the 2020 census. The city is on the southeastern shore of the Upper Klamath Lake. It is located 80 miles (130 km) east of Medford, 250 miles (400 km) northwest of Reno, and approximately 10 miles (16 km) north of the California–Oregon border.

Logging was Klamath Falls's first major industry.



At its founding in 1867, Klamath Falls was named Linkville.[6] The name was changed to Klamath Falls in 1892–93.[7] The name Klamath (/ˈklæməθ/)[8] may be a variation of the descriptive native for "people" (in Chinookan) used by the indigenous peoples of the Northwest Plateau to refer to the region.[9]


See also: List of historic buildings in Klamath Falls, Oregon

The Klamath and Modoc peoples were the first known inhabitants of the area. The Modocs' homeland is about 20 miles (32 km) south of Klamath Falls, but when they were forced onto a reservation with their adversaries, the Klamath, a rebellion ensued and they hid out in nearby lava beds.[10] 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 2000. 17 Indigenous people and 83 Americans were killed.[11]

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.[12] The first non-Indigenous settler is considered to have been Wallace Baldwin, a 19-year-old civilian who drove fifty head of horses in the valley in 1852.[13] In 1867, George Nurse, named the small settlement "Linkville", because of Link River north of Lake Ewauna.

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 on May 22, 1907. Veterans of World War I and World War II were given homesteading opportunities on the reclaimed land.[14]

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 Fu-Go 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. 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.[15]

On September 20, 1993, a series of earthquakes struck near Klamath Falls.[16] Many downtown buildings, including the county courthouse and the former Sacred Heart Academy and Convent, were damaged or destroyed, and two people were killed.

Klamath Falls, 1909
Klamath Falls, 1909

Water rights controversy

Link River downstream white water falls, from which Klamath Falls gets its name

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"[17] 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.[18] Dwindling salmon numbers have practically shut down the fishing industry in the region and caused over $60m in disaster aid being given to fishermen to offset losses.[19] 90% of Trinity River water is diverted for California agriculture. As much as 90% of the Trinity's water, which would otherwise flow into the Klamath and out to sea, instead rushes south toward California's thirsty center.[18]

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.[20] A contrary report has criticized the National Academy of Sciences report.[19] The Chiloquin Dam has been removed to help improve sucker spawning habitat.

In 2021 tensions between locals and the Federal Government led two local farmers to purchase land at the headgates in Klamath Falls, OR. These farmers have ties to the Ammon Bundy People's Rights organization[21] and are preparing for a potential standoff situation with the government.[22]

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 1900s. 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 again operating. The system has been expanded since then, and according to the Oregon Institute of Technology, the operation is "at or near operational break-even". 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.[23]

Air quality

According to the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality in 2012, significant efforts are being made to improve the air quality in the Klamath Basin.[24]


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.[25] The elevation is 4,094 feet (1,248 m).[2]

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.[26]


Klamath Falls is known as "Oregon's City of Sunshine" because the area enjoys 300 days of sun per year.[5] The Klamath Falls area is a high desert and 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 humid continental.

Typical of its region, Klamath Falls has a dry season in summertime, with the greatest precipitation occurring in wintertime, a substantial proportion 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 wettest "rain year" has been from July 1955 to June 1956 with 21.78 inches (553.2 mm) and the driest from July 1954 to June 1955 with 6.09 inches (154.7 mm).[27] Annual snowfall averages around 36.5 inches (93 cm), with the most on record being 100.6 inches (256 cm) between July 1955 and June 1956; in contrast, only a trace of snow fell between July 1991 and June 1992. The maximum snow depth has been 36 inches (91 cm) on January 3, 1901.

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.[28] The freeze-free season averages around 120 days,[29] with the first freeze in a typical year being on September 21, and the last freeze being on June 1.[30][31] On average 18.2 days per year reach 90 °F (32.2 °C) or higher, and 1.9 nights per year reach temperatures of 0 °F (−17.8 °C) or lower.

Climate data for Klamath Falls, Oregon (1991–2020 normals, extremes 1897–present)
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Record high °F (°C) 78
Mean maximum °F (°C) 53.1
Mean daily maximum °F (°C) 41.5
Daily mean °F (°C) 31.5
Mean daily minimum °F (°C) 21.5
Mean minimum °F (°C) 5.7
Record low °F (°C) −25
Average precipitation inches (mm) 1.51
Average snowfall inches (cm) 8.1
Average precipitation days (≥ 0.01 in) 10.9 9.4 10.7 9.1 8.4 4.7 1.6 2.4 2.6 5.6 10.4 12.2 88.0
Average snowy days (≥ 0.1 in) 3.9 2.5 1.5 0.2 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.1 2.1 4.7 15.0
Source: NOAA (snowfall 1981–2010)[32][33][34]


Historical population
U.S. Decennial Census[36]
2018 Estimate[37]

2010 census

Downtown Klamath Falls
The Oregon Bank Building is one of 13 sites in Klamath Falls listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

As of the census of 2010, there were 20,840 people, 8,542 households and 4,876 families residing in the city.[38] The immediate neighboring Census Designated Place of Altamont, Oregon had a population of 19,257. 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.

