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homeNature and History in the Klamath Basin

Nature and History in the Klamath Basin

A land of mountains, forests, wetlands, lakes, and rivers, the Klamath Basin spans the Oregon/California border and is larger in area than nine of the fifty states. During the last two centuries, this region has witnessed a succession of conflicts and accomplishments concerning the use of its land and waters. These include the 1873 Modoc War; the Bureau of Reclamation's Klamath Project; the termination and reinstatement of the Klamath Indian Reservation; and the on-going controversy concerning water allocations and endangered species. Stephen Most is a playwright and scriptwriter. His documentary film credits include two Emmy-winners and four Academy Award nominees. Most wrote the texts, audio voices, and video scripts for the permanent exhibit of the Washington State History Museum and four programs in a world history series for Oregon Public Broadcasting.">

compiled by Stephen Most

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Wonders of Nature

The Klamath Basin supports a rich diversity of life and is home to once-abundant resources including water, trees, minerals, and wildlife. 

Inhabiting the Land

People have inhabited the Klamath Basin for over 10,000 years. Following the introduction of Euro-Americans to the area in the 1830s conflicts arose between indigenous and settling peoples, culminating in the Modoc War in 1873. 

Putting Nature to Work

The Modoc War put Linkville — later Klamath Falls — on the map. The area grew as mills turned trees into lumber and settlers drained wetlands to ranch and farm.

The Great Depression & World War II

Upper Basin lands served as sites for CCC work camps during the Great Depression and for a Japanese relocation camp during World War II. After the war the Bureau of Reclamation built a waterworks system to irrigate farmland being offered to returning veterans. 

Economics and Environment

As the postwar-demand for farm products grew, the Upper Klamath Basin supplied potatoes, alfalfa, barley, onions, and other goods with wildlife refuges doubling as farmland. A similar demand for wood products stimulated growth in the timber industry and spurred the termination of the forested Klamath Reservation.

For Future Generations

The decline of several wild fish species precipitated a crisis over water use in the Klamath Basin. When the BOR cut off water to Klamath Project lands, irrigators and conservationists grew politically polarized even as some farmers and ranchers restored wetlands and practiced efficient irrigation methods.

Bibliography and Biography

A Klamath Basin blibliography and the author’s biography.

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