A Story of Balance

Life on the Refuge

The Klamath Basin National Wildlife Complex includes six diverse refuges that encompass over 200,000 acres. They straddle the California – Oregon border. Here, seven habitats offer food and sanctuary to over 450 species. This is an important stop along the Pacific Flyway.

Swans spending the winter on Lower Klamath National Wildlife Refuge.
photo-Anders Tomlinson

Lower Klamath National Wildlife Refuge, founded in 1908, was the nation’s first waterfowl refuge.
It was followed by five others: Tule Lake, Clear Lake, Upper Klamath, Klamath Marsh and
Bear Valley. Each serves a purpose. Connected, they are a complex refuge of services and needs.

Western grebe and baby move towards the future.
photo-Anders Tomlinson

There are summer days with bodies of water, large and small, shallow and deep, moving and still. Waterfowl, many of each, eat and rest, floating or standing. There are windy winter days when wildlife huddle in a frozen world, food is scarce and eagles eat the weak. In spring, man plants his crops and skies fill with north bound waterfowl. For many this is their last chance for food before reaching their arctic breeding grounds. Fall offers refuge to all heading south as man’s harvest comes to an end. This is home to resident mammals, fish, amphibians and birds seasonally migrating across the refuges.

Looking at Lower Klamath National Wildlife Refuge and Mt. Shasta.
photo-Anders Tomlinson

This is life on the refuges. Nature does what it does and everything else adapts or disappears. It is what it is. Mountains surround a vast parade of shifting life. And there are storms. And there are moments of absolute tranquility. This is what my cameras have captured. This is what I have seen and heard. This is what I want to share with the world, a micro-cosmos of life on planet earth.

Walking Wetlands

A two year old wetland once was, and will become, a farm field.
photo-Anders Tomlinson

Land for farming and wildlife refuge continue to be reduced by urbanization. “Walking Wetlands” on Tule Lake and Lower Klamath National Refuges documents a successful program that incorporates the two on a rotational basis. Farm land and refuge become one, a timely recipe for success. The concept is simple. Take farm fields out of production. Build containment and connecting water structures. Flood the fields. Let them grow, managing and mimicking nature’s way, into marshes Do so for three years. Drain and allow entry and exit for farmers and their equipment. Farmers remove the overgrown tules, not an easy chore, turn the soil and plant crops. There is no need to add fertilizers or weed killers, flooding did that work. Magnificent crops grow in reclaimed marshes. Farm until the soil loses it’s nutrients and pesticides are needed. Repeat the process. Flood, water manage and return to agriculture. At all times, wildlife find values in both the marshes and farm fields. Yes, it is a simple process. And yes, it is a complex interaction of various species and ways of life. And yes, it works.


Pelicans, seen throughout the summer, and grebes rest and feed on Tule Lake.
photo-Anders Tomlinson

We have so much to learn from nature. My greatest insights have come from field observations. These diverse refuges have taken me to many places in many times. Each of the refuges has a dominant feature that no other has. And each of the refuges share common features. Time is measured in seasons and epochs. These refuges are sustainable existence. Here, the little picture is the big picture. I have had the privilege of knowing these refuges for years after year after year. My greatest moments have been those where I blended into the landscape and became a simple component in a grand movement. A Year in the Life on the Refuges from tule-lake.com.

©2010 Anders Tomlinson, all rights reserved.

Klamath Wildlife Refuge videos

For twelve thousands years man has been watching hunting wildlife here.

Overview and quick history of the landscape, wildlife and people that make the Klamath Basin National Wildlife Refuges what it is, a natural wonder of diversity.

In any season enjoy nature’s interplay in a majestic landscape.

A Year in the LIfe of the Klamath Basin National Wildlife Refuges. The six refuges span the Upper Klamath Basin from Klamath Marsh, east of Crater Lake National Park, to Tule Lake and Lower Klamath, north of the Lava Beds National Monument.

One Wildlife Complex – Six Refuges: Abundance and Diversity.

The Klamath Basin National Wildlife Complex is made of six refuges: Lower Klamath, Tule Lake, Clear Lake, Upper Klamath, Klamath Marsh and Bear Valley National Wildlife Refuges. These are wonderful places for all.

Managing resources to enhance wildlife and agricultural production.

Managing natural resources in the Klamath Basin National Wildlife Complex is a challenging inside its complexity. One feature is the Walking Wetlands program that rotates land from wetlands to farm fields on and off the Refuges.

The Nation’s first waterfowl Refuge celebrates its 100th birthday.

This is from a speech by Steve Thompson at the Lower Klamath National Wildlife Refuge Centennial Celebration on August 8, 2008. Steve had just retired as U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Region Eight Manager – California and Nevada. He has been intimately involved with the water issues confronting the Klamath Reclamation Project. On this day, high winds were ripping across the basin. Digital audio repairs allow Steve’s speech to be shared with a minimum of wind and flag flapping distractions. Anders apologizes for the audio quality but the speaker’s intent is important.

A note: Steve speaks of certainty, but not sitting at the table, and unwilling to compromise, are the Endangered Species Act and Court systems. Ultimately, these two super-cede and dictate directions society must follow. In 2010, a dry year has curtailed, and will most likely reduce, water deliveries to the Klamath Irrigation Project. This also means Tule Lake and Lower Klamath National Wildlife Refuges will have less water delivered.
A balance is tipped and human ingenuity is at a premium.

©2010 Anders Tomlinson, all rights reserved.