The lakes, marshes, and streams in the Klamath Basin are protected by six different wildlife refuges that stretch between southern Oregon and northern California and are centrally managed by the Klamath Basin National Wildlife Refuge Complex. The refuge complex headquarters and visitor center (530/667-2231, www.fws.gov/klamathbasinrefuges , 8 a.m.–4:30 p.m. Mon.–Fri., 9 a.m.–4 p.m. Sat.–Sun.) is 4 miles south of the California-Oregon border on U.S. 97.
December–February the Klamath Basin is home to the largest wintering concentration of bald eagles in the lower 48 states. The thousands of winter waterfowl that reside here provide a plentiful food source for these raptors. By January, 700–800 eagles from as far north as southeastern Alaska’s Chilkat River, Saskatchewan, and the Northwest Territories congregate.
In addition to a readily available food supply, the eagles require night-roosting areas. The Bear Valley National Wildlife Refuge (between Keno and Worden) has mature stands of timber that can support up to 300 eagles per night. The eagles prefer trees on northeastern slopes that protect them from the cold southwest and westerly winds. However, the eagles don’t like it when people bother them. Hence the roosting areas are closed early November–March 30.
The good news is that there are still ample opportunities to view our national bird, especially when it is very cold. Contact the Fish and Wildlife office for the latest information on the best eagle-watching locations. Good sightings can be had driving to Bear Valley at sunrise. To get there, drive 1 mile south of Worden on U.S. 97. Turn right on Keno Worden Road past the grain silos, cross the railroad tracks, and take an immediate left on the gravel road. Travel for about 1 mile and pull off the road.
From here you can sometimes see up to 100 bald eagles soar from their roosts at the top of the ridge, headed to their daytime feeding area on the refuge to the east. Bring binoculars, warm clothing, and a camera with a telephoto lens.
A world-renowned event, the Winter Wings Festival (www.winterwingsfest.org ) is held in February. The highlight is a predawn field trip to the nearby Bear Valley roost.
March–May is when waterfowl and shorebirds stop over in the basin on their way north to their breeding grounds in Alaska and Canada. They rest and fatten up during the spring to build the necessary strength and body fat to carry them through their long migration. May–July is the nesting season for thousands of marsh birds and waterfowl. The Klamath Marsh National Wildlife Refuge (north of Klamath Falls  off U.S. 97) is a good place in spring to observe sandhill cranes, shorebirds, waterfowl, and raptors.
The summer months are ideal for taking the self-guided auto tour routes and canoe trails. Descriptive leaflets for both are available from the refuge office. Among the most prolific waterfowl and marsh bird areas in the Northwest, over 25,000 ducks, 2,600 Canada geese, and thousands of marsh and shorebirds are raised here each year. You may also see American white pelicans, Pelecanus erythrorhynchos, at the Upper Klamath National Wildlife Refuge (north of Klamath Falls) during the summer.
Another high point is the Upper Klamath Canoe Trail, which follows a 9.5-mile passage through lakes, marshes, and streams at the northwest corner of Upper Klamath Lake within the boundaries of the refuge. Birding is excellent along the canoe trail as mature ponderosa pines come right to the edge of the marsh, creating habitat for raptors, songbirds, and waterfowl. The trail departs from Rocky Point, about 25 miles northwest of Klamath Falls on Route 140. Canoe rentals ($50 per day) are available from Rocky Point Resort (28121 Rocky Point Rd., 541/356-2287, www.rockypointoregon.com ).
Tule Lake and Lower Klamath Refuges (south of Klamath Falls in California) are open during daylight hours. Overnight camping is not permitted in any of the refuges.