Upper Klamath Lake, Oregon, USA

Lake Locations:

USA - West - Oregon - Southern -

Stretching for an impressive 30 miles, Upper Klamath Lake is the largest freshwater lake in the State of Oregon. Nestled in the Klamath Basin, it is surrounded by the dramatic mountain landscapes and forested hills of the state’s Southern tourism region. Upper Klamath Lake features an average depth of 14 feet and a surface area of 61,544 acres. The Link River Dam controls water flow between the reservoir and the Klamath River. This reinforced, concrete dam is 22 feet tall with a capacity of 873,000 acre-feet of water.

Upper Klamath National Wildlife Refuge has been protecting the marshes and waters of Klamath Lake since 1928. Birdwatching is a breeze in these parts, as waterfowl, American white pelicans, herons, bald eagles, and ospreys are plentiful. The best times for viewing such delicate creatures is during the fall and spring, when 1-2 million birds migrate overhead via the Pacific Flyway. Sadly, the Klamath wetlands have been reduced by 80% over the years, and these precious birds are rapidly losing their habitat.

Upper Klamath Lake’s miles of remote canals are ideal for kayaking and canoeing excursions. The Upper Klamath Canoe Trail provides 9.5 miles of fun. Four different segments take paddlers through marsh, hillsides, and woodlands: Recreation Creek, Crystal Creek, Wocus Cut, and Malone Springs. The reservoir’s strong (albeit at times, unpredictable) winds create perfect conditions for kite surfing, wind surfing, and sailing. Other diversions include swimming, boating, skiing, mountain biking and even skateboarding at one of the nation’s biggest skate parks.

Anglers enjoy fishing for redband trout, yellow perch, and rainbow trout; catches at Upper Klamath Lake frequently weigh over ten pounds. The best times of year for fishing are June and September. Hiking is spectacular in and around the lake, particularly along the Klamath Basin Birding Trail (KBBT). The trek passes through 47 hot spots where enthusiasts are likely to observe over 350 species of bird. General wildlife watching at Upper Klamath is nothing short of phenomenal, and hikers can count on viewing mammals like muskrats, river otters, and beavers.

Exciting day trips from Upper Klamath Lake include visits to the Rogue River, Fremont, and Winema National Forests, as well as to Crater Lake National Park. Crater Lake is a picturesque body of water known as one of the bluest lakes on the planet. It is also the deepest lake in the United States, and the seventh deepest in the entire world – bottoming out at an unbelievable 1,943 feet. Just south of Upper Klamath Lake lies the community of Klamath Falls. Originally called “Linkville” at its incorporation, residents changed the name to Klamath Falls in 1892. The town features two college campuses, an international airport, and a number of shopping centers.

Throughout recent years, Upper Klamath Lake has had its fair share of environmental troubles. Scientists believe that before the turn of the 20th centry, the lake was naturally eutrophic (meaning that it contained high levels of nutrients). This resulted in great biodiversity. By the 1930s the lake began suffering from blue-green algae blooms, a sign that it had reached a hypereutrophic level – a state of degraded water quality. To this day, seasonal algae blooms still affect the lake.

Upper Klamath Lake was figuratively “put on the map” when it made headlines back in 2001. A drought had plagued the area, threatening to render extinct the already-endangered sucker fish. Irrigation waters were withheld from local basin farmers in order to protect the species, an action that sparked heated debates among Klamath farmers and officials. The story was covered by local, state and national media.

Despite the challenges Upper Klamath Lake has faced, it is still rightfully considered one of the most gorgeous lakes in the United States. As such, vacation rentals and real estate are widely available. Be it to bird watch, kayak, shop or skateboard – visitors can’t help but fall in love with Oregon’s resplendent Upper Klamath Lake.