Ragland Theater in downtown Klamath Falls

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:

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

The age distribution was:

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.

Parks and recreation

See also: List of parks in Klamath Falls, Oregon

Veterans Park on the south shore of the Upper Klamath Lake, downtown Klamath Falls

Moore Park features a multi-use trail network.[39]

OC&E Woods Line State Trail is a rail trail in the city and the longest state park in Oregon.[40]

Veterans Memorial Park is located downtown along Lake Ewauna.

Klamath Falls is located on the Pacific Flyway, and waterfowl, raptors, and American white pelican have been seen.[citation needed]


The Klamath County Courthouse

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.[41] 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 was mayor from 1992 to 2016. Carol Westfall is the current mayor, having beaten Kellstrom in the 2016 election.[42] Jonathan Teichert is the current city manager.[43]

For the purpose of representation in the state legislature, Klamath Falls is located in the 28th Senate district, represented by Republican Dennis Linthicum, and in the 56th House district, represented by Republican E. Werner Reschke. Federally, Klamath Falls is located in Oregon's 2nd congressional district, which has a Cook Partisan Voting Index of R+10[44] and is represented by Republican Cliff Bentz.


Klamath Union High School (KU) 2013 football team in action

Colleges and universities

Public schools

Klamath Falls and the surrounding area are served by Klamath County School District and the Klamath Falls City School District.


Radio stations

FM stations

AM stations

Television stations



Amtrak's Coast Starlight at Klamath Falls station

Amtrak, the national passenger rail system, serves Klamath Falls station, located on a route originally built by the Southern Pacific Railroad – 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. Oregon POINT connects Klamath Falls with Medford and Brookings, Oregon.[45] Sage Stage provides weekly service to Alturas, California.[46]

The Klamath Falls airport is the location of the Kingsley Field Air National Guard Base; the airport and base are 6 miles (10 km) south of downtown. The nearest commercial airport is Rogue Valley International-Medford Airport, which is 78 miles (126 km) away.

Military airbase

Kingsley Field Air National Guard Base, also known as Crater Lake–Klamath Regional Airport, was established in 1928. It is home to the 270th Air Traffic Control Squadron, 173rd Fighter Wing of the Oregon Air National Guard, stationed at Kingsley Field airbase. The squadron currently flies F-15 C/D variants. It has the second largest runway in Oregon (10,301 by 150 feet (3,140 by 46 meters) wide) and was listed as a backup landing strip for the Space Shuttle. It is normal to hear the aircraft throughout Klamath Falls during daylight hours.

Notable people

Sister city

Klamath Falls has one sister city,[48] as designated by Sister Cities International:

See also


  1. ^ "ArcGIS REST Services Directory". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved October 12, 2022.
  2. ^ a b c U.S. Geological Survey Geographic Names Information System: Klamath Falls, Oregon
  3. ^ a b "Census Population API". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved October 12, 2022.
  4. ^ a b "U.S. Census website". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved January 31, 2008.
  5. ^ a b "History of Klamath Falls". City of Klamath Falls. Retrieved May 4, 2021.
  6. ^ McArthur & McArthur 2003, p. 580.
  7. ^ McArthur & McArthur 2003, p. 541.
  8. ^ Bauer, Laurence James (2007). The Linguistics Student's Handbook. Edinburgh University Press. ISBN 978-0-74863-160-5.
  9. ^ "The North American Indian - The Klamath" (PDF). World Wisdom. Retrieved May 28, 2014.
  10. ^ Quinn, Arthur (1998). Hell With the Fire Out: A History of the Modoc War (reprint ed.). Faber and Faber. ISBN 978-0-57119-937-2.
  11. ^ "California and the Indian Wars: The Modoc War, 1872–1873". California State Military Museum. Retrieved July 8, 2010.
  12. ^ "The Applegate Trail". Southern Oregon Historical Society and the Josephine County Historical Society.
  13. ^ "Putting Nature to Work | Living in and Reclaiming the Basin". The Oregon History Project. Oregon History Society. December 18, 1946. Retrieved June 4, 2014.
  14. ^ Stephen Most (2003). "Klamath Homestead Drawing". The Oregon History Project. Oregon History Society.
  15. ^ Bowden, Jack (December 15, 2003). Railroad Logging in the Klamath Country. Klamath County, Oregon: Oso Publishing. ISBN 978-1-93106-411-8.
  16. ^ "Search Results for: Oregon". Cascadia Region Earthquake Workgroup (CREW). Retrieved July 8, 2010.
  17. ^ "A History of the Klamath Bucket Brigade". Klamath Bucket Brigade.
  18. ^ a b Michael Milstein (October 27, 2002). "Tapping the Trinity | The Salmon Coalition". The Oregonian. Portland, Oregon: PelicanNetwork.net. Archived from the original on March 10, 2003.
  19. ^ a b Becker, Jo; Gellman, Barton (June 27, 2007). "Leaving No Tracks | Angler: The Cheney Vice Presidency". The Washington Post. Archived from the original on May 15, 2008.
  20. ^ "Broader Approach Needed for Protection And Recovery of Fish in Klamath River Basin". Office of News and Public Information (Press release). National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. October 22, 2003.
  21. ^ "Ammon's Army: Inside the Far-Right People's Rights Network ⋆ Institute for Research and Education on Human Rights". Institute for Research and Education on Human Rights. October 13, 2020. Retrieved June 4, 2021.
  22. ^ "Farmers with ties to Ammon Bundy buy land, make camp by shut Klamath irrigation canal". The Register-Guard. Retrieved June 4, 2021.
  23. ^ "Geothermal in Oregon" (PDF). Geo-Heat Center, Oregon Institute of Technology, Klamath Falls. Retrieved July 8, 2010.
  24. ^ Rachel Sakata (September 26, 2012). "Klamath Falls PM2.5 Attainment Plan" (PDF). Oregon Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ). pp. 1, 4.
  25. ^ "Area - Land & Water". 2010 U.S. Gazetteer files. United States Census Bureau. Archived from the original on February 20, 2011. Retrieved December 21, 2012.
  26. ^ Jeff Barnard (March 22, 2010). "US town uses geothermal energy to stay warm". Associated Press. Archived from the original on March 23, 2014. Retrieved July 8, 2010 – via The Oklahoman.
  27. ^ National Weather Service Corporate Image Web Team. "National Weather Service – NWS Medford". National Weather Service.
  28. ^ "Klamath Falls 2 SSW, Oregon". Period of Record General Climate Summary – Temperature. Western Regional Climate Center. Retrieved March 30, 2012.
  29. ^ "Klamath Falls 2 SSW, Oregon". Freeze-Free Probabilities. Western Regional Climate Center. Retrieved March 30, 2012.
  30. ^ "Klamath Falls 2 SSW, Oregon". Spring Freeze Probabilities. Western Regional Climate Center. Retrieved March 30, 2012.
  31. ^ "Klamath Falls 2 SSW, Oregon". Fall Freeze Probabilities. Western Regional Climate Center. Retrieved March 30, 2012.
  32. ^ "U.S. Climate Normals Quick Access – Station: Klamath Falls INTL AP, OR". National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Retrieved May 5, 2023.
  33. ^ "U.S. Climate Normals Quick Access – Station: Klamath Falls 2 SSW, OR". National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Retrieved May 5, 2023.
  34. ^ "NOAA Online Weather Data – NWS Medford". National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Retrieved May 5, 2023.
  35. ^ Moffat, Riley Moore (1996). Population History of Western U.S. Cities and Towns, 1850-1990 (illustrated ed.). Lanham: Scarecrow Press. p. 211. ISBN 978-0-81083-033-2.
  36. ^ "Census of Population and Housing". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved October 2, 2014.
  37. ^ "Population Estimates". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved June 8, 2018.[dead link]
  38. ^ "Land Area and Persons Per Square Mile". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved May 4, 2021.
  39. ^ "Moore Mountain Area Trails". Klamath Trails Alliance. April 22, 2012.
  40. ^ Legislative Assembly; et al. (Interim Committee on Local Government and Urban Area Problems) (1957). Problems of the Urban Fringe, Volume 1. Bureau of Municipal Research and Service, University of Oregon. p. 25.
  41. ^ "The Revised Charter of 1972". City of Klamath Falls.
  42. ^ "City of Klamath Falls Mayor". City of Klamath Falls.
  43. ^ "I want to / Find / Mayor & Council". City of Klamath Falls.
  44. ^ Introducing The Cook Political Report Partisan Voting Index (PVI) for the 111th Congress (Report). The Cook Political Report. Archived from the original on September 2, 2011.
  45. ^ "Routes & Schedules". Oregon POINT.
  46. ^ "Service between Alturas, Tulelake & Klamath Falls, OR". Sage Stage.
  47. ^ "James Ivory Biography". Fandango Media. June 7, 1928. Archived from the original on March 13, 2007. Retrieved July 8, 2010.
  48. ^ "Sister City". Sister Cities International. Archived from the original on May 2, 2006. Retrieved June 10, 2006.