Klamath Falls (Klamath: ?iWLaLLoon?a) 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 sat. The name was changed to Klamath Falls in 1892. The population was 20,840 at the 2010 census.
The Klamath and Modoc Indians were the first known inhabitants of the area. The Klamath name for this place was Yulalona or Iwauna, which referred to the phenomenon of the Link River flowing upstream when the south wind blew hard. Their name for the falls was Tiwishkeni, or "where the falling waters rush".
The Modoc Tribe's homeland is about south of Klamath Falls, but when they were pushed onto a reservation with their adversaries the Klamath, a rebellion ensued and they hid out in nearby lava beds. 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 year-2000 dollars. Seventeen Indians and 83 whites were killed.
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.
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 May 22, 1907. Veterans of World War I and World War II were given homesteading opportunities on the reclaimed land.
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 east of Klamath Falls, (near Bly, Oregon) a Japanese 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.
On September 20, 1993, an earthquake struck near Klamath Falls. Many downtown buildings, including the county courthouse and the former Sacred Heart Academy and Convent, were damaged or destroyed. There were two deaths attributed to the earthquake.
Water rights controversy
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" 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. Dwindling salmon numbers have practically shut down the fishing industry in the region and caused over $60 million in disaster aid being given to fishermen to offset losses. Ninety percent of Trinity River water is diverted for California Agriculture.
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. A contrary report has criticized the National Academy of Sciences report. The Chiloquin Dam has been removed to help improve sucker spawning habitat.