Things to do at Upper Klamath Lake

  • Vacation Rentals
  • Fishing
  • Boating
  • Sailing
  • Swimming
  • Canoeing
  • Kayaking
  • Kite Surfing
  • Wind Surfing
  • Hiking
  • Biking
  • Wildlife Viewing
  • Birding
  • National Wildlife Refuge
  • National Park
  • National Forest
  • Shopping

Fish species found at Upper Klamath Lake

  • Perch
  • Rainbow Trout
  • Sucker
  • Trout
  • Yellow Perch

Upper Klamath Lake Photo Gallery

Upper Klamath Lake Statistics & Helpful Links

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Lake Type: Natural Freshwater Lake, Dammed

Water Level Control: Bureau of Reclamation

Surface Area: 61,544 acres

Shoreline Length: 88 miles

Normal Elevation (Full Pond): 4,137 feet

Minimum Elevation (Min Pond): 0 feet

Maximum Elevation (Max Pond): 4,146 feet

Average Depth: 14 feet

Maximum Depth: 49 feet

Water Volume: 873,000 acre-feet

Completion Year: 1917

Trophic State: Hypereutrophic

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Trophic State | LakeLubbers

Trophic State measures the level of algae and nutrients in a lake.

An oligotrophic lake is very clear (blue in color) and does not support much plant or fish life. A hyper-oligotrophic lake is the clearest of all lakes, and is nearly devoid of plants and fish.

A mesotrophic lake is slightly green and supports a moderate degree of plant and fish life. A lake's most desired trophic state is generally this mid-point - the mesotrophic state.

A eutrophic lake is somewhat murky and supports a large amount of plant and fish life. A hypereutrophic lake is clouded with algae, plant life, and fish life. A eutrophic or hyper-eutrophic lake can be difficult to navigate by boat - and is often an unpleasant place to swim.

The use of phosphorus-rich and nitrogen-rich fertilizer on lawns and golf courses surrounding a lake can cause it to become eutrophic or hypereutrophic.


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Catchment or Drainage Area | LakeLubbers

This is the surrounding area that drains into a lake, including land, rivers and their tributaries. This is also known as the lake's "catchment basin".

Small lakes at the highest peaks of mountains have small drainage areas. The world's oceans have the largest drainage areas.


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Lake-Area Population | LakeLubbers

This is the estimated number of people who live in a house with a view of a lake, plus those who self-describe the lake as their home, for example: "I live at Smith Mountain Lake."


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Water Residence Time | LakeLubbers

This is the estimated time that it takes for an amount of water equal to the entire volume of a lake to flow out of - or evaporate from - the lake.

Residence Time can be as short as a few days for fast-flowing small lakes, and can exceed 100 years for slow-flowing large lakes.


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Completion Year | LakeLubbers

This is the year that a reservoir was first filled to the reservoir's normal elevation - or the year that a natural lake was first dammed. A large reservoir can take more than a year to fill after its dam is first closed.

The Grand Anicut in southern India is generally considered the world's oldest dam that still operates. Grand Anicut was constructed in the second century BC. It now impounds an irrigation network that includes roughly one million acres.

You can find many of the the world's newest reservoirs on LakeLubbers. Many of the world's oldest reservoirs appear on the last page of that list.


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Water Volume | LakeLubbers

This is the estimated volume of water that a lake contains -- measured at the lake's normal elevation. By this measure, the world's largest freshwater lake is Siberia's Lake Baikal.

You can find many of the the world's largest lakes (by water volume) on LakeLubbers.

Water Volume can be measured in acre-feet, in cubic miles, or in cubic kilometers. One acre-foot is the amount of water needed to cover one acre (43,560 square feet) to a depth of one foot. One cubic mile equals 3,379,200 acre-feet. One cubic kilometer equals 810,713 acre-feet.

1 acre-foot is equal to 325,851 US gallons. Siberia's Lake Baikal contains about 6,276,367,740,000,000 gallons of freshwater - nearly 1 million gallons for every living person on earth.

The other - and more widely used - measure of a lake's size is the lake's surface acreage. By that measure, the world's largest freshwater lake is North America's Lake Superior.


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Maximum Depth | LakeLubbers

This is the estimated greatest depth of the water in a lake -- measured at the lake's normal elevation. The world's deepest lake is Siberia's Lake Baikal; that lake's maximum depth is estimated at 5,314 feet.

You can find many of the the world's deepest lakes on LakeLubbers. If you select the last page of that list, you will find the (maximum depth of) the shallowest lakes in our database.


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Average Depth | LakeLubbers

This is the estimated average depth of the water in a lake -- measured at the lake's normal elevation. If the water volume and surface area of a lake are known, an estimate of the lake's average depth can be calculated:

Water volume ÷ Surface Area = Average Depth

Example: 1,000,000 acre-feet ÷ 20,000 acres = 50 feet average depth


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Maximum Elevation | LakeLubbers

This is a lake's highest water level, measured by the lake's surface distance above sea level, that can occur during flooding. A lake's highest possible maximum elevation is usually the top of the lake's dam or spillway.

At lakes that include residential development, government regulations usually forbid the construction of homes below a lake's maximum elevation.


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Minimum Elevation | LakeLubbers

This is a lake's lowest water level, measured by the lake's surface distance above sea level, that can be reasonably expected to occur. Low lake levels can occur due to deliberate seasonal draw downs for irrigation or impending snow melt, reduced water inflows, drought and evaporation, residential or commercial water demands, and hydropower generation.

Some lakes' minimum and maximum elevations are virtually the same. Lakes that generate hydropower may vary by several feet - according to power demand. Lakes whose primary purpose is to prevent flooding can seasonally vary by 100 feet or more.

When some lakes reach their minimum elevation, their boat ramps may not be long enough to permit boat access - and boats docked on shallow parts of the lake may end up on dry ground. In those cases, kayakers and shore-based anglers may be among the few happy recreational users of the lake.


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Normal Elevation | LakeLubbers

This is a lake's normal water level, measured by the lake's surface distance above sea level. For a reservoir, this water level is also known as "full pond" or "full pool".

You can find many of the world's highest-elevated lakes on LakeLubbers. Lakes with the lowest elevations (known by LakeLubbers) are shown on the final page of that list.


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Shoreline Length | LakeLubbers

This is the length of the exterior shoreline around a lake - measured at the lake's normal elevation. The shoreline length can be considerably shorter or longer when lake water levels are lower or higher than normal.

A lake with many coves has a much longer shoreline than a lake of similar surface area that is nearly circular in shape.

When known, the shoreline miles that we report in our statistics include only the lake's exterior shoreline, and exclude the shorelines of islands located within a lake's boundaries. In lakes with many islands, those islands' combined shorelines may exceed a lake's exterior shoreline.

You can find many of the world's longest-shoreline lakes on Lakelubbers.


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Surface Area | LakeLubbers

This is the area (acreage, square kilometers, etc.) of the top surface area of a lake - measured at a lake's normal elevation. The surface area can be considerably smaller or larger when lake levels are lower or higher than normal. North America's Lake Superior is the world's largest freshwater lake by this measure.

The other measure of a lake's size is the lake's water volume. By that measure, the world's largest freshwater lake is Lake Baikal in Siberia.

You can find many of the world's largest lakes (acres) on Lakelubbers. There is no widely-accepted minimum surface area that defines a lake. What Lakelubbers describes as a lake, you might call a pond. The smallest lake that Lakelubbers currently includes is Hawaii's 2-acre Lake Waiau.


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Water Level Control | LakeLubbers

This is the organization that controls water releases or outflows from the lake or reservoir. In the USA, this is often the US Army Corps of Engineers, a power company, a municipal water system, an irrigation district, or a paper manufacturing company. In the case of private or gated lakes, a homeowners' association may be the lake's controlling authority.

Many lakes cross borders, including North America's Great Lakes. The control of such lakes and their coveted freshwater may be amicably shared - or hotly disputed.

"Water wars" continue at many lakes as growing populations and crop irrigation needs compete for the freshwater that lakes contain.


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Lake Type | LakeLubbers

There are 3 basic types of lakes that are currently included on LakeLubbers. 2 types may be dammed or not dammed, producing 5 classifications.

- A Reservoir is a man-made freshwater lake that is usually created by damming rivers.

- A Natural Freshwater Lake occurs naturally - often by glacial activity - and has a salinity of less than 30 parts per thousand. It may be dammed to produce electricity or for other reasons.

- A Natural Saltwater Lake occurs naturally and has a salinity of more than 30 parts per thousand (ppt). It may be dammed.

"Brackish" water may be categorized as freshwater or saltwater, depending on its salt content (salinity). Oligohaline water has less than 15 ppt of salt. Mesohaline water has 15-29 ppt. Polyhaline has 30-335 ppt.


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