Klamath Falls (Klamath: ) 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 1893. The population was 20,840 at the 2010 census. The city is situated on the south east shore of the Upper Klamath Lake and about north of the California-Oregon border.
The Klamath Falls area had been inhabited by Native Americans for at least 4,000 years before the first permanent settlers. The Klamath Basin became part of the Oregon Trail with the opening of the Applegate Trail. Logging was Klamath Falls' first major industry.
The Klamath and Modoc Indians were the first known inhabitants of the area. 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 first non-Indian settler is considered to have been Wallace Baldwin, a 19 year-old civilian who drove fifty head of horses in the valley in 1852. In 1867, George Nurse, named the small settlement "Linkville", because of Link River north of Lake Ewauna.
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, a series of earthquakes 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.
Klamath Falls is located in a known geothermal resource area. Geothermal power has been used directly for geothermal heating in the area since the early 1900s. A downtown district heating system was constructed in 1981 and extended in 1982. There was public opposition to the scheme. Many homes were heated by private geothermal wells and owners were concerned that the city system could lower the water level and/or reduce water temperatures. System operation was delayed until 1984 following an aquifer study. Full operational testing showed no negative impact on the private wells. The system was shut down again in 1986 after multiple distribution piping failures were discovered. By 1991, the distribution piping had been reconstructed and the system was back in operation. The system has been expanded since then and according to the Oregon Institute of Technology the operation is "at or near operational break-even". The system is used to provide direct heat for homes, city schools, greenhouses, government and commercial buildings, geothermally heated snowmelt systems for sidewalks and roads and process heat for the wastewater treatment plant.
Klamath Falls was known for poor air quality in 2011 and received F's from the DEQ for air quality. Klamath Falls is located in a structural basin. Because of this, inversions form throughout the year. Inversions combined with wood stoves, gas engines, industry, and sewage treatment plants create air pollution. In addition, the Klamath Falls South Suburban Sewer treatment plant is located less than 1000 ft from Walmart. This treatment plant is in dire need of updates, so almost every day fecal matter permeates the air around Walmart and the south suburbs